With Melancon set to start rehab, Bochy ready to see a core group in bullpen


With Melancon set to start rehab, Bochy ready to see a core group in bullpen

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after his bullpen blew yet another lead, Bruce Bochy was able to dream a little bit. Mark Melancon will start a rehab assignment Sunday in Sacramento, and Bochy intends to have Melancon return as the closer after a few rehab innings. That will bump red-hot Sam Dyson to the eighth and Hunter Strickland down to the seventh. 

"It's going to give us a better idea of where we're at as we go into the future," Bochy said. 

The Giants intended to have a similar setup this season, but Will Smith had Tommy John surgery, Derek Law pitched his way back to Triple-A, and Melancon struggled and then got hurt. Bochy said it's important to see some sort of structure in the back of the bullpen, and the Giants are sketching out a future where it's better than it's been. Smith will return next year and should give them a reliable lefty in the bullpen, and there's another option developing. 

Kyle Crick struck out two in the eighth inning of his first game at Dodger Stadium. He has a 1.88 ERA but he has only pitched in one game the Giants have won. Bochy said that will change. 

"We're bumping him up each time," Bochy said. "I think he's handled it well and he's commanding his fastball. The thing I like about him is he's getting better with his slider and using his changeup."

The bullpen has given up leads for two straight years, but Bochy sees a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, that could change. Strickland is a trade chip, Dyson could revert to his earlier Texas form, Melancon's elbow could finally give out, Crick could lose his command. But Bochy is optimistic, and he's hoping that he soon has two months of games to test whether the Giants really are on the way to having this fixed. 

--- I wrote yesterday that Tyler Beede's season is almost certainly over. Bochy confirmed the details, and added that the Giants haven't given up hope on Beede returning in late September. The Giants are also hoping to get Austin Slater and Christian Arroyo back over the final couple of weeks. 

--- Nick Hundley was originally in today's lineup but he has a headache after taking a wicked foul tip yesterday. So Buster Posey is catching, with Jae-Gyun Hwang at first since Brandon Belt still has a sore wrist. If Hundley does have a concussion, Tim Federowicz is the likely pick. He's ahead of Trevor Brown on Sacramento's depth chart, although he's not on the 40-man roster. 

--- Madison Bumgarner will start Sunday night to stay on turn. Matt Cain has been bumped to Monday in Oakland. It'll be a sneaky-big moment for Bumgarner. His reputation took a hit with the accident, but he'll get a chance to pitch in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Baseball. 

--- For the weekend crowd, a podcast with top prospect Chris Shaw.

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts


Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants moved closer to setting their opening day roster on Monday when they made a significant round of cuts to their spring training roster. 

A total of 15 players were reassigned or optioned, bringing the total to 31 players remaining in camp. Many of the players cut Monday entered the spring competing for jobs. 

In the outfield, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater were optioned to Triple-A and Chris Shaw was reassigned to minor league camp. Williamson had a huge spring and was the likeliest of the trio to push for an opening day spot, but he'll start his year in the minors. Steven Duggar was not among the cuts, and he remains an option to make the team, with the Giants also looking at Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker for backup spots. Hernandez and Parker are out of minor league options. 

Tyler Beede was optioned and Andrew Suarez was reassigned to minor league camp, leaving three players vying for the final two rotation spots. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton have been the favorites all along, although both struggled the last time out and Derek Holland has had a strong spring. 

Both backup catchers -- Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez -- were reassigned, along with Orlando Calixte, who saw time in the big leagues last year. Joan Gregorio, Jose Valdez, Justin O'Conner and Kyle Jensen were also reassigned. Chase d'Arnaud, who appeared to be making a strong push, was on the list, too, leaving Josh Rutledge as the only competition for Kelby Tomlinson for the final infield spot. 

Finally, Derek Law and Roberto Gomez were optioned to Triple-A. Josh Osich remains and appears the frontrunner for a bullpen job. Julian Fernandez, the Rule 5 pick, also remains in camp. 

The Giants break camp on Friday.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.