Giants won't make it official yet, but Span will play center


Giants won't make it official yet, but Span will play center

SAN FRANCISCO — Social media has led to some awkward moments for teams recently. Coaches sometimes find out over the phone that they’re getting fired, and players often hear the news of trades and deals on Twitter before a team official can dial their number.

The Giants go out of their way to avoid such instances, and thus Denard Span was introduced to the media Friday and was never explicitly called the team’s opening day center fielder or leadoff hitter. Bruce Bochy won’t make that declaration before speaking to Angel Pagan, the incumbent, and the two have only been able to exchange texts in recent days.

You didn’t need a public declaration, though: Denard Span will be the center fielder, and he will hit atop the lineup.

In his opening remarks, Bochy noted Span’s ability in center and hitting leadoff. Later, he was asked directly about his opening day lineup.

[RELATED: Krukow: Denard Span 'the whole package' for Giants]

“I always like to get with my players when there could be a change or a tweak,” Bochy said. “It’s a very workable situation. (Span is) one of the best center fielders in the game and as I mentioned, a proven leadoff hitter. I would like to, out of respect, touch base with Angel.”

Span’s agent, Scott Boras, marketed him as a premier leadoff hitter and center fielder, saying he’s “like a defensive back” when he breaks on a ball and comparing him to Jacoby Ellsbury. Asked about the crowded outfield market, Boras said Span was in a different lane. “The difference is he’s a leadoff hitter and a center fielder," Boras added.

Span has made 778 out of his 923 career starts in center, but he let others speak to the situation Friday.

“I told Boch I’ll do whatever,” he said. “I’ve been a center fielder for a lot of my career. Center field is sentimental to me, but at the same time, I’m at the stage of my career where I want to do whatever it takes to help me win a championship. If that means me being in center field, I’ll take that with pride and will do the best I can. If they need me in left field, if they need me to catch for Buster a couple of games, I’ll do that as well.”

The Giants, in chasing Span, never even discussed a move to left, and now it will be up to Bochy to smooth things over with Pagan, who takes great pride in playing center and hitting atop the lineup. They made one change last year when Nori Aoki took the No. 1 spot, but a move to left will be complicated by the fact that Pagan is entering his contract year. He wants to play center, but for his sake, showing the ability to be a plus or average defender in left instead of a below-average one in center may help his cause. It will certainly help the Giants. 

With Span in center, the Giants will be as strong up the middle as any team in the National League. Brandon Crawford is a Gold Glove winner at short, Joe Panik likely would have been a finalist had he not gotten hurt, and Buster Posey should unseat Yadier Molina one of these years and win his first Gold Glove. Span was a Gold Glove finalist for the Nationals in 2013 and 2014.

“We’re set everywhere right now,” Bochy said. “Usually you go to spring training and you have some question marks, but across the infield and outfield this is as set as we’ve been. And not just set, but as good a defensive club as I’ve ever had. If we all play up to our capabilities, I think we have a chance to be one of the best defensive teams in baseball.”

It shouldn't be long before the Giants make the outfield changes official, but just in case, one last hint was dropped Friday afternoon. About an hour after his press conference, team officials led Span onto the field at AT&T Park to take some shots in his new No. 2 Giants jersey. The photo shoot took place in center field.

Bruce Bochy explains why he joined Twitter

Bruce Bochy explains why he joined Twitter

SAN FRANCISCO — In the 19 hours since Bruce Bochy first tweeted* he has picked up 15,000 followers. 

“Is that a lot?” he asked Wednesday morning.

It is, but don't expect many tweets from the 63-year-old manager now also known as @BruceBochy1 (@BruceBochy was taken). Bochy does not plan to send out lineups or respond to your complaint about Buster Posey getting a game off the day after a night game. He will not answer you if you scream about Gorkys Hernandez being in center. He does not plan to join the #BeltWars. 

“I’m not going to be on it a lot,” Bochy said. “I’m going to use it with charities and things like that. I don’t plan to use it every day.”

(*It’s here that we should stop and note that Bochy’s first tweet was sent when the Giants were taking batting practice Tuesday and the manager was standing behind the cage watching. But let’s have fun with it.)

Bochy tweeted “great win tonight” after the Giants beat the Nationals on Tuesday and he promoted an event he is doing with our own Amy Gutierrez at the New Balance store after Wednesday’s game. You can expect similar when he does one of the many charity events that he participates in during off days and before occasional home games. 

Bochy smiled Wednesday when told that close friend Tim Flannery gave him two weeks before he deletes his account. 

“If (followers) tweet bad things I’m going to tweet back ‘love harder,’” he said, referencing Flannery’s own charity work. 

--- Mac Williamson was a late scratch from the lineup a day after a brutal collision with the wall alongside the home bullpen. Bochy said Williamson had “general soreness” and he was officially pulled with neck stiffness. The Giants have not had any recent discussions about moving the bullpen mounds, in part because there's no space left at the ballpark. Although Bochy noted that some of his hitters would gladly tell the team to put it in Triples Alley. 

--- Chris Stratton is back home in Mississippi for the birth of his second child. His wife, Martha Kate, has gone into labor. Stratton is expected back in time to start Saturday’s day game, with Johnny Cueto getting the night game against the Dodgers. 

Roberto Gomez was called up to take Stratton’s spot, since Stratton was put on the paternity list. Gomez likely will stay Saturday as the 26th man for the doubleheader. 

Down on the Farm: Steven Duggar finds his stride in Sacramento, but where does he fit?


Down on the Farm: Steven Duggar finds his stride in Sacramento, but where does he fit?

Bruce Bochy compared him to Steve Finley in spring training. Talks of future Gold Glove awards were heard all around the desert. He even hit a dinger against the Dodgers. 

Steven Duggar grabbed the spotlight in Scottsdale and he's starting to in Sacramento, too. 

The Giants prospect ranked No. 3 by MLB Pipeline and No. 6 by Baseball America turned heads in spring training with his glove in center field and his improvements at the plate, showcasing more power as well. The Giants took a long look at Duggar for the Opening Day roster, but wanted to get him consistent at-bats in Triple-A after an injury plagued season in 2017. 

After a slow start at the plate, Duggar is heating up for the River Cats. On Monday, he snapped a seven-game hitting streak with an 0-for-3 showing. Over those seven games, Duggar hit .379 (11-for-29) with four doubles. 

So, where does he fit with the Giants? It's not easy to find the answer. 

The Giants already have a situation on their hands when Hunter Pence returns from the DL as Mac Williamson has crushed the ball since his call-up and is the clear answer over the beloved veteran right now. Williamson was an easy call with his previous big league experience plus his dominant numbers in Sacramento with his new swing. Finding a spot for Duggar won't nearly be as easy. 

None of the team's outfielders except for Williamson have minor-league rosters. Losing Gregor Blanco or Gorkys Hernandez through waivers would be a tough pill to swallow for the front office. Bochy loves his veterans and both Blanco and Hernandez can play all three positions in the outfield. 

Then there's Austin Jackson, whose start to his San Francisco career sure hasn't gone as planned. Heading into Wednesday's game, Jackson is only slashing .211/.258/.228. He is still hitting left-handers better than right-handers, but better is just .227 vs. .154. 

Jackson is signed for two years at $3 million annually. He's here to stay, though the plan was always for him to eventually turn into more of a fourth outfielder. As he has dealt with lingering leg issues, don't be surprised if he finds himself on the DL soon. 

If Jackson does hit the DL, would it be for the return of Pence or the debut of Duggar? It's becoming more clear Duggar is inching closer to big-league ready. He is now slashing .283/.377/.367 with five doubles and his defense will make an immediate impact. 

When and how Duggar finds himself at AT&T Park could be the Giants' next big question.