Giants spring training Day 34: Moore working hard to improve hitting

Giants spring training Day 34: Moore working hard to improve hitting

PEORIA, Ariz. — While discussing his first full season in the National League, Matt Moore brought up an NL West game the Giants would rather forget. 

“It is exciting to think about being able to do, like, what (Clayton) Kershaw did on opening day a few years ago,” Moore said. “He hit a solo home run and threw a nine-inning shutout. It’s like, ‘Wow, you literally had very little help that day.’”

The Giants know that well. They were on the other side on April 1, 2013, when Kershaw spun a four-hitter and scored the game’s first run with a leadoff homer in the eighth. Kershaw and the league’s other preeminent left-hander, Madison Bumgarner, have set the bar high as two-way players. Kershaw has 70 hits over the past six seasons. Bumgarner, who is practically another slugger out there, has 76, including 14 homers. 

Moore knows he won’t ever reach those heights. But he likes hitting, and he’s working hard this spring to make himself a serviceable option. 

“I know I’m not very good at it, but I do enjoy just the whole game,” he said. “I think there’s a strategy to what you have to do.”

Giants pitchers regularly compete with each other during batting practice, and that carries over into games. Moore got into the act before games last season, peppering Triples Alley, but he had just one hit in 24 at-bats after an August 1 trade. He’s 3-for-38 in the big leagues, but at 27 years old, he’s not far removed from being a two-way contributor. Moore followed Kyle Blanks as the first baseman at Moriarty High in New Mexico and he was set to play first and pitch in college. Instead he was drafted and signed by the Rays, but a decade later, he’s ready for a crack at National League ball. 

“I’ll be honest with you: If I was betting, I’d probably rather have another hitter up there, but I do like the opportunity and the style of baseball in the National League,” he said. “I like to play. I’m not saying I could play the everyday stuff, but just being in the box makes you feel like, ‘Alright, I’m playing baseball again.’ The perspective of seeing the ball at the knees gives you a little more confidence.”

Moore will get to hit in his next start, which comes Thursday at Scottsdale Stadium. At the Mariners’ home park on Saturday, he showed that there’s little work to be done on the mound before opening day. In five innings, Moore allowed just two hits and struck out four. He retired the first 11 hitters he faced. 

“He was on today,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s hitting his spots, good stuff, everything. I’m really, really happy with where he’s at right now.”

STOCK WATCH: Jarrett Parker is simply a different guy this spring. In each of his first two at-bats, he took good two-strike pitches to keep the battle going. One of those led to a monster homer to dead center, his fourth of the spring. Parker came in as the favorite to start the season in left field and he’s done nothing to lose his grip. 

Chris Marrero also went deep, giving him five homers for the spring. With Michael Morse swinging a hot bat it’s hard to see how Marrero fits in, but he certainly has opened eyes over the past month. 

FLASHING THE LEATHER: Gordon Beckham took some fly balls in left field on Friday, but Saturday was all about showing off at his natural position. Beckham went a long way to snag a pop-up for Moore and he later made a leaping grab of a shot up the middle.

Slade Heathcott might have made the play of the spring when he went into the right field corner for a sliding grab. Heathcott was up from minor league camp. 

STREAKING: Tim Federowicz has a double in five straight games, but no other hits during that span. Six of his last seven hits have been doubles. Now you know. 

“I like him,” Bochy said. “He’s made some noise in this camp.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: A day after making his spring debut, Will Smith said all felt right in his left arm. Smith threw all his pitches in an inning Friday, and he’ll play catch for a couple of days before getting back into games on Monday and Wednesday. 

“No setbacks so far,” he said. “I’m still looking to be ready for opening day.”

Cory Gearrin (cracked nail) will throw a bullpen session Sunday. 

FAMILIAR FACE: When the non-playing Mariners crossed the field to head off to the golf course or wherever, Chris Heston stopped by the dugout to hug Bochy and see some former teammates. Mariners people say Heston won’t make the team, but he’ll be one of the top options for a call-up should the team need a starter.


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.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”