Giants notes: New coaches were right fit; latest on Bumgarner

Giants notes: New coaches were right fit; latest on Bumgarner

PHOENIX — The first significant on-field changes for the Giants actually happened before free agency started. Phil Nevin and Jose Alguacil were added to the staff as base coaches, and at the GM Meetings on Tuesday, Bobby Evans shed light on what made each an ideal choice. 

Alguacil, who will coach first, has been a rising star in the organization for several years. Evans said the front office has actually viewed Alguacil as a strong coaching candidate since his playing days. Alguacil was an infielder in the system from 1993 to 1998 and was offered a coaching position when that period came to an end. He chose to continue playing elsewhere, but his minor league career lasted just three more seasons. 

“When he was let go (as a player) we grabbed him as quickly as we could and added him to our system,” Evans said. 

Alguacil was a roving instructor in the minors for eight seasons, working closely with big league bench coach Ron Wotus during his visits to big league camp. In 2015 he took over as manager at Double-A Richmond, the first sign that the front office had a big role in mind. He spent last years managing the Triple-A club. 

“He’s a very committed baseball man and understands the game and how to teach the game,” Evans said. “He has a lot of enthusiasm for the players and I think they sense that he’s behind them.”

Alguacil, known throughout the organization as “Agui,” was also in consideration to take over at third base after Roberto Kelly was let go, but the front office viewed first base as “a good first step.”

“This was really the next step for the development of his career, to get on the Major League staff,” Evans said.

The third base job went to Nevin, a longtime big leaguer who came close to getting a bigger role elsewhere. Nevin came from the Diamondbacks, where he was the Triple-A manager. Evans offered him the third base job but had to wait and see how the Diamondbacks’ managerial search played out. Nevin was the runner-up to Torey Lovullo.

“He’s someone that came highly regarded into the interview process, and as we met with him we could see a lot of the things that a lot of clubs like about him from a managing perspective,” Evans said. “This was a good opportunity to bring him up here.”

Nevin got a strong recommendation from Bruce Bochy, who managed Nevin when he played for the Padres. 

--- From earlier today, here’s my story on the search for a closer. There’s more coming from Phoenix, both in written and podcast form. If you’re not subscribing already, here’s where you can find the podcast. 

--- I attended an Arizona Fall League game last night to see some Giants prospects. Three of them — Hunter Cole, Aramis Garcia and Ryder Jones — were in the lineup. At one point, all three reached to load the bases for a man named Tim Tebow. He flied out. All the reports about him are true, by the way — not a prospect. 

Jones had three hits, Garcia had two, and Cole had one. You can see Garcia drive Jones in here. Where they really impressed, though, was on defense. Cole showed off a very strong arm in right field and Garcia, a catcher, made two perfect throws to second to catch base stealers. Jones has mostly played third in his career, but he looked like a natural at first, with several slick scoops and a diving stop. It should be noted, given what the big league roster looks like, that he’s playing some left field this fall. 

--- There was a lot of talk about a Madison Bumgarner extension in the days after the season ended, but Giants officials later insisted that it was overblown. They had simply touched base with Bumgarner’s agents to keep the lines of communication open. Evans said Tuesday that there have been no negotations in recent weeks. 

“At the right time, we’ll address it with him,” Evans said of a new deal. “We’re open to timing that feels right for both sides. We’re in the middle of free agency right now and looking at trade options, and we’re focused on next year’s club. It’s probably hard to see us wrapping our head around (an extension) right now.”

There’s no rush for either side. Bumgarner is under team control through 2019.

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.”