Giants notes: Growing group of infielders trying to transition to outfield

Giants notes: Growing group of infielders trying to transition to outfield

CHICAGO — It was easy for Giants fans to dream on Wednesday morning when power-hitting prospect Chris Shaw was bumped up to Triple-A. General manager Bobby Evans pumped the brakes a bit in the afternoon. The Giants do not expect Shaw to come up this year, even as a September call-up.

Shaw does, however, join a growing group of infielders trying to transition in Richmond. The closest to the big leagues right now is occasional big leaguer Kelby Tomlinson, who started in center field for the fourth time in five games. Could Tomlinson soon be back as a super-utility player, maybe giving the Giants some coverage in case they part ways with Gorkys Hernandez?

“Not ideally yet,” Evans said. “You’d like for him to get more time out there.”

[PAVLOVIC: Giants promote power-hitting outfield prospect to Triple-A]

Evans said the reports on Tomlinson are that he’s athletic in center and gets good reads. He’s not quite considered a big league option yet, but that’ll be a big part of his future. Tomlinson was joined in the outfield Wednesday by Austin Slater, who will start adding some reps at first with Chris Marrero now in Japan. Slater sounds like he's the next man up at some point. 

Ryder Jones and Jae-Gyun Hwang will also play more first. Jones has played quite a bit of left this season and Evans said the reports on him out there have been good. Hwang will be back in the headlines one way or the other at some point soon. He’s batting .280 with a .298 on-base percentage and three homers, which doesn’t scream promotion. But Hwang does have an opt-out on July 1, so something might have to be done. 

--- Matt Moore gave up two homers to Anthony Rizzo in a 5-4 loss to the Cubs, but this still continued his push in the right direction. In six innings, he gave up four runs, three earned. Not great, but better than it was in April. Moore has three straight quality starts. 

“Earlier in the year there were a couple of gaps in games where I wasn’t competitive,” he said. “I do think the last two or three weeks, I’ve gotten comfortable with the way the ball is coming out.”

--- Eduardo Nuñez extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games, but he came up lame on the play. Nuñez felt tightness near his left knee, right at the bottom of his hamstring. He played the rest of the game, but couldn’t go full speed. He’s confident he’ll be fine. 

--- Denard Span’s thumb is apparently 100 percent, or pretty close. He smacked a long homer, his third in his last 10 games. 

--- Conor Gillaspie (back) and Aaron Hill (forearm) will return on the homestand, possibly as soon as Friday against the Braves. Hunter Pence is further away. Bochy said he’ll need a quick rehab assignment, so it’s probably more likely he’s back the next Friday in Philadelphia. 

--- Bochy said Johnny Cueto was checked a couple of days before his Tuesday start and the trainers will do the same thing before his next start. Cueto is dealing with two blisters, but the Giants are not considering shutting him down. 

“He finds a way to get out there and pitch,” Bochy said. “It’s not a case where we’re pushing it. He wants to pitch.”

Under different circumstances, maybe the Giants would shut Cueto down for a couple of weeks to let these blisters pass. But they can’t afford to lose a second ace, and Cueto doesn’t want to miss any time. Bochy said he hasn’t been told this is something that will bother Cueto all year. 

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.”