Giants not concerned about stars playing in WBC

Giants not concerned about stars playing in WBC

SAN FRANCISCO — Before he officially committed to playing for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Brandon Crawford received a text from Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado.

“Come on, man. I really want to play with you. I want to play on the left side with you,” wrote Arenado, who shares an agent with Crawford. 

The two will team up this spring to form just about the most imposing infield duo imaginable. Arenado has won four straight Gold Glove Awards at third base. Crawford has two straight at shortstop. They’ll be side by side in the WBC, providing no daylight for grounders. For much of that run, Buster Posey will be calling the pitches 90 feet away. There’s a good chance, too, that the All-Star group will face Giants co-ace Johnny Cueto at some point. 

Given the importance of the three Giants playing, there’s reason for pause. But manager Bruce Bochy said he’s not concerned about the risk to his stars. Bochy recently talked to Team USA manager Jim Leyland about the way he will use Posey and Crawford. 

“He’s a guy that’s going to look out for players,” Bochy said. “It’s just who he is.”

There are rules in place to make sure everyone stays healthy in what is supposed to be an international showcase event for the sport. The biggest concerns have always been with pitching, but the WBC is played with expanded rosters and pitcher restrictions. The Giants are fine with Cueto representing the Dominican Republic, even though they watched last spring as the right-hander eased himself into the season. 

“Johnny has a way of pacing himself in games and as far as making sure he’s ready,” Bochy said. “Last year in the early part of the spring we slow-played him, but there he was. He was ready.”

The Giants learned during the season that Cueto will even pace himself during starts. He often takes it easy in the early innings, only to ramp up the fastball and intensity when he sniffs a complete game. The same is expected this spring. 

“He knows himself,” Bochy said, “And he knows his body.”

Cueto will not attend FanFest this weekend, but Crawford and Posey were both in the house for a media availability Friday and Posey downplayed any concerns.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Posey said. “It’ll definitely be different than any spring training I’ve been a part of. I started to get myself ready a little sooner. Nothing drastic, just maybe being a little more aggressive with my swings and throwing. But I think it’ll be fun, it’ll be a good experience for sure.

“I can understand (any concerns) but I think (fans) would also be frustrated if we didn’t have the Giants represented in some way. I think there are two sides to it. I can definitely understand that, but I think — I can’t speak for Craw or Cueto — but for myself I feel that I’ll be where I need to be, and having (three catchers) there I don’t expect it to be something where I’m catching every inning.”

Posey’s routine shouldn’t be drastically different from a normal spring. He generally doesn’t get many Arizona at-bats, so he should end up around the same range as always. Crawford did have to make a slight change this offseason after taking time the last two years to rest his throwing arm in February. Crawford told WBC organizers that he would pull out if any issues popped up, but he feels good on the eve of camp.

“My arm feels a lot better already than it did the last couple of years,” he said. “That’s a good sign.”

Even so, the Giants will take one more precaution. There was some surprise when the only other shortstop on the roster ended up being young Astros infielder Alex Bregman, who was drafted as a shortstop but moved to third base as he got to the big leagues. Bochy is expected to reach out to organizers to see if additional insurance might be added to make sure Crawford isn’t pushed too hard.

All three Giants are playing for teams that should go deep. Team USA is favored, and the Dominican is right behind the host country, according to oddsmakers. A different kind of title would be a nice way to start the odd year, but regardless, the players expect to take a lot away from the experience.

“It’s great for baseball,” Posey said. “For me, I think that’s part of it as well, just trying to help grow the game if I can.”

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”