Giants

Giants spring training Day 3: Trevor Brown will get infield time

Giants spring training Day 3: Trevor Brown will get infield time

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The remaining position players started to roll into Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday. Kelby Tomlinson arrived in the morning, Conor Gillaspie walked through a few minutes later, and Denard Span showed up as well. It won't be long before there's a full workout at the facility, and when infielders officially hit the dirt, a young catcher will join them. 

Manager Bruce Bochy said Trevor Brown will get some meaningful time at second base this spring, and he also will take grounders at first base and third. Brown made 96 starts at second base in the minors and a dozen at first, but his big league exposure has been limited. He occasionally takes pre-game grounders if an infielder is dealing with a minor injury, and that led to him getting an inning at third base last June. The Giants were shorthanded at the time because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion disabled list. 

Bochy said the Giants haven't ruled out opening the season with three catchers, but added that the odds of that configuration "are less than 50 percent." Brown is most likely ticketed for the starting role in Triple-A, as the Nick Hundley addition was originally supposed to allow Brown -- a converted infielder -- to continue his development behind the plate. Still, this role has always been something that intrigues the Giants. Brown is athletic and experienced enough to add the infield to his big league playbook, and even if it doesn't lead to an opening day job, it'll help him going forward. 

So, be ready for the "Trevor Brown is playing second base!" tweets during a random game this spring. You can always use that kind of intrigue during a long exhibition season. For now, here are the highlights from Day 3 ... 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain is the clear frontrunner for the fifth starter spot, but Ty Blach intends on making it a hard decision. "That's what you live for," Blach said. "The competition."

Blach had a quiet offseason back home in Denver, but he certainly made a ton of noise before packing up last October. He had a 1.06 ERA in four regular season outings and didn't allow a run in two relief appearances in the NLDS. The highlight of Blach's season was a huge win over the Dodgers on Oct. 1, when he threw eight scoreless innings and struck out six.

"That was big for my confidence," he said. "It lets you know you can compete at the highest level. It's something to build off for sure."

PROSPECT WATCH: Chase Johnson was moved to the bullpen last season at Double-A and his numbers immediately improved. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out about a batter per inning as a reliever and dropped his ERA to 2.30 and WHIP to 1.09. Johnson was shut down late in the season after feeling the dreaded forearm tightness, but he said it was believed to be a reaction to his new pitching schedule and he's back to 100 percent as camp starts. It sounds like Johnson will continue to work out of the bullpen going forward. 

FAMILIAR FACE: Word out of Dodgers camp is that the Sergio Romo deal will be announced soon, and Romo will continue to wear No. 54. 

ICYMI: The podcast is back! The first guest of 2017 was top pitching prospect Tyler Beede, who talked about his development, the importance of this spring, his offseason workouts with Mark Melancon, attending the Super Bowl, his music career, and much more. You can stream it online here or download it on iTunes here. 

QUOTABLE: The main feature today was on Jimmy Rollins, who is trying to win a job as a non-roster invitee. Rollins lives in the Tampa area and he recently ran into Tampa resident Derek Jeter at the gym. "He called me an old man, and I was like, 'That's interesting,'" Rollins said of the retired Jeter. "I was like, 'Why are you even at the gym?' He said he's been breathing heavy when he walks up and down the golf course." 

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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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

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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.