Giants spring training Day 35: Veterans scuffling as camp nears an end

Giants spring training Day 35: Veterans scuffling as camp nears an end

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants have watched with pride as Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have helped lead Team USA to the final round of the World Baseball Classic, but back in Arizona, the plate appearances haven’t been quite as fruitful. 

After a 6-4 loss to the Brewers during which many of his regulars continued to struggle, manager Bruce Bochy said some veterans could head down to minor league camp over the next week to get six or seven at-bats in one game. Bochy said the final decision is up to the veteran players, but it’s not hard to figure out who he’s talking about. In Sunday’s lineup, there were two starters (Hunter Pence and Denard Span), a potential backup outfielder (Gorkys Hernandez) and a reserve infielder candidate (Jimmy Rollins) hitting under .200.

Span has started to pick it up in recent days, but Pence was hitless in three at-bats, dropping his average to .125. 

“He’s still searching, it’s pretty obvious. He’s still searching,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some guys who are searching. You can look at the numbers.”

The positive news is that Pence is healthy. Also, spring training numbers don’t matter at all for veterans who are locked in for Opening Day. Still, Pence would like to see some better results before the April 2 opener at Chase Field. 

“Hopefully I can figure it out before the lights go on,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to be feeling like this when the season starts, I know that.”

The results weren’t much better on the mound Sunday. Jeff Samardzija gave up nine hits and six runs in four-plus innings. 

“The pitches were a little flat today, there’s no getting around it,” Bochy said. 

ROSTER CUTS: Tyler Beede and Christian Arroyo were sent down to minor league camp, where they’ll probably join up with Austin Slater and Steven Duggar and others to form a loaded Triple-A team. The Giants also reassigned lefty Kraig Sitton and optioned Orlando Calixte to Triple-A. 

ICYMI: Mark Melancon is officially headed to the World Baseball Classic. Also in that story, Johnny Cueto’s reaction to some fans back home calling him a traitor. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: Mac Williamson has been sidelined this weekend by left quad tightness. It’s not serious (Williamson blasted four straight homers during one of his BP rounds) but the Giants are going to be careful here. Obviously, the timing sucks for a guy who was having a good spring and was trying to win a job. There’s nothing standing between Jarrett Parker and an Opening Day look at Zack Greinke. 

FAMILIAR FACE: Andrew Susac didn’t make the trip with the Brewers. He’s sidelined by a neck issue, and it sounds like that could hurt his chances of winning a three-guys-for-two-spots camp battle. Brewers people think he’s on the outside looking in. 

QUOTABLE: “No, not at all. Not at all. We’ve seen what he’s done for the years he’s been here and how he steps up in those big situations in the playoffs. That’s what we have him for.” — Matt Cain, when asked during a recent interview if Bumgarner’s wild card performance surprised him. You can listen to that podcast online here or on iTunes here.

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.”