Giants

Giants SS Brandon Crawford wins third straight Gold Glove

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USATSI

Giants SS Brandon Crawford wins third straight Gold Glove

SAN FRANCISCO — For all that went wrong for the Giants in 2017, their pitchers never had to worry when a ground ball was hit up the middle. On Tuesday, Brandon Crawford was once again rewarded for those efforts. 

Crawford won his third consecutive Gold Glove Award, becoming the first National League shortstop since Jimmy Rollins (2007-09) to pull that off. He is the 15th shortstop in MLB history to win three Gold Gloves and the first Giant since J.T. Snow (1997-2000) to win a Gold Glove in three consecutive years. Snow, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays are the only players in franchise history with more Gold Gloves than Crawford. 

“It was definitely a tough season on the field and off the field,” said Crawford, who dealt with the death of his sister-in-law early in the year. “It’s an individual award, but to at least get some sort of positive out of this season is definitely nice. Obviously we’d prefer team recognition but an individual award is still something nice to look back on.” 

A year after having three winners, the Giants were limited to one. Joe Panik was not even a finalist after winning for second base in 2016 and Buster Posey was likely dinged in the final balloting for catching just 99 games. Posey primarily played first base after Brandon Belt suffered a concussion in early August, and he lost out to surprise first-time winner Tucker Barnhart of the Cincinnati Reds.

Crawford was at his usual position throughout, with the exception of an early stint on the DL to deal with a groin injury. If he suffered any ill effects after his return, it didn’t show. Crawford was third among qualified NL shortstops with nine Defensive Runs Saved, and he led the group in Ultimate Zone Rating, per FanGraphs.com. As always, Crawford mixed in the spectacular on a near-nightly basis. 

The other National League winners were: Barnhart, Paul Goldschmidt, DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte and Jason Heyward. Barnhart isn’t the only member of that list who could have benefited from the Giants’ lineups down the stretch. Belt finished as a clear leader in the SABR Defensive Index (which counts for 25 percent of the vote) among NL first baseman and he might have unseated Goldschmidt had he not suffered a concussion. 

With Crawford, Posey, Belt and Panik, the Giants have a defensive core that would be the envy of most teams. Team officials have made it clear over the past six weeks that upgrading the outfield defense is the offseason priority, and Crawford believes that continuing to rely on steady defense and pitching could help the Giants push past the 2017 disaster. On a conference call Tuesday, he noted that the Giants have a good head start with Johnny Cueto back in the fold alongside Madison Bumgarner. 

“Whether or not we improve on our defense by getting anybody we have to put this season behind us,” he said. “Defense is always a big deal and I think in our championship seasons we’ve played really good defense in the infield, behind the plate and in the outfield. If we can improve on that, I think we like our chances going into next year.”

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

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AP

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

Tim Lincecum was back on a mound Thursday, trying to prove to teams once again that he still has a little bit of magic left in his right arm. 

The former Giants star held a bullpen session for scouts Thursday in Seattle. The event was closed to the media, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that between 25 and 30 scouts were in attendance. 

And Lincecum may have some of his velocity back. According to Heyman, Lincecum was sitting between 90 and 93 miles per hour. 

Lincecum last pitched in 2016 with the Angels. In that season, his fastball averaged just 88.4 miles per hour. In nine starts with the Angels, Lincecum was nowhere near what he once was and went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA. 

The Giants planned to be at Lincecum's showcase, according to Insider Alex Pavlovic. 

Over nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum posted a 108-83 record and a 3.61 ERA. He won back-to-back National Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, was a four-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts three times. 

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

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USATSI

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

SCOTTSDALE — Catchers are usually the only position players to hit on the main field during the first few days of spring training, but Austin Slater snuck into a group Thursday to take a few cuts. With manager Bruce Bochy leaning against the back of the cage, perhaps Slater’s session will serve as a reminder: I’m still here, don’t forget about me.

The 25-year-old broke through last summer before injuries halted his progress. As Slater focused on getting healthy this offseason, Bobby Evans focused on overhauling the outfield. That has left several familiar faces in precarious spots, and Slater finds himself fighting for a fifth outfielder job a year after batting .282 in his first 117 big league at-bats. 

At the same time, he’s trying to balance competition with health. He wants to push for an Opening Day job, but also is very aware that he needs to back it down at times as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

“You want to prove that you can play here and win a job, but (the staff) stressed health over everything,” he said. “It does no good to push and then start the season on the DL. For me, health is the most important thing. I feel like if I’m healthy I can prove myself. There’s nothing I can prove on the DL.”

Slater originally tore his groin on July 8 and the Giants thought it would prove to be a season-ending injury. He worked his way back ahead of schedule, though, seeing limited action before sports hernia surgery the last week of September. “They went in there and cleaned up the groin,” he said, smiling where others might grimace. The procedure kept Slater from playing in the Dominican Republic as planned, although that might have been a blessing in disguise. 

The Giants were aggressive with their winter ball plans because so many young players got hurt during the season. But Jarrett Parker lasted just 24 hours before being sent home with a health issue. Christian Arroyo’s hand swelled up soon after he arrived, and he headed home. Ryder Jones immediately got food poisoning and lost 12 pounds in just over three weeks before player and team decided a mutual parting would be beneficial. 

Slater stayed home throughout, living in the Bay Area and rehabbing. The Giants told him to focus on his rehab instead of lost at-bats and then come out and try to win a job in Scottsdale. By mid-November, he was hitting again. By Thanksgiving, he was on a regular lifting and running schedule. In late January, he felt like his old self again. 

For the Giants, that means a versatile option in a new-look outfield. Slater had a .290/.343/.430 slash line going before his first injury and he’s working to tap into more power. As Bruce Bochy pointed out Thursday, Slater has a long history of putting up numbers at every level. 

“He really did a nice job of figuring out what it takes to play in the major leagues, and he has a tendency throughout his career to just get better,” Bochy said. “You have to love his right-handed bat. He’s got some pop. I think he can play all three outfield positions, so he’s in the mix.”

The Giants have Andrew McCutchen in right and Hunter Pence in left and Austin Jackson as the third guy, and Bochy’s preference is to have a true center fielder as his fourth outfielder. That leaves Slater fighting for the fifth job, alongside many others. No matter what he did last year or does this spring, Slater has options remaining, and that will come into play. A year after using 13 different players in left field, the staff is intent on having greater depth at the Triple-A level. 

Slater is a Stanford product who spent the offseason surrounded by Giants fans. He knows the math after the offseason moves.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It just adds some great guys to learn from, and there are still outfield spots to be won, so it’s not discouraging, it’s encouraging. I didn’t expect them to keep an open roster spot for a guy with 120 at-bats. We’re trying to win a championship here.”