Giants notes: Nunez getting close; Hernandez starts in center

Giants notes: Nunez getting close; Hernandez starts in center

CHICAGO — Eduardo Nuñez has spent the last week working out with trainers, jogging and stretching and testing his strained hamstring. On Friday afternoon he finally returned to the pre-game workout, and he did so with a big smile on his face.

“Full workout today,” Nuñez said. “I’m close.”

The Giants don’t expect to have Nuñez available to start for either of the games in Chicago, but he’ll be ready off the bench, and Bruce Bochy will use him given the lack of options. Nuñez is available to play third base tonight in an emergency. 

As for the man who has taken his spot, Conor Gillaspie was the first Giant on the field Friday evening by a good 10 minutes. He appears ready for more time in the spotlight.

Some other odds and ends from the pre-game scene at Wrigley …

--- Gorkys Hernandez will see the first pitch of the National League Division Series. Stop and think about that for a moment. It’s remarkable, given where Hernandez sat on the depth chart all spring and most of the season. 

Hernandez has never faced Jon Lester, but he didn’t seem all that bothered. 

“He has a ball, I have a bat,” Hernandez said. “We’ll see what happens.”

There’s one certainty: If Hernandez reaches base, he’s going. Lester’s issues throwing to first were a big part of the pre-game scouting report. Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson got the nod against the lefty. 

“It’s worked,” Bochy said. “You look at the L.A. series and we did it. We won two big games there against tough lefties (Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill).”

--- If you missed it this morning, here’s the NLDS roster. Bochy said he chose Gregor Blanco over Jarrett Parker because of versatility. Neither has played much the past month, but Blanco can bunt, pinch-run, and replace a lesser defensive outfielder in the late innings. It’ll be interesting to see if Bochy starts replacing Angel Pagan with a lead.

Ty Blach got the nod over other relievers because Bochy needed a long man. “We saw what happened in Washington,” Bochy said. So, Blach will be Yusmeiro Petit in this series.

--- In case you missed it, here's what David Ross had to say about Buster Posey. And here's why Jeff Samardzija gets Game 2.

--- And to get you all warmed up for this big series: Video of Madison Bumgarner taking aim at Waveland Avenue. (Thank you to the Cubs fans who corrected my tweet, and who pointed out that Jake Arrieta can do the same thing. He can't.) Bumgarner hit about a half-dozen balls out of the park. 

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.”