Giants

It's do or be done for Giants

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It's do or be done for Giants

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- For all the energy devoted to the back end of the Giants' starting rotation in the National League Division Series, it turns out that the front end was the problem after all.

And for all the fretting about the front end of the rotation, it turns out that the real problem was the hitting after all.

BAGGS' INSTANT REPLAY: Reds embarrass Giants to take 2-0 series lead

It's a hellish Moebius strip of paralysis for the locals, who flee for Cincinnati after a defeat and a sound throttling at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds. They have nothing to use as a springboard, no optimism from recent events to use as a guide for the flop, the turn and the river of this series. The Reds hold king-king, the Giants have a seven-deuce unsuited, and the easy part of the series is done.

Sunday's 9-0 muzzling seems so much worse than it actually is, and it was the worst shutout loss in franchise history, because the Giants did nothing whatsoever to provide any hope. Sure, Tim Lincecum made the transformation from Roy Halladay to Joba Chamberlain with surprising ease, but the bigger picture prevents that development from being other than a catchy little sideshow.

Madison Bumgarner didn't last as long as Matt Cain did the night before, the long end of the bullpen essentially cratered, and the hitters, who had scuffled against Cincinnati's makeshift pitching staff in Game 1, did nearly nothing against the more traditional Bronson Arroyo. It looked, when you put the 18 innings together, like the Giants are simply and thoroughly overmatched.

GUTIERREZ: Arroyo paints corners, befuddles Giants

And maybe they are. Series are over when they are over, and this one isn't over. But it has the overwhelming feel of over-ish, so much so that there is no second-guessing to be done, no what-ifs, no wasted opportunities. The best moment the Giants have had was Johnny Cueto's eighth pitch Saturday night. After that, they have looked baffled, and buffaloed. Even Giants manager Bruce Bochy was more platitudinous than usual, which is how he typically is when the team gives him nothing to talk about.

"We know where we're at right now and our backs are to the wall," he said, his voice more graverl-based than usual. "We have to come out and be ready to play once we get to Cincinnati. It's been done before and we have to keep fightin'. There is no choice in this. We have to keep our heads up and be ready to go come Tuesday."

So this series is no longer a matter of macro-decisions like the starting pitchers, or who catches whom. The what-to-do-with-Lincecum issue is now played out, and the identity of the Game Four starter is even less meaningful than ever. Even the sniveling about the fans being too quiet to inspire the boys is not only out of place but out of time as well. This is now about little moments, single at-bats, fly ball outs in San Francisco that won't be in Cincinnati. This is about finding at-bats that work, and the best Ryan Vogelsong Ryan Vogelsong has ever been. Just to give them a chance.

The Giants have been in this situation before, most recently in 2003, when they were flap-slapped in four games by the Florida Marlins, but nobody in uniform save pitching coach Dave Righetti was there to draw from it. History doesn't help you when you're face down in a puddle. So it is that their only salvation is incremental improvement in the following areas:

Places 1 through 3 in the order, where Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval are 3 for 26.

Places 5 and 6, where Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt are 1 for 13.

Places 8 and 9, where Brandon Crawford and an amalgam of pitchers and pinch-hitters are 1 for 11.

That's 5 for 50, and there isn't enough Buster Posey and Gregor Blanco and the ghost of Melky Cabrera to tidy that up.

And the pitching? Well, the next time we see Cain would be in an as-yet-still-hypothetical Game 5, and everyone else is available for whatever scut work is there to perfrom. Lincecum acceded to Bochy's desires and went to the bullpen without protest, and his reward is that he and George Kontos are suddenly the staff aces.

But all this is small sample size stuff, and so is the Giants' task -- to make the monumental into a series of small and potentially digestible chunks, if they can. They have no choice, as Bochy said forlornly. It is do, or be done.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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USATSI

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

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USATSI

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.