Giants

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

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AP

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants moved closer to setting their opening day roster on Monday when they made a significant round of cuts to their spring training roster. 

A total of 15 players were reassigned or optioned, bringing the total to 31 players remaining in camp. Many of the players cut Monday entered the spring competing for jobs. 

In the outfield, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater were optioned to Triple-A and Chris Shaw was reassigned to minor league camp. Williamson had a huge spring and was the likeliest of the trio to push for an opening day spot, but he'll start his year in the minors. Steven Duggar was not among the cuts, and he remains an option to make the team, with the Giants also looking at Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker for backup spots. Hernandez and Parker are out of minor league options. 

Tyler Beede was optioned and Andrew Suarez was reassigned to minor league camp, leaving three players vying for the final two rotation spots. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton have been the favorites all along, although both struggled the last time out and Derek Holland has had a strong spring. 

Both backup catchers -- Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez -- were reassigned, along with Orlando Calixte, who saw time in the big leagues last year. Joan Gregorio, Jose Valdez, Justin O'Conner and Kyle Jensen were also reassigned. Chase d'Arnaud, who appeared to be making a strong push, was on the list, too, leaving Josh Rutledge as the only competition for Kelby Tomlinson for the final infield spot. 

Finally, Derek Law and Roberto Gomez were optioned to Triple-A. Josh Osich remains and appears the frontrunner for a bullpen job. Julian Fernandez, the Rule 5 pick, also remains in camp. 

The Giants break camp on Friday.

Down on the Farm: Steven Duggar finds his stride in Sacramento, but where does he fit?

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AP

Down on the Farm: Steven Duggar finds his stride in Sacramento, but where does he fit?

Bruce Bochy compared him to Steve Finley in spring training. Talks of future Gold Glove awards were heard all around the desert. He even hit a dinger against the Dodgers. 

Steven Duggar grabbed the spotlight in Scottsdale and he's starting to in Sacramento, too. 

The Giants prospect ranked No. 3 by MLB Pipeline and No. 6 by Baseball America turned heads in spring training with his glove in center field and his improvements at the plate, showcasing more power as well. The Giants took a long look at Duggar for the Opening Day roster, but wanted to get him consistent at-bats in Triple-A after an injury plagued season in 2017. 

After a slow start at the plate, Duggar is heating up for the River Cats. On Monday, he snapped a seven-game hitting streak with an 0-for-3 showing. Over those seven games, Duggar hit .379 (11-for-29) with four doubles. 

So, where does he fit with the Giants? It's not easy to find the answer. 

The Giants already have a situation on their hands when Hunter Pence returns from the DL as Mac Williamson has crushed the ball since his call-up and is the clear answer over the beloved veteran right now. Williamson was an easy call with his previous big league experience plus his dominant numbers in Sacramento with his new swing. Finding a spot for Duggar won't nearly be as easy. 

None of the team's outfielders except for Williamson have minor-league rosters. Losing Gregor Blanco or Gorkys Hernandez through waivers would be a tough pill to swallow for the front office. Bochy loves his veterans and both Blanco and Hernandez can play all three positions in the outfield. 

Then there's Austin Jackson, whose start to his San Francisco career sure hasn't gone as planned. Heading into Wednesday's game, Jackson is only slashing .211/.258/.228. He is still hitting left-handers better than right-handers, but better is just .227 vs. .154. 

Jackson is signed for two years at $3 million annually. He's here to stay, though the plan was always for him to eventually turn into more of a fourth outfielder. As he has dealt with lingering leg issues, don't be surprised if he finds himself on the DL soon. 

If Jackson does hit the DL, would it be for the return of Pence or the debut of Duggar? It's becoming more clear Duggar is inching closer to big-league ready. He is now slashing .283/.377/.367 with five doubles and his defense will make an immediate impact. 

When and how Duggar finds himself at AT&T Park could be the Giants' next big question. 

The Mac Williamson Show rolls on: 'It's been fun to watch'

The Mac Williamson Show rolls on: 'It's been fun to watch'

SAN FRANCISCO — During his pre-game media session on Tuesday, Bruce Bochy was asked about the “elephant in the room.” What will he do with Mac Williamson when Hunter Pence is ready to come off the disabled list?

“That’s a big elephant,” Bochy joked. 

These things do tend to settle themselves, and in the fifth inning against the Nationals, it looked like the most unfortunate resolution might be in play. Williamson went hard after a Bryce Harper pop-up in foul territory and slammed his head and neck into the padded wall alongside the home bullpen. He took a second to take inventory of his body and trainer Dave Groeschner walked him back to his position. When he got to the dugout, Williamson was given a quick concussion test. He came back fine. 

There’s another way to settle a position battle, and Williamson showed it an inning later. His laser shot into the net beyond the center field wall was the difference in a 4-3 win over Washington. It was also his third homer in five starts since being recalled. He has three of the four hardest-hit homers of the season for the Giants in just 19 at-bats. 

At the moment, there’s no way the Giants can think about removing Williamson from left field. If anything, Bochy needs to ponder moving him up in the order. 

“We’ve talked about what a shot in the arm he’s been,” Bochy said. “It’s been fun to watch. Good for him, because he’s worked hard at it.”

Williamson’s offseason mechanical adjustments are well chronicled at this point. But the key Tuesday may have been the confidence that comes with making changes that click. In the past, coaches have been frustrated by an occasional lack of aggression in big spots. When Williamson came up with two outs in the sixth, he got a first-pitch curveball from Tanner Roark and smoked it towards the batter’s eye. 

“Now his confidence is so high,” Bochy said. “He’s up here and having success here against good pitching. It’s something we need, a guy who can provide offense and power, and he’s more than done that.”

Williamson was not alone on this night. Brandon Belt, who recently made a swing adjustment of his own, homered for the fifth time in six games. Ty Blach overcame a bout of food poisoning that cost him nine pounds over the weekend and managed to give Bochy five innings. Reyes Moronta went two and got his first career win. Sam Dyson, relegated to mop-up duty early in the year, induced a big double play to get out of the eighth. Hunter Strickland shut it down for a second consecutive night. 

The end result is a team that is now rolling. The Giants have taken back-to-back series from the Angels and Nationals. They are hitting for power and continue to pitch well. They’ll have their hands full Wednesday when they go up against Max Scherzer, but they have a new secret weapon, and Williamson hopes to be up for the task. He said he’s sure he’ll be sore once the adrenaline wears off, but he did not sound like a player who will need a day off. Any issues he had as he got up from the brutal-looking collision were not related to the bruise on his elbow or tweak to his calf. 

“I was just a little frustrated that I didn’t come up with the play, to be honest,” he said. “I had it in my glove.”

He more than made up for it an inning later.