Giants notes: Which starter gets relief call first?


Giants notes: Which starter gets relief call first?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong plans to have his spikes on for the first pitch Saturday night. Same with Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he is keeping each of those three starting pitchers in play to back up Matt Cain, if needed, in Game 1 of their NL Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Only Madison Bumgarner, the Game 2 starter, will be wearing his turf shoes in the dugout.

Bochy would not announce his Game 3 starter on Tuesday in Cincinnati, but that decision has been reached. There are a couple reasons Bochy is holding his cards close. First, he doesn't want the Reds to know which starters he would be less likely to use in relief. And also, he doesn't want the pitcher bumped from the rotation to get bombarded by the media. (A situation that would be a bigger deal if it's Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who is bypassed.)

The announcement could come later Saturday night after Game 1. The Giants would be expected to send their Game 3 starter to the interview room to meet with reporters prior to Sunday's Game 2.

In the meantime, Bochy is leaving all his options open.

"They all could be used today -- Timmy or Vogelsong, Zito," he said. "Hopefully that's not the case because ... you're hoping you get a quality start and you can use the (relievers) you've used for the most part during the course of the season.

"Now, if something happens, we go extra innings, we do have some long guys. That's a nice quantity. As far as the pecking order, I don't want to give that right now, to be honest.

"With that said, I have talked to the other starters to they pretty much know when they're going to pitch and we'll hopefully be able to have them stay in their normal routine they would have before they would start a game. ... So it's not like we don't have an idea and they don't have an idea."

It's no secret that Lincecum had the worst season among the starting five, regardless of his dossier. His 5.18 ERA ranked dead last among 46 NL pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

Here's how the team's record broke down by starting pitcher:

Barry Zito (21-11), Matt Cain, (21-11), Ryan Vogelsong (19-12), Madison Bumgarner (19-13). Tim Lincecum (14-19).

One other factor: Lincecum can get loose in a hurry and never ices his arm. When the Giants drafted him in 2006, they had a thought that if he had durability issues as a starter, he could be a dominant short reliever. So don't be surprised if you see him warming up at some point during Game 1, if the Giants are struggling to get outs.

The Giants announced their NLDS roster on Friday. Bochy added today that relievers Jean Machi and Clay Hensley would remain with the team and travel to Cincinnati. Also on the travel squad is outfielderpinch runner Francisco Peguero and catcher Eli Whiteside.

The club allowed Justin Christian and Emmanuel Burriss to take leave. So if the club had decided to keep an extra pinch runner instead of a 12th pitcher, Peguero would've been the apparent choice despite his relative lack of experience.

Bochy said he felt the team could get by without the extra speed guy because Ryan Theriot could be used as a pinch hitter. (We know he likes to get frisky on the basepaths.) Also, Aubrey Huff had an injection in his troublesome knee a little more than a week ago and Bochy was feeling better about how the veteran first baseman was running on the last road trip. The Reds have a lot of lefties in their bullpen, so Huff could be used as a pinch hitter in the sixth or seventh innings.

"He has his bat speed back and you could have an important at-bat when (you need) an experienced guy who has been a DH in his career," Bochy said. "He has the ability to control his emotions and go up there and throw out a quality AB.

And if he gets on base, he'll be on base.

"If he (were) hobbling, this would be a tough decision," Bochy said.

Announcer Dave Flemming worked a Stanford game that went to overtime, fought through traffic and still made it to the field while the Reds were taking batting practice. Now that's a full workday.

Gotta go watch Alex Smith throw out the first pitch. What is the baseball equivalent of a perfect spiral -- a gyroball?

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency


Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches


Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.