Giants spring training Day 43: A big game for veteran trying to lock up OF job

Giants spring training Day 43: A big game for veteran trying to lock up OF job

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For the first time, Gorkys Hernandez did not go back to Venezuela in the offseason to play winter ball. He's hoping that leads to another first. 

Hernandez has never made an opening day roster, but after breaking into the Giants’ outfield rotation last season, he entered the winter in a decent shot. To bolster his case, Hernandez stayed in Scottsdale over the offseason to work out at the minor league facility. The added strength didn’t lead to any notable results over the first month of games, but Hernandez broke through Monday with three doubles in the final home game of the spring.

“Sometimes (slumps) happen and sometimes you’re late (on pitches) and you don’t feel comfortable at the plate, but now I feel different. I feel better,” Hernandez said. “I’m recognizing pitches and trying to keep it simple and not do too much.”

The coaching staff has asked several players to head down to the minor league facility late in the spring and get additional at-bats, and Hernandez took Bruce Bochy up on the offer. He twice played in minor league games, and on Sunday he rotated into different games so he could get six at-bats. Hernandez said that helped him find his timing. 

“Without question, it helped his timing,” Bochy said. “He was off. He was getting out front, his timing was off. I think the at-bats he got paid off.”

The three-double day was perfectly timed. Hernandez entered with a .159 average and Justin Ruggiano, the other option as a backup center fielder, had started to put together better at-bats. Monday’s game was a reminder in more ways than one. Hernandez showed off the type of speed the Giants won’t have on the bench if Kelby Tomlinson is optioned, and he played all three outfield positions, switching from left to right to center. 

The role in play is one Gregor Blanco had for five seasons. The Giants would like Hernandez to be their defensive whiz at every outfield spot, and they’re light on true center fielders. If the Giants put Hernandez on the roster this week as expected, he’ll be ready to try and be the new Blanco. 

“If they give me that role, I’ll try to do the same thing,” he said. “Or better.”

THE ACE: Madison Bumgarner is going to Madison Bumgarner. He threw seven sharp innings Monday, lowering his spring ERA to 2.52. In 25 innings, he has allowed just 17 hits and struck out 23. Bochy appreciated Bumgarner’s intensity Monday against a Reds team that was filled with minor leaguers. 

“That’s what makes him so good,” Bochy said. “He takes every outing seriously. His preparation doesn’t waver.”

Bumgarner even added a single, and he liked that it came on a breaking ball. He’s worked on getting better at hitting those pitches, which he’s seeing more and more. 

“I feel I’m as ready as I can be to start the season,” Bumgarner said. 

His next pitch will be thrown Sunday at Chase Field. 

GAME RECAP: The Giants blasted poor Reds starter Cody Reed, hanging 10 runs on his line in 3 2/3 innings. Denard Span had two hits and Aaron Hill had three, driving in three runs. Bochy went with an interesting lineup, leading off with Span, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. He said he likes Crawford in that five-spot. He also plans to hit the pitcher eighth on occasion.

TRAINER’S ROOM: Joe Panik was drilled by a fastball in the lower back and he came out of the game as a precaution. Panik has a nasty welt, so he’s in for a night of ice, but there are no concerns. 

QUOTABLE: Posey turned 30 today. As he walked out to stretch, Bumgarner was asked if he was giving Posey a hard time. “No, he’s been 30 for the last seven years,” Bumgarner said.


Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder


Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder

The Giants almost made it through spring training with no serious injuries.

But as they get set to leave Arizona for the Bay Area, Jeff Samardzija is dealing with a shoulder issue.

On Wednesday, Samardzija pitched in a minor league game. He gave up two homers, hit a batter in the fourth inning and was pulled from the game.

A day later, the Giants announced that Samardzija will undergo an MRI on his right shoulder. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, results of the MRI will be known later Thursday evening.

Samardzija's numbers in official spring training games this year are ugly. In 11 innings, he's 17 hits, 13 earned runs and six home runs.

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.”