Giants spring training Day 5: Staff being cautious with Pence

Giants spring training Day 5: Staff being cautious with Pence

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Michael Morse provided the highlight of the first day of BP when he skied a homer off the upper portion of the light tower in left field. There aren’t many players in Giants camp who can hit a ball that high, and one of them wasn’t on the main field Friday. 

The Giants held Hunter Pence back from batting practice because of soreness in his right intercostal area. Pence had to pull back late in his offseason program after feeling something during a workout. 

“He did all baseball activities except hitting (on the field),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re controlling his workload right now, is the best way to put it. He’s real close. He just didn’t hit today.”

Bochy said there’s not much concern about the ailment, and Pence has said — both at FanFest and this week — that he’s fine. The Giants are being rightfully cautious with a player who has played just 158 games the past two seasons. 

Pence did take part in the fielding portion of the day, and his group might have given an early clue as far as left field goes. The outfielders were split into groups of three, and Pence shagged fly balls with Denard Span and Jarrett Parker. As of today, that’s probably your opening day outfield. But Mac Williamson has six weeks to change it up. 

“It’s time for them to get that opportunity,” Bochy said of Parker and Williamson. “We’ll throw them out there as much as we can this spring.”

DID THAT MEAN SOMETHING? This is a new portion of the daily recap, and you could have thrown the Parker thing in here. Clearly it’s no accident that he’s the first one up with Pence and Span. By the same token, I’ll note that Morse spent his day at first base, not with the outfielders. Reporters talk to Bochy and Bobby Evans multiple times a day during spring training, but often times the action on the field tells the whole story. Morse will need to show he’s viable in left field to make the team, but the Giants haven’t said exactly how much they plan to play him out there. 

PROSPECT WATCH: There was a lot of talk about third base today after the Giants signed Aaron Hill to a minor league deal. Look, the reality here is that Conor Gillaspie is a clear frontrunner for that spot behind Eduardo Nuñez, as he should be, but Hill, Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang and others are going to get quite a bit of time this spring and one of them might make the team. 

So … where does that leave Christian Arroyo? The organization’s top hitting prospect wasn’t on the main field when a big group took grounders and the logjam will likely cost him at-bats this spring. To me, that’s the biggest problem with carrying so many 30-somethings, and Evans acknowledged that Arroyo will lose spring playing time. But, he said, the Giants don’t necessarily need to see his at-bats. 

“We know he can hit at this level,” Evans said. 

Arroyo was 10-for-18 last spring and he’s 14-for-26 in two big league camps. He’ll be in camp for most of spring training if not all of it, but if you’re coming down to Scottsdale next month, you might not see a whole lot him during games. 

ICYMI: Will link to this one more time … here’s my podcast with Tyler Beede, and here’s the iTunes page for the Giants Insider Podcast. Taped with two more players today, so be on the lookout for the next one. 

FAMILIAR FACE: Vince Coleman is now with the Giants as a roving baserunning instructor. You literally couldn’t come up with a better option. Coleman, a two-time All-Stars in the late 80s, stole more than 100 bases in three consecutive seasons. 

QUOTABLE: “It’s a power right-handed bat. He’s a solid second baseman. When they moved him to third base I didn’t know how good he would be, but against us he played great defense,” Bochy on Hill, who passed his physical late Thursday and joined camp Friday morning. 

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.”