Giants

Michael Morse on returning to Giants: 'I know I’m not done'

Michael Morse on returning to Giants: 'I know I’m not done'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Two years and one month after the biggest moment of his career, Michael Morse found himself back among the Giants. Morse, a fan favorite in 2014 and clutch bench bat during that postseason run, returned to San Francisco in November for Hunter Pence’s wedding, and at some point he found himself standing with general manager Bobby Evans.

“I know I’m not done,” said Morse, who received just eight at-bats from the Pirates before being released last April.

“If you want to see if you’re done or not, come to camp,” Evans replied.

Pence’s wedding was a long one, taking place on both sides of the Bay Bridge. Morse didn’t need much time, however, to accept the surprising offer. He ran into Larry Baer later in the wedding and told him he would see him in the spring. Then he saw Pence, one of his close friends.

“He was so excited. He was like, ‘No way!” Morse said. “I said, 'I think we just shook on a little deal here.' If (Evans) is telling me I can come to camp, I’m coming. I’m coming hard. I’m giving everything I have.”

Planning a reunion was easy, but Morse flew back to his Fort Lauderdale home knowing there could be speed bumps. He had briefly talked to the Giants about a comeback last summer, but they signed Chris Denorfia. Morse started doing cardio and kept a close eye on the Giants during the Winter Meetings to make sure his potential role wasn’t filled.

In December, the Giants made the deal official. On Thursday, Morse, slimmed down from his first stint in San Francisco, walked back onto the field at Scottsdale Stadium, a wide smile on his face.

“I want to prove to myself I can still play this game,” he said. 

The history of this organization says Morse will get another shot, that he’ll follow the Ishikawas and Gillaspies and turn his comeback into postseason heroics. Morse knows it’s not that simple, but he also knows that he has put himself in a good position to succeed. He is 34 years old and more than two years removed from a significant big league role, but he feels like a player 10 years younger. The half-year off — spent relaxing with family and trying out life as a TV and radio analyst — was a godsend. 

“I feel good … I feel very athletic this year,” Morse said. “Other years, it was more about strength. This year I feel more mobile and agile. It was very refreshing. I let my body heal, which you wouldn’t believe it, it’s such a nice, refreshing feeling. Everybody’s contract should have one year where you don’t have to play, just to heal your body.”

Morse’s last contract took him away from the Giants. He hit .279 and bashed 16 homers in 2014, returning from a bad oblique injury to hit an NLCS homer off the Cardinals’ Pat Neshek that set up Travis Ishikawa’s walk-off. A two-year, $16 million contract put him with the Marlins. He was traded to the Dodgers for a day in 2015 and then was shipped to Pittsburgh.

This current deal is not guaranteed, as Morse is in camp as a non-roster invitee, fighting for one of the open bench jobs. There’s a chance, Morse admitted, that he looks up two weeks from now and realizes it really is over. There’s a chance that the Giants ask him to continue his comeback in Triple-A, and Morse said he’s not sure what he would do if that’s the case. There’s also a chance that he has a big spring but there’s simply not room in orange and black. Morse said that would make for an easy decision. 

“I’m pretty sure that even if I hit .900 this spring and don’t make the team, I don’t think I’d go anywhere else,” he said. “I’d rather go home than not play for them.”

In a way, Morse has done both. He has played just 142 games for the Giants but considers the clubhouse his baseball home. He’s hoping that none of the other possibilities matter, that he runs with this spring opening and once again joins Pence in the outfield. He’s hoping that the wedding handshake was just the beginning.

“This is an opportunity and the Giants have given me that opportunity,” he said. “It’s not something I’m not going to take seriously. I’m 110 percent in it to help this team, and I told Bobby I don’t want to play anywhere else. I don’t want to play anywhere but for the Giants.”

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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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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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.