Giants

Giants Notes: What went on during the Ohtani meeting?

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AP

Giants Notes: What went on during the Ohtani meeting?

ORLANDO — Even three seasons removed from their last title, the Giants have found that there are still surprising benefits to being in the World Series during those even years. When they met with Shohei Ohtani in Los Angeles earlier this month, Ohtani remarked that he was already familiar with the organization and key personnel because he had seen so much of Bruce Bochy and Buster Posey on TV. 

That familiarity didn’t bring Ohtani to San Francisco, of course. He chose the Angels, but the Giants were one of seven teams to be granted a meeting with the potential two-way star. They were taken up a private elevator to a large conference room, where they shook hands with Ohtani and his representatives and started their pitch. What exactly was that process like?

“We sat across the table from him and presented really who we are as an organization, and it was an opportunity for Boch to describe the role he would play with the Giants,” general manager Bobby Evans said this week. “Buster was able to answer a question or two about how (he) prepares our pitchers for games, but Buster asked his share of questions as well. With a translator, we all were able to interact in terms of a perspective on what it would be like to be a Giant in the clubhouse and on the field and get a snapshot of the city of San Francisco in some way.

“I thought (Ohtani) was incredibly impressive, very intuitive and alert, and very concerned about how the fit looked and would work. My understanding is that we were very close to that finish line, but I’m sure at some level not having a DH hurt.”

That became apparent to the Giants during the meeting. Ohtani told them at some point that he was not all that familiar with outfield play and he seemed to be gravitating toward a designated hitter role, so some in the traveling party left the meeting knowing that he would choose from the Angels, Mariners and Rangers. 

As for the other December meetings, the Giants left Orlando without a major addition, but there are indications that next week may be a busy one. For now, here are some leftover whispers and notes from five days at the Swan and Dolphin Resort … 

--- The front office has waffled a bit on the earlier desire to go defense-first in the outfield. Team officials said they might have to compromise defensively to add a power bat. Jay Bruce seems to be at the top of the list right now, although he is seeking a substantial deal and the Giants are watching their budget. They also have checked on Chicago's Avisail Garcia. 

--- Winter ball was a disaster for Giants prospects. Jarrett Parker (eye infection) and Christian Arroyo (wrist) came home early and Ryder Jones was sent home early after he got off to a very slow start. Austin Slater never even went to play in the Dominican Republic because he was still rehabbing. Chris Shaw’s Fall League experience was cut short by shoulder tightness. 

“Those are lost at-bats you never get back,” Evans said of the injuries. 

--- It sure sounds like the Giants would like to hold off quite a bit longer on promoting Shaw, allowing him to spend much of the year in Triple-A before becoming a big part of 2019 and beyond. Shaw can force the issue, though. “We look at his bat as being so close to being ready to take major league at-bats,” Evans said. “He’s still relatively new professionally to playing the outfield. We’d like to get him more and more reps.” It doesn’t sound like Shaw will return to first base anytime soon. 

--- Slater will get a look at all three outfield spots in spring training and the Giants believe he can handle all three. For now, they view him as a candidate to be the fourth or fifth outfielder on opening day. 

--- The Giants hope to bring Nick Hundley back soon, and that seems like a lock. As for another familiar backup catcher name, Trevor Brown will be back in Triple-A after getting outrighted off the 40-man roster in September. Brown dealt with a groin injury throughout the 2017 season but he’s fully healthy and will be in big league camp. 

--- Phil Nevin is the new third base coach for the Yankees and apparently will run spring training, so he's certainly going to be a hot managing candidate next offseason if the Yankees are as good as expected. Turns out Nevin was the one on hold as Hensley Meulens waited for the Yankees to make a decision. If Meulens had beaten out Aaron Boone, Nevin would have returned to San Francisco to take the open spot on staff.

--- Meulens will do most of the daily planning for Giants camp. Ron Wotus always handled that job when he was bench coach. Giants people were thrilled to have Meulens back, but they do believe he's such a high-profile candidate now that they may lose him in a year.

--- The early reports on pitching coach Curt Young are glowing. Young lives in the Phoenix area and he's already working with Giants pitchers who throw down there. Matt Moore, trying to move past a horrible season, is one of the players who went down early.

--- The Giants have heard that Pablo Sandoval's offseason conditioning is going just fine, but they'll check in again soon. This is the time of year when members of the training staff visit players in their home towns. Bochy said that if the season started today, Sandoval would be the third baseman -- but that's pretty much by default. The Giants want him in a bench role, with Evans saying Sandoval could have a Joaquin Arias-type role. 

--- You can replay that whole Evans Facebook Live here. He was pretty forthcoming on several topics, including the Stanton discussions, saying Joe Panik hasn't been discussed in any deals. There’s also a Facebook Live video with Bochy there.

--- The latest podcast includes conversations with David Bell, who is overhauling the minor league system, and Craig Mish, who was all over the Stanton discussions. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

--- Finally, a lighter note: Did Madison Bumgarner send angry texts to Bochy after hearing that he would give Ohtani 300-400 at-bats. The answer is here.

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

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USATSI

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

PHOENIX -- The removal of three small pins in Madison Bumgarner's left pinky represented a big step for the pitcher. 

Bumgarner had the pins taken out Thursday and he now will begin the process of strengthening his hand, which was fractured during his final spring training appearance. He could begin playing catch in two weeks. 

"Once he gets that going, I think you'll see him make real progress," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

It still will be a long process for Bumgarner, who is on the 60-day DL and not eligible to return until May 26. It seems unlikely that he's ready on that day, but it could be soon thereafter. Bumgarner will need to play catch for a bit before starting bullpen sessions and eventually a real rehab assignment. Realistically, the Giants are hopeful that he'll be back in the rotation in early June. Bochy said he wouldn't be surprised if Bumgarner beats the initial timetable. 

"But it all depends on (how he feels) when he starts throwing," Bochy added. 

The Giants will get another key pitcher back Friday when Jeff Samardzija makes his season debut. 

--- Hunter Pence has a sore right thumb and wasn't in Thursday's lineup. The timing is, well, interesting. Mac Williamson wasn't in Triple-A Sacramento's lineup, so this could be the time a move is made, but the Giants also will need to clear a spot for Samardzija and they're hoping to stick with eight relievers for now. Stay tuned.

Down on the Farm: Q&A with Mac Williamson on his new swing and red-hot start with River Cats

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AP

Down on the Farm: Q&A with Mac Williamson on his new swing and red-hot start with River Cats

Spring training is the Best Shape of My Life Season. For Mac Williamson, it was the debut of Best Swing of My Life Season. Williamson hit .318 in the spring with four home runs, but there simply wasn’t a spot for him on the Giants’ Opening Day roster.

The results from the desert went right to Sacramento. Williamson is hitting .487 with a 1.626 OPS and six home runs in 11 games for the River Cats. After the team’s game Wednesday in Salt Lake City, NBC Sports Bay Area caught up with Williamson about his new swing and what has led to his torrid start.

Q: In spring training you said you wanted to see where you were in two months with your new swing. We’re pretty much there now and you’re hitting .487. How does it feel and how happy are you with the changes? 

A: I feel really good. I feel like I’ve made a lot of strides. There’s a lot of things that I’ve tried to fine tune that I’ve gotten really good at, and then again there’s still some things that I time and time again want to be more consistent with. But overall… it’s early, small sample size, haven’t played a ton of games, but I’m happy with the way things are going and the direction I’m headed. 

Q: The changes are that high leg kick and lower hand placement. A lot of people have compared it to Justin Turner. For you, what’s the key? 

A: I think for me, it’s getting on time for the fastball consistently every pitch. When I’m on time for the fastball I’m able to see the ball much better and be able to adjust if it’s an off-speed pitch if I’m in a better position to hit, no matter what pitch it is. Here early on it’s been fairly easier for me, relatively speaking to the past, to put a quality swing on more pitches and have better plate discipline. I don’t feel that I need to cheat to certain pitches or have to do too much. I’m trying to be in the same position time and time again every pitch and see the ball better. I think that I’ve been able to put better swings more consistently. Good swings, quality swings on good pitches. When you give yourself a chance, you’re gonna have more success. 

Q: You talked about plate discipline. The strikeouts are down, the walks are up (7 walks, 5 strikeouts). Is that an approach with your mindset you’ve worked on or has that leg kick allowed you to see the ball longer? 

A: I think a lot of it has to do with being in position. I’m able to see the ball longer. I’m able to see the ball more consistently and pick and choose earlier, not be committed so late. I’m not finding myself lounging at pitches or being late on a good fastball. In addition to that, just trying to mature as a hitter and kind of know where I’m hitting in the lineup, what my role is, who’s hitting ahead of me and behind me, what the situation is and what the pitcher is trying to do. Stuff like that. It plays a role in how you try to attack an at-bat. If you kind of have an idea what they’re trying to do to you, you’re able to form a good plan. If you’re having a good plan and seeing the ball good up there, then it’s another recipe for success. 

Q: Everyone is seeing the power numbers (6 home runs, 1.026 slugging percentage). Is that the biggest difference you have noticed? That it’s really being unleashed now?

A: I’ve really just found myself — no matter an out, a hit or whatever — I’ve found myself barreling a lot of balls a lot more consistently. Almost every single ball that I’ve hit, whether it be an out or a hit, if I put it in play I feel like I’ve found the barrel, which is encouraging. If you can put a good swing on a good pitch and put your barrel on it, even if it’s a ground ball, line drive or fly ball, you can do that seven out of eight or eight out of nine times, you’re gonna have good results. If you’re hitting the ball on the handle or hitting the ball on the end of the bat consistently, you’re results aren’t gonna be as good. Despite the numbers of ground balls of fly balls, I think one of the biggest positives is my plate discipline as well as consistently putting the barrel on the ball. 

Q: Have you done any new drills or changed up your hitting routine? 

A: Not particularly. There’s a couple things I’ll do from time to time if there’s one thing I’m working on that day. Honestly, this year it’s been about taking less swings. Our first series in Tacoma, we took BP once with the rain in five times and I hit in the cage one time. And I hit pretty well in that series (9-for-14, 1 home run, 3 doubles). The same went for that second series. I think I took BP once. For me, I think it’s more about not wearing myself out and if the swing’s feeling good, don’t overwork myself. Don’t work myself into a slump. If it’s not where I want it to be, take 20 or 30 purposeful swings to work on whatever I’m working on and the shut it down. Really, it’s been about not overworking myself. The organization has been great this year with what we need in BP or no BP that day and it’s worked really well for me. 

Q: That goes back to your maturity as a hitter. Quality over quantity — 

A: Exactly. That’s how I feel. There’s some guys who prefer to swing a lot and I definitely swung a lot in the past. When you’re going well you don’t want to do too much to work yourself into a slump and I’m sure when I get into a little funk, I’m gonna want to do a little extra. But right now, I think it’s really about game reps. … I feel confident about what I’ve done so far. I think in this game, you’re constantly tweaking things. Even the guys who have done it for 15 years. They’re fine tuning things. I feel good about where I’m at right now and hope to keep that going forward. 

Q: Your swing now is that modern launch-angle swing. Are you looking at that or do you just know with the feel of your bat path?

A: I just think it’s a result thing. For me, it’s kind of like, if I hit a ball on the barrel and I hit it in the air, not straight up and not straight down, it’s gonna go out. Hitting those balls 110 miles an hour at 27 degrees will result in a home run. Of course it will. But it’s not like I’m in the box thinking, ‘Alright I need to hit this ball 27 degrees.’ If I barrel the ball hard enough and I put it in the air, it’s gonna be far enough. That’s kind of how I look at it. Everything else mechanics wise and stuff like that, you can change. In the box, you’re just trying to hit it in the air. You’re not thinking numerically what you want your launch angle to be. Sometimes you’re gonna hit the crap out of the ball with the right launch angle and the right exit velo and it’s not gonna go out. Sometimes you’re gonna get lucky and pop one up and the wind’s gonna blow it out. I think it’s more of an ego boost than anything else to have that data, but I don’t really know what that does. A lot of broadcasters, it’s all they want to talk about. It’s just hitting the ball in the air. People aren’t sitting in the box trying to hit the ball at a certain degree or angle. It’s a result to me more than a thought process.