Jae-gyun Hwang headed back to Korea after 'unforgettable and disappointing' year


Jae-gyun Hwang headed back to Korea after 'unforgettable and disappointing' year

The year didn’t go as planned, but the dream was made. Jae-gyun Hwang can always say he played Major League Baseball. After a year in which Hwang spent the majority of his time in Triple-A and fulfilled his dream in 18 games with the San Francisco Giants, Hwang is heading back to Korea where he has been a star in the Korean Baseball Organization. He elected free agency on Nov. 2.

“We are pursuing a contract in Korea for 2018,” Hwang’s agent Han Lee revealed to NBC Sports Bay Area.

Hwang took a risk. He was a star in the KBO for his success on the field and a star off it on YouTube for his eccentric bat flips.

The Giants signed Hwang in January to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. He hit .333 with five home runs, but the Giants sent him to Triple-A with the Sacramento River Cats. 

"Jae's first experience with MLB was both unforgettable and disappointing," Lee said. "Being in an unfamiliar environment, there were several challenges that Jae was unaccustomed to."

Success didn't follow Hwang to the majors in 2017. With the Giants, Hwang only hit .154 and knocked one ball over the wall. He also hit .285 for the River Cats and totaled another 10 home runs as one of the team's top hitters in 98 games. Before signing with San Francisco, Hwang was coming off a monster year in the KBO with the Lotte Giants. Over 127 games, he posted career highs with a .335 batting average, .394 on-base percentage, .570 slugging percentage, and 27 home runs.  

"Ultimately as a player, Jae understands that it was up to him to perform. And because he was unable to do that (at least not to the level to convince the team to give him another look in September), he has no regrets," Lee said.

Hwang arrived in the majors on June 28. It was a huge event in his hometown Seoul, South Korea, with family, friends and fans waking up early in the morning to watch him take the field at AT&T Park. And Hwang came with a bang. 

The Giants were all tied up with the Rockies, 3-3, in the sixth inning as Hwang took a 2-0 fastball and blasted it over the left field wall to give the Giants the lead for his first hit as a major leaguer. Drop the mic (bat). 

The ball landed in the bleachers at 6:32 a.m. in Seoul.

"Being able to play in a big-league stadium, and hit a home run in his first game, is something that he will always remember," Lee said. 

Along with the moment every ballplayer dreams of, Hwang will also always cherish the little moments. Lee says Hwang learned a lot from his teammates and coaches alike. Hwang is thankful for the opportunity and the warm welcome. One player in particular sticks out for Hwang in his experience with the Giants. 

"He would like to thank the veteran guys for making him feel welcome in the clubhouse, especially Hunter Pence," Lee said. 

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase


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


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.”