Jones finally gets the call, will be Giants' everyday third baseman for now

Jones finally gets the call, will be Giants' everyday third baseman for now

SAN FRANCISCO — Ryder Jones is 23 years old and Christian Arroyo just turned 22, so when Jones got the call to the big leagues, the first step in the preparation process was about what you would expect. Jones and Arroyo fired up the PlayStation and Arroyo started pumping pitches as Jacob deGrom, the starter Jones will face in his debut Saturday. 

“I faced him last night and got a hit and a pop-up,” Jones said, smiling. 

The real thing will be considerably tougher, but Jones said he’s looking forward to the challenge, noting that deGrom will help make his debut that much more memorable. The Giants are looking forward to the debut, too. Jones is a player Bruce Bochy has been eyeing for a while, and he has finally been deemed ready. 

While Eduardo Nuñez is on the disabled list, Jones will be the everyday third baseman. He’s hitting seventh Saturday, one spot ahead of 24-year-old Austin Slater. Arroyo is sidelined by a bone bruise but he should join the other two at some point later this season. 

“Unfortunately we’ve put ourselves in a position here (with our record) where we’re going to look at younger players, but the good thing is that these guys are going to get a chance to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “They’re going to get some playing time. I look forward to watching him play.”

Jones took Aaron Hill’s roster spot after the veteran was designated for assignment. Bochy said Hill was one of his favorite players to manage, noting his professionalism and solid at-bats, despite the .132 average. He hopes Hill gets a shot on a contender, but that won’t be the case in San Francisco this year, and the Jones promotion was the latest indication that a rebuild/reload is underway. 

Drafted in the second round in 2013 — one round after Arroyo — Jones can play third, first and left field. He has more power than most in the farm system, and he’s athletic enough to handle three spots. The Giants will live with the mistakes at third for now, hopeful that the big arm can stick there. 

Jones was batting .299 with 10 homers and 16 doubles in 53 games for the River Cats. The knock on him has always been a lack of patience at the plate, but he has upped his on-base percentage to .390, a jump of 99 points from his 2016 season in Double-A. In June, Jones had put together a .343/.450/.701 slash line. 

“Patience at the plate is the biggest thing for me,” he said. “If you look at all my years in the minors, I was a little aggressive and antsy. You learn as you get older that you have to pick a pitch you can drive.”

The new approach has Jones in a big league lineup -- the real thing, not the video game version. He went millennial with his preparation, but his promotion was as old-school as it gets. The River Cats have a doubleheader Saturday and when Jones reached third base in Friday night’s game, manager Dave Brundage told him he would get one of the two games off. 

“I told him I could play two,” Jones said. “I know we have some older guys there.”

Brundage called him in later and told him he would only be playing the night game on Saturday. 

“But you’ll be in San Francisco,” the manager added. 

Jones called his parents, who will be in attendance, along with his brother and girlfriend. Then he fired up the PlayStation, packed, and prepared for a short flight to San Francisco. He was still so fired up Saturday morning that he couldn’t handle more than a 30-minute nap. 

“I didn’t know what time I could come to the park,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep.”

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”