Giants spring training Day 33: Morse makes spring debut in outfield

Giants spring training Day 33: Morse makes spring debut in outfield

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Michael Morse’s spring training charge continued in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday, with a scorched double to the gap that led to the lone Giants run of the night. The coaches have seen enough of Morse this spring to know the bat speed is still there. This game against the Rockies was significant for other reasons.

Morse played left field for the first time this spring, and while it was a mixed bag, he seemed to get a nice endorsement from his manager after the game. 

“You look at our history and we’ve put some guys in left field who are maybe not the fastest, like (Pat) Burrell and (Travis) Ishikawa,” Bruce Bochy said. “But if the bat plays, you find a place for them.”

Morse’s bat certainly still looks like it can get the job done. During his first night in the outfield, he made one play that impressed the bench and another that served as a reminder that he has work to do. When Gorkys Hernandez slipped on a fly ball to left-center, Morse made enough ground to pick up his center fielder. But in the seventh, Morse came up short on a Charlie Blackmon flare to left after getting a poor jump.

Morse has played just 35 innings in the outfield since leaving the Giants at the end of the 2014 season. His previous 28 defensive innings this spring came at first base. Asked how the return to the outfield felt, Morse smiled. 

“Scary!” he said. “It was fun, though. It was like riding a bike … with two flat tires.”

Bochy said Morse and others may play in minor league games over the next week to get additional fly balls. Earlier Friday, Chris Marrero, Gordon Beckham, Jae-gyun Hwang and Aaron Hill did outfield work with guest instructor Cody Ross. Morse said he would be fine with a trip to the minor league facility. 

“I wouldn’t mind doing that,” he said. “As long as it’s during spring training.”

GAME RECAP: Matt Cain gave up three runs in 4 2/3 as the Giants fell 5-1 to the Rockies. Here’s what Cain had to say about his outing and his updated spring numbers

“It was better today,” Bochy said. “His numbers showed it. He made a couple mistakes there when he was in a positive count, but overall it was a better day. He needs to sharpen things up when he’s ahead in the count.”

BACK IN ACTION: Will Smith (elbow) made his spring debut, allowing two hits in one inning of work. One of the hits was the flare to left that dropped in front of Morse. Smith got a double play to end the inning. He’s a couple of days ahead of the original rehab schedule, and it looks like the Giants will have time to get him up to speed before opening day. 

“I thought he threw well,” Bochy said. “He looked fine for the first time out.”

UPSET ALERT: The Giants announced a crowd of 12,184 for a night game in downtown Scottsdale on St. Patrick’s Day, which is the perfect concoction for trouble. The gates opened at 4 p.m. and by 4:02 p.m. authorities had been called to deal with an unruly fan, but ultimately there were only two more incidents the rest of the night. Shocker. An usher noted that spring training has become so expensive that the revelers have been priced out of games like this one. 

FAMILIAR FACES: Randy Winn (scouting), Will Clark (coaching), Rich Aurilia (coaching) and Jeremy Affeldt (coaching and pretending he’s not a member of the media) were among the former Giants in camp on Friday afternoon.

ICYMI: It’s all about Matt Cain on this website today. He was the latest guest on my Giants Insider podcast. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here.

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.”