Giants spring training Day 22: Three weeks in, Bochy looking for versatility

Giants spring training Day 22: Three weeks in, Bochy looking for versatility

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Aaron Hill has not started a big league game at shortstop since 2006. Jimmy Rollins has never started a meaningful game at second base. Yet there they were Monday, lining up in a strange alignment for a coaching staff that is trying to piece together a 25-man puzzle. 

Manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll start to throw guys into new spots over the next couple of weeks, and the returns Monday certainly didn’t harm the opening day chances of the two veterans. Hill smoked an RBI double in the second and got a great read while scoring on a bloop to left, and he looked fine at short. Rollins, who has been a bit slower to come around at the plate, made two diving snags in the field. 

Bochy said the staff isn’t really looking at spring numbers yet. The Giants are more concerned about seeing where all the veterans might fit in.

“I think this early, it’s hard to judge them, it really is,” he said. “I know it seems like we’ve been here quite a while, which we have because camp started earlier, but as we get into the later weeks of spring these guys should have their swings and their comfort and a sense of timing. It is hard to evaluate right now.”

Hill will continue to see time at short, Bochy said, especially with Brandon Crawford off to the World Baseball Classic. Rollins has done daily work at second. Bochy is looking at other permutations, too … 

  • He said Chris Marrero, who has swung a hot bat early, will see time in left field. Marrerro has played first base all spring. Kelby Tomlinson will also see time in left field. 
  • Trevor Brown continues to work out occasionally at first, second and third. The staff hasn’t ruled out carrying three catchers. 
  • Jae-gyun Hwang will see some time at first base and Bochy also wants a glimpse of him in the outfield. Hwang has played third base all spring. This could be particularly meaningful if he’s in Triple-A, where Christian Arroyo will play third. 
  • Ty Blach came in with one out in the fourth. He said this is the first time he can remember ever coming in during the middle of an inning, and it was done on purpose. “It’s a good situation for Ty to come in,” Bochy said. “It could be his role. I’m not saying it will be, but it could be. We’re going to keep those options open. Early on we’re going to keep options open on the pitching side and position player side. You’re trying to get that flexibility.” Blach is still competing for the No. 5 spot, but Matt Cain hasn’t done anything to make the staff think he won’t win that job, so Blach could be a long reliever or short-stint lefty to start the year. 

GAME RECAP: The Giants won 3-2, snapping an eight-game losing streak that cost them any shot at the prestigious Cactus League title. Kyle Blanks had three hits and drove in a run. Cain was charged with a couple of runs but Blach, Dan Slania, Derek Law and Hunter Strickland took it home. 

A DIFFERENT LOOK: Strickland threw only splitters and two-seamers while picking up the save. He’s looking to get hitters off his four-seam fastball a bit. 

“That felt good today,” he said, smiling. “It felt effortless.”

The returns were positive; he faced three Indians in the ninth and got three ground balls, with the final two outs coming on a double play. The addition of a reliable third pitch would certainly be a huge boost for a guy who should be pitching the seventh or eighth. A year ago, he threw 57 percent four-seamers and 23 percent sliders.

TRAINER’S ROOM: Will Smith remains on track to pitch in a game around March 20 or so. “Smitty will be ready (for opening day),” Bochy said. “I’m confident in that. He’ll be ready.” Conor Gillapie (sore arm) said he’s ready to get back in the lineup Tuesday. Jose Alguacil hoped to visit the clubhouse Monday afternoon. 

ICYMI: From this morning, Crawford and Buster Posey are off to wear the red, white and blue. And if you didn’t see it yesterday, Crawford’s WBC glove is going to lead to a lot of fire emojis on Twitter. 

QUOTABLE: “It’s always a tough at-bat. He’s going to give you a tough at-bat. He’s a guy who has got a great ability to put an at-bat together. He likes to play hard-nosed baseball and that’s what we’re looking for.” — Cain on Hill. It turns out the two go way back; they first faced off in Double-A and Hill lined a first-pitch curveball right back up the middle, nearly taking Cain’s head off.


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

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.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.