Giants name Cain fifth starter; Marrero makes team with big spring

Giants name Cain fifth starter; Marrero makes team with big spring

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ty Blach made it close, but in the end the Giants stuck with the original plan. 

Matt Cain will start the season as the fifth starter, manager Bruce Bochy said, with Blach filling a swingman role on the pitching staff. Bochy said he liked what he saw from Cain late in the spring, noting that while some of the numbers were ugly, his stuff was fine and he wasn't walking hitters. 

"He's healthy. He threw strikes. He got better as he went," Bochy said. "His secondary pitches came around at the end. He deserves to be our fifth starter right now."

Cain will certainly be on a short leash, with Blach ready and Tyler Beede charging fast. Team officials went into the spring competition hoping Cain could win it, and the need became greater when Will Smith went down to Tommy John. Sources insist the contract did not come into play in the end. The bigger off-field factor was showing respect to the longest-tenured Giant, a player who has taken dozens of pitchers -- including Blach -- under his wing. 

While it wasn't announced, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area that the bench will consist of Nick Hundley, Conor Gillaspie, Aaron Hill, Gorkys Hernandez and Chris Marrero.

Marrero broke through with a huge spring, hitting eight homers and earning a spot as Jarrett Parker's platoon partner. He could start as soon as Tuesday, when the Giants face lefty Pat Corbin at Chase Field. Hernandez will be the primary backup to Denard Span and Hunter Pence. Gillaspie will see plenty of time at third, especially with Eduardo Nuñez set to be the starter at third but also the backup shortstop. Hill can play all four infield spots as well as left field. 

With those five on the team, Kelby Tomlinson was left on the outside looking in. Tomlinson has an option remaining, which hurt his cause. 

Hundley has been locked in as Buster Posey's backup since the moment he signed, setting Trevor Brown and Tim Federowicz as the Triple-A catchers. Federowicz can opt out if he finds a 40-man deal elsewhere. 

"He's had a nice spring," Bochy said. "This is the best group of catchers I've had here. Fed-X just did a terrific job swinging the bat and catching. I wish I had a spot for him, like Brownie, but to have four guys like this ... that's the best catching group I've had."

--- Jimmy Rollins had hoped to win the job that eventually went to Hill. He was told earlier in the week that he would not make the team, and on Friday team officials spoke with Rollins. He was released so he could pursue other opportunities. 

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”