Giants notes: Williamson's strong debut; Span the game-changer

Giants notes: Williamson's strong debut; Span the game-changer

SAN FRANCISCO — The five-song victory soundtrack came with a bonus track Monday: “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison. 

It was a nod to Mac Williamson, the outfielder who returned to AT&T Park in a big way. Williamson had a hard single to right in his first at-bat and an RBI single in the sixth that pushed the lead to five. The Giants would hold on for an 8-4 win. 

“It feels great any time you can help the team win, especially against the Dodgers.” Williamson said in a post-game interview on NBC Sports Bay Area. “Obviously Buster (Posey) is swinging it really well and we’re just trying to — (Christian) Arroyo and I at bottom of lineup — we’re just trying to do our job. I’m hitting eighth so I’m in front of the pitcher and trying to see some pitches and work counts. Arroyo did a great job in a few of his at-bats getting on. 

“He did a heck of a job on the sac fly. I was just trying to see some pitches and put one out there. He stole second and got in scoring position and I was able to push him over.” 

The two former River Cats teammates combined for a two-out run in the sixth. Arroyo walked and stole second for his first big league steal. Williamson hit one 106 mph the other way for the RBI. His previous single was hit 110, also the other way. 

“Mac had a nice debut, didn’t he?” Bochy said. “He looked comfortable, solid hits to right field. He was starting to come around in spring training. He got enough at-bats down there in Triple-A to get his timing.”

--- Hunter Pence expects to be back right around the 10-day mark, and both player and manager said the new 10-day DL made this a much easier decision. Pence might have fought it a bit more if it was a full 15.

“It’s a great move by Major League Baseball,” Bochy said. “It was probably a little overdue. That 15-day DL put you in a hard spot.”

The team across the way last night uses it better than anyone. The Dodgers are basically rotating veterans in and out, and Monday night’s starter — Brandon McCarthy — was put on the 10-day a week prior to this start even though he was only going to miss another day or two with a left shoulder issue. 

The Giants thought they might be able to do some similar things, but they don’t have as much pitching depth. They recently took a blow at Triple-A; hard-throwing right-hander Chase Johnson had Tommy John surgery on May 8. The Giants put him in the bullpen last summer because they thought that would help keep him healthy, but there are no correct answers when it comes to the elbow. 

--- Denard Span has been a game-changer since returning, but Bochy said he’ll probably get a day off during this series. The Giants face left-handers the next two days — Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw. Bochy wants to keep Span fresh.

“Really, we’ve been trying to rest these guys a little bit more,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it quite a rotation but every six or seven days we’ll try to get them off the field. It’s going to be important to find a way to keep these guys fresh and rested. I think they’ll be better players.”

It’ll be a key once the weather heats up. For all the minor strains and tweaks the Giants have had, they haven’t had to deal with any hot or humid weather yet. That’s usually when guys start to wear down.

--- Some rehab updates: Aaron Hill will DH a couple of games for the San Jose Giants, who are in Visalia this week. That’s convenient for Hill. He’s from Visalia. 

Jarrett Parker played catch for the second time. He’s making slow but steady progress after clavicle surgery. 

--- A note for the “Let Belt Pitch” crowd, of which Brandon Belt is the president: Bochy said Belt would have been the next man up on Friday after Matt Cain. Now, this would’ve taken a while, because Cain could have thrown several innings if he actually got into that game. But still, baby steps. It’s usually a backup catcher or fifth infielder who has that job, so I couldn’t believe that Bochy never did it.

“They usually put guys out there that they don’t mind getting hurt,” Bochy said, “So I was surprised that I didn’t pitch.”

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.”