Giants

Huff to begin rehab assignment for San Jose

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Huff to begin rehab assignment for San Jose

SAN FRANCISCO Aubrey Huffs desire and dedication haventalways been on display this season, so Giants officials were pleased when the35-year-old veteran agreed to give up his All-Star break and begin a minorleague rehab assignment with Single-A San Jose.

Huff, who has spent most of the season on the disabled list,will begin the assignment on Wednesday.

A great sign, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. He knowshe needs to get some playing time. Even before he got hurt this last time, hehadnt been out there a lot. He needs to see pitches, get his timing, play somefirst base.

Huff went on the DL in late April after abruptly leaving theclub prior to an April 23 doubleheader at New York. He and the team laterdescribed his absence as an anxiety disorder. Upon returning in May he startedjust four games while being used mostly off the bench as a pinch hitter; he wasjust 3 for 25 over that 20-game span but had drawn six walks.

Huff landed on the DL again when he fell hard on his kneewhile trying to jump over the railing to celebrate Matt Cains perfect game onJune 13. He missed an opportunity to get at bats as a designated hitter on theteams nine-game road trip to Seattle, Anaheim and Oakland.

Huff hasnt played in the minors since 2006, when he appearedin two games for Single-A Visalia while on a rehab assignment with the TampaBay Devil Rays.

Bochy said he couldnt say how long Huffs minor league stintwould last.

The best way to answer that is, until he thinks hes ready,Bochy said. Definitely not till after the (All-Star) break.

Bochy took Huffs acceptance of the assignment as a goodsign. There have been times that veteran players refused managements wishes toget at-bats in the minors; for example, Edgar Renteria declined when askedseveral times in 2010.

Sometimes these guys dont want to go down, Bochy said. Theywant to come back and theyre just not ready. So thats our hope: That he willgo down there and get his stroke so he can come back and help us.

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

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USATSI

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

PHOENIX -- The removal of three small pins in Madison Bumgarner's left pinky represented a big step for the pitcher. 

Bumgarner had the pins taken out Thursday and he now will begin the process of strengthening his hand, which was fractured during his final spring training appearance. He could begin playing catch in two weeks. 

"Once he gets that going, I think you'll see him make real progress," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

It still will be a long process for Bumgarner, who is on the 60-day DL and not eligible to return until May 26. It seems unlikely that he's ready on that day, but it could be soon thereafter. Bumgarner will need to play catch for a bit before starting bullpen sessions and eventually a real rehab assignment. Realistically, the Giants are hopeful that he'll be back in the rotation in early June. Bochy said he wouldn't be surprised if Bumgarner beats the initial timetable. 

"But it all depends on (how he feels) when he starts throwing," Bochy added. 

The Giants will get another key pitcher back Friday when Jeff Samardzija makes his season debut. 

--- Hunter Pence has a sore right thumb and wasn't in Thursday's lineup. The timing is, well, interesting. Mac Williamson wasn't in Triple-A Sacramento's lineup, so this could be the time a move is made, but the Giants also will need to clear a spot for Samardzija and they're hoping to stick with eight relievers for now. Stay tuned.

Down on the Farm: Q&A with Mac Williamson on his new swing and red-hot start with River Cats

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AP

Down on the Farm: Q&A with Mac Williamson on his new swing and red-hot start with River Cats

Spring training is the Best Shape of My Life Season. For Mac Williamson, it was the debut of Best Swing of My Life Season. Williamson hit .318 in the spring with four home runs, but there simply wasn’t a spot for him on the Giants’ Opening Day roster.

The results from the desert went right to Sacramento. Williamson is hitting .487 with a 1.626 OPS and six home runs in 11 games for the River Cats. After the team’s game Wednesday in Salt Lake City, NBC Sports Bay Area caught up with Williamson about his new swing and what has led to his torrid start.

Q: In spring training you said you wanted to see where you were in two months with your new swing. We’re pretty much there now and you’re hitting .487. How does it feel and how happy are you with the changes? 

A: I feel really good. I feel like I’ve made a lot of strides. There’s a lot of things that I’ve tried to fine tune that I’ve gotten really good at, and then again there’s still some things that I time and time again want to be more consistent with. But overall… it’s early, small sample size, haven’t played a ton of games, but I’m happy with the way things are going and the direction I’m headed. 

Q: The changes are that high leg kick and lower hand placement. A lot of people have compared it to Justin Turner. For you, what’s the key? 

A: I think for me, it’s getting on time for the fastball consistently every pitch. When I’m on time for the fastball I’m able to see the ball much better and be able to adjust if it’s an off-speed pitch if I’m in a better position to hit, no matter what pitch it is. Here early on it’s been fairly easier for me, relatively speaking to the past, to put a quality swing on more pitches and have better plate discipline. I don’t feel that I need to cheat to certain pitches or have to do too much. I’m trying to be in the same position time and time again every pitch and see the ball better. I think that I’ve been able to put better swings more consistently. Good swings, quality swings on good pitches. When you give yourself a chance, you’re gonna have more success. 

Q: You talked about plate discipline. The strikeouts are down, the walks are up (7 walks, 5 strikeouts). Is that an approach with your mindset you’ve worked on or has that leg kick allowed you to see the ball longer? 

A: I think a lot of it has to do with being in position. I’m able to see the ball longer. I’m able to see the ball more consistently and pick and choose earlier, not be committed so late. I’m not finding myself lounging at pitches or being late on a good fastball. In addition to that, just trying to mature as a hitter and kind of know where I’m hitting in the lineup, what my role is, who’s hitting ahead of me and behind me, what the situation is and what the pitcher is trying to do. Stuff like that. It plays a role in how you try to attack an at-bat. If you kind of have an idea what they’re trying to do to you, you’re able to form a good plan. If you’re having a good plan and seeing the ball good up there, then it’s another recipe for success. 

Q: Everyone is seeing the power numbers (6 home runs, 1.026 slugging percentage). Is that the biggest difference you have noticed? That it’s really being unleashed now?

A: I’ve really just found myself — no matter an out, a hit or whatever — I’ve found myself barreling a lot of balls a lot more consistently. Almost every single ball that I’ve hit, whether it be an out or a hit, if I put it in play I feel like I’ve found the barrel, which is encouraging. If you can put a good swing on a good pitch and put your barrel on it, even if it’s a ground ball, line drive or fly ball, you can do that seven out of eight or eight out of nine times, you’re gonna have good results. If you’re hitting the ball on the handle or hitting the ball on the end of the bat consistently, you’re results aren’t gonna be as good. Despite the numbers of ground balls of fly balls, I think one of the biggest positives is my plate discipline as well as consistently putting the barrel on the ball. 

Q: Have you done any new drills or changed up your hitting routine? 

A: Not particularly. There’s a couple things I’ll do from time to time if there’s one thing I’m working on that day. Honestly, this year it’s been about taking less swings. Our first series in Tacoma, we took BP once with the rain in five times and I hit in the cage one time. And I hit pretty well in that series (9-for-14, 1 home run, 3 doubles). The same went for that second series. I think I took BP once. For me, I think it’s more about not wearing myself out and if the swing’s feeling good, don’t overwork myself. Don’t work myself into a slump. If it’s not where I want it to be, take 20 or 30 purposeful swings to work on whatever I’m working on and the shut it down. Really, it’s been about not overworking myself. The organization has been great this year with what we need in BP or no BP that day and it’s worked really well for me. 

Q: That goes back to your maturity as a hitter. Quality over quantity — 

A: Exactly. That’s how I feel. There’s some guys who prefer to swing a lot and I definitely swung a lot in the past. When you’re going well you don’t want to do too much to work yourself into a slump and I’m sure when I get into a little funk, I’m gonna want to do a little extra. But right now, I think it’s really about game reps. … I feel confident about what I’ve done so far. I think in this game, you’re constantly tweaking things. Even the guys who have done it for 15 years. They’re fine tuning things. I feel good about where I’m at right now and hope to keep that going forward. 

Q: Your swing now is that modern launch-angle swing. Are you looking at that or do you just know with the feel of your bat path?

A: I just think it’s a result thing. For me, it’s kind of like, if I hit a ball on the barrel and I hit it in the air, not straight up and not straight down, it’s gonna go out. Hitting those balls 110 miles an hour at 27 degrees will result in a home run. Of course it will. But it’s not like I’m in the box thinking, ‘Alright I need to hit this ball 27 degrees.’ If I barrel the ball hard enough and I put it in the air, it’s gonna be far enough. That’s kind of how I look at it. Everything else mechanics wise and stuff like that, you can change. In the box, you’re just trying to hit it in the air. You’re not thinking numerically what you want your launch angle to be. Sometimes you’re gonna hit the crap out of the ball with the right launch angle and the right exit velo and it’s not gonna go out. Sometimes you’re gonna get lucky and pop one up and the wind’s gonna blow it out. I think it’s more of an ego boost than anything else to have that data, but I don’t really know what that does. A lot of broadcasters, it’s all they want to talk about. It’s just hitting the ball in the air. People aren’t sitting in the box trying to hit the ball at a certain degree or angle. It’s a result to me more than a thought process.