Giants

Mike Krukow discusses options for Giants in center field

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AP

Mike Krukow discusses options for Giants in center field

As we inch closer to 2018, the Giants' outfield is still a mystery. The team sent Denard Span to Tampa Bay in their trade for Evan Longoria, there have been talks for months of Hunter Pence moving to left field, Jay Bruce remains linked to them in the free agent market and Billy Hamilton likewise as a trade option

One thing is certain though, the Giants need a defensive upgrade in center field.

"You have to have a center fielder who covers ground at that ballpark," Mike Krukow said Thursday on the Murph & Mac Show. "You have to have a center fielder who can cover ground in that division. You think about all the ballparks in the National League West, they're big yards and you cannot ham-and-egg it in center field. You have to have coverage there." 

Hamilton, 27, is currently with the Reds and becomes a free agent in 2020. He is one of the fastest players in the game and saved nine runs in center field this past season, according to FanGraphs

But getting on-base to use his speed has been an issue. Hamilton has a .298 career on-base percentage and finished at .299 in 2017. He also only walked 44 times to 133 strikeouts.

"In regards to Hamilton, on-base percentage is huge. You can't steal first base," Krukow said. "And that's going to be a challenge for Hamilton as he goes forth in his career.

"He needs to learn how to take a walk. He hasn't mastered the art of leading off yet. I think there's improvement that can be made to his game." 

The Giants could also stay in-house and put a younger, cheaper option in center field. Prospect Steven Duggar is known to be high on the team's radar. 

"If you get another guy like a Jay Bruce that lengthens out your lineup, you're just looking for someone to get on base at the top of your lineup. That means you can eat a position in the lineup with a guy like Steven Duggar," Krukow said. "I haven't seen him play center field, but they say he can go get it. 

"Well, why not get a guy on the cheap that's a defensive player out there and let him learn to hit at the big league level in the eight spot?" 

Between three levels, Duggar slashed .262/.365/.445 with six home runs and 10 stolen bases in 2017 while battling injuries. 

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

PHOENIX — After his team was held to fewer than two runs for the 10th time this season, manager Bruce Bochy said Mac Williamson will be in Anaheim on Friday as part of the taxi squad. The Giants need the outfielder to be more of a tow truck. 

This is a lineup that has not gotten in gear in any way, but a red-hot reinforcement is on the way. Williamson was hitting .487 with six homers in 11 games in Triple-A, and while Bochy couldn’t say he’ll be active and in left field against the Angels, it was not hard to read between the lines. Hunter Pence said the thumb he sprained in the home opener continues to give him problems and needs a few days of rest. It seems likely that Williamson will officially be called up Friday, with Pence going on the disabled list. 

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Bochy said. “Mostly he’s coming up because he’s swinging the bat well. We’re hoping he’ll be a shot in the arm and provide some production, and we need some help in that area.”

The futility has the Giants six games out of first after just three weeks of action. The culprit is clear. Johnny Cueto, Chris Stratton and Ty Blach combined to give up three runs over 20 innings in a tough ballpark, but the Giants still dropped two of three. 

They need more than just one offensive fix, but Williamson represents a start. The 27-year-old has never stuck in the majors, but he rebuilt his swing in the offseason while working with Doug Latta, a private instructor in the Los Angeles area who helped Justin Turner became a star. Williamson’s swing has many of the same markers as Turner’s, and he had a huge spring as he continued to work on adjustments. Williamson lowered his hands and added a higher leg kick in hopes of keeping his bat in the zone longer and being shorter and more direct to the ball. 

“In the past I’ve been really active with my shoulders and hands late in the swing instead of just going and attacking the ball,” he said this spring. “I’m trying to just really calm down a lot of that non-essential movement.”

Williamson knew there was not a spot for him on the opening day roster, but hoped to make an impact sooner than later. His torrid start, plus the struggles at the big league level, have made this a daily question. 

“He showed this spring with the adjustments he made that he’s primed,” Bochy said. “He went out and did what we were hoping.”

The key for the Giants now will be to show more faith than they have in the past. Williamson is a .226 hitter in the big leagues, but his 212 at-bats have been scattered across three seasons and plenty of call-ups. It seems he is always one 0 for 3 night away from a demotion, but the Giants would be well served to let him work through any kinks this time. 

The incumbent in left field, Pence, is batting .172. His backups — Gorkys Hernandez and Gregor Blanco — are better fits as defense-first reserves. Pence hurt his thumb while diving in left field during the home opener and said it has never gotten better. An MRI back then showed a sprain. 

“It’s been going in a backwards direction,” he said. 

So have the Giants, but perhaps help is finally on the way.

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

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USATSI

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

PHOENIX -- The removal of three small pins in Madison Bumgarner's left pinky represented a big step for the pitcher. 

Bumgarner had the pins taken out Thursday and he now will begin the process of strengthening his hand, which was fractured during his final spring training appearance. He could begin playing catch in two weeks. 

"Once he gets that going, I think you'll see him make real progress," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

It still will be a long process for Bumgarner, who is on the 60-day DL and not eligible to return until May 26. It seems unlikely that he's ready on that day, but it could be soon thereafter. Bumgarner will need to play catch for a bit before starting bullpen sessions and eventually a real rehab assignment. Realistically, the Giants are hopeful that he'll be back in the rotation in early June. Bochy said he wouldn't be surprised if Bumgarner beats the initial timetable. 

"But it all depends on (how he feels) when he starts throwing," Bochy added. 

The Giants will get another key pitcher back Friday when Jeff Samardzija makes his season debut. 

--- Hunter Pence has a sore right thumb and wasn't in Thursday's lineup. The timing is, well, interesting. Mac Williamson wasn't in Triple-A Sacramento's lineup, so this could be the time a move is made, but the Giants also will need to clear a spot for Samardzija and they're hoping to stick with eight relievers for now. Stay tuned.