Giants

Jimmy Rollins ready for a new role, and one more shot at October

Jimmy Rollins ready for a new role, and one more shot at October

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jimmy Rollins was born and raised in the East Bay, but these days he lives in the Tampa area. The vast majority of the Rollins family still lives a bridge away from AT&T Park, however, and they're looking forward to possibly watching the longtime Phillies star play at home.

"My parents will be excited -- not for me, they get to see their grandkids," Rollins said. "I'm just like the sideshow."

That's rarely been a phrase used to describe Rollins, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He was an MVP in Philadelphia and spent a decade as one of the game's best shortstops, but the role now is a far different one. Rollins hopes to win a job as a backup infielder, meaning the lifelong shortstop will have to find a similar level of comfort at second and third.

“When you look at a guy with his career, one of the best shortstops of his era, he’s being honest and realistic with his situation and he’s looking forward to the challenge,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s the biggest hurdle, I think. He’s got the talent to do it.”

Rollins said the adjustment to third won't be difficult, but it will be a little weird playing second and turning his back to runners. In that respect, he has come to appreciate a new slide rule instituted in large part because of former teammate Chase Utley. 

"Knowing that I can float around, I'm looking forward to it," he said. "Things are going to be different, not necessarily from the left side but from the right."

The Giants are hoping different also means improved. They're looking at an overhaul of their bench, and Rollins is part of a crowded group of veterans playing for a backup infield job. Conor Gillaspie, Kelby Tomlinson and Orlando Calixte checked into camp Wednesday and Korean third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang is expected to fight for time at third base. Bochy said Rollins, Tomlinson and Calixte will get time at short when Brandon Crawford goes to the World Baseball Classic, along with Eduardo Nuñez, the starter at third base. The coaches discussed the plan for backup infielders during the first staff meeting this week. 

“We have a good idea of what we could have,” Bochy said. “We’re going to stay open-minded, but we have our depth chart. As you see these games played, you’re going to be able to figure it out.”

Some in the group bring power, some bring speed. At his peak, Rollins provided both. But last year, he hit just .221 in 41 games for the White Sox. The year before it was .224 as an everyday shortstop for the Dodgers.

Rollins took a break after the White Sox released him on June 15. He played golf and took his kids to school and enjoyed his first Fourth of July in more than 20 years. He checked another box off the post-playing-days checklist by doing TV work, but Rollins said he never prepared to retire.

"No, no, I've been told to make them take the uniform off your back," he said. "I didn't wear it for long last year, but they didn't take it off my back yet."

Rollins told his agent to see what was out there. For the second straight offseason, the Giants offered a spring invite and a chance to win a backup job. He wasn't ready to embrace the role after the 2015 season, but a year later -- and a month after his 38th birthday -- Rollins signed with the Giants. 

The proximity to home was one draw, but Rollins, who watched a potential Phillies dynasty turn into a rebuild, said playing for a winner was just as important. The Giants knocked his Phillies out of the NLCS in 2010. Seven years later, their goal remains the same.

“That’s what motivates me to come play, knowing every time you get out there on that field you’re getting a step closer to the playoffs and to get to that point to win a championship,” Rollins said. “This is a team that has proven that during their run this decade. I’ve been a victim to it. They’re geared up to win right now, all the time, and that was very important.”

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?

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AP

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.