Morse calls his shot before first spring training homer back with Giants

Morse calls his shot before first spring training homer back with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After pulling up film of his previous at-bats, Michael Morse sunk into a clubhouse chair to watch the top of the seventh inning of a game against Puerto Rico. As he looked up at the TV, Morse smiled and shook his head.

“You know what’s ironic?” he said. “I always have great springs. I think I have like 100 career RBI in spring training.”

It was actually 103 at the time, with 32 homers and a .326 average. But Morse entered Wednesday’s exhibition game with .214 average, and no home runs or extra-base hits in his bid to go from non-roster invitee to the Opening Day roster. It was pointed out to him that this is the one spring where he actually needs to put up huge numbers, and he nodded as he got up for the bottom of the inning.

“Let me go hit a homer,” he said, laughing.

Five minutes later, Morse finally got on the board. He went deep to left-center, bringing his good friend Hunter Pence trotting in from third. When Morse walked back into the clubhouse, he raised his arms.

“I didn’t miss!” he yelled. “It was like, ‘Yes, he’s going to score. Oh, I am, too!’”

Nobody is having more fun than Morse this spring, even with the slow start. He came to camp wearing cheap cleats he had ordered because his equipment deal ran out when he stopped playing last season. He wore high socks with four stripes on them Wednesday, a nod to Pence. He said they made him feel faster.

For days before Wednesday’s game, Morse insisted his swing felt locked-in. He just wasn’t seeing results.

“I feel great and I wouldn’t be here trying to make the team if I didn’t,” he said. “That’s how much respect I have here for these guys.”

Morse is part of a crowded pack of non-roster invitees trying to make an impact. Chris Marrero has four homers, but for the most part, it’s been a quiet spring for Giants bats. Morse said that’s led to an interesting dynamic for the veterans. He found himself in the video room with Aaron Hill before that homer, and they marveled at the fact that they are treating every at-bat like it’s the middle of the season. There’s a lot at stake. 

“A lot of us are in the same situation,” he said. “It’s a new situation for pretty much all of us. We’re fighting every day for a chance to break camp with these guys. I have a new appreciation for the guys who come in this way every year. At the same time, you try to have fun. It’s baseball. Anything can happen.”

Morse showed that in 2014 when he returned from a significant oblique injury to help the Giants win the World Series. Giants officials hope he can have a similar impact off the bench this season, and they've given no hint one direction or the other on where Morse stands. All involved said not to read too much into the fact that Morse hasn't played left field in a game yet. 

"It's challenging because we've got two guys out there battling for a spot with (Mac) Williamson and (Jarrett) Parker, but it'd be nice to get him out there," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Morse takes fly balls in the outfield every morning and he said the Giants should know what he can do out there. He is realistic, pointing out that "I'm not a burner, I'm not super-fast out there." He is still powerful, and he hopes to keep showing it. Bochy said Morse's batting practice session Wednesday morning was his best of the spring, but if that doesn't keep translating into games, Morse won't feel a burden. He is playing pressure-free no matter what. 

"I wish I could have played my whole career like this," he said. "At the end of the day, it's a win-win. They could come up to me at the end of this and say there's no room, and you know what, I'd say 'I'm happy for you guys.'

"For me, there's no pressure. I'm having fun."

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Eight years ago in this very space, I postulated that Brian Sabean had done a lucrative deal with Satan.Co to win the Giants’ first World Series in 56 years. He never denied it, so I took that as silent affirmation.

Now, it seems Beelzebub has brought the bill, to be paid in full on receipt of same.

The San Francisco Giants, who needed as few things as possible to go wrong to start this season, just got two full-on groin shots in the space of less than a week, the second of which was delivered when Madison Bumgfarner fractured his hand trying to repel a line drive from Kansas City second baseman Whit Merrifield during Friday’s Cactus League game.

The injury did not look serious at first because, well, because Bumgarner pretends to be made of adamantium, but an X-ray revealed the fracture and though no time for recovery was listed, Bumgarner may return to health before the Giants do.

And yes, I know spring training is no time for fans to lose hope for a cheery season, but you take the fact as they present themselves, and the Giants are already 40 percent down from their projected starting rotation. Jeff Samardzija is already on the disabled list with a hinky pectoral muscle, and as the Giants know all too well, things like this tend to come in sixes, if not eights.

The 2010 Giants hit on every midseason trade and parlayed that good fortune and the assets already on board to a storied October run. A year later, Buster Posey got Scott Cousin-ed, and his broken ankle snapped the team’s hope of repeating.

The Giants then won in 2012 and ’14 without too much incident, but starting midway through 2016, continuing into last year when Bumgarner flipped his dirt bike, and now down to today, it’s been nothing but seeds and stems for Giantvania.

The rumor mill has been quick to offer up possible replacements for the Bumgarner vacancy (though not for his expected results), but at a time in the game’s development when the best and most progressive-thinking teams are talking about four-man rotations and Staff on every fifth day, a strategic development that requires strength in numbers, the Giants have neither that strength nor those numbers.

Their best internal choices are veteran Derek Holland, who might already have been penciled in as Samardzija’s replacement, and phenom-in-training Tyler Beede. But that essentially uses up the in-house bank of usable goods, so Sabean can either buy something very off-the-rack or hope he and Bruce Bochy can fake it long enough for Samardzija (three to four weeks) and then Bumgarner (six to eight, according to ESPN's Buster Olney).

This seems awfully daunting, especially for a team that has buzzard’s luck and a rotting bat rack for a season and a half. But with six days before the regular season starts in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers...oh, the hell with it. If you’re a Giant fan, start drinking, and continue until further notice. The evil lord of the netherworld will tell you when it’s time to stop.

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after the Giants lost one of the game's most durable pitchers, they took a much bigger blow. 

Madison Bumgarner fractured the fifth metacarpal in his pitching hand when he was hit by a line drive Friday in what was to be his final appearance before facing Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Opening Day. The Giants did not have an immediate timetable for how long their ace will be out, but he is expected to miss a significant portion of the season for a second straight year. The rotation is already without Jeff Samardzija for the first month of the season because of a strained pectoral.

Bumgarner told reporters he will have surgery on Saturday to insert pins into his hand. He expects the pins to be removed in four-to-six weeks, and that he'll be able to pitch before the All-Star break. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that, in all, Bumgarner will be out for six-to-eight weeks.

Bumgarner looked poised for a huge season, and he threw well all camp. He was injured when hit by a liner off the bat of Kansas City's Whit Merrifield. Ironically, Bumgarner and Merrifield grew up close to each other in North Carolina, and Merrifield has told a story about getting beamed by an intimidating 11-year-old Bumgarner in little league.

The Giants had little rotation depth coming into the season, and the group is now in shambles. Derek Holland, a non-roster invitee, may be the No. 2 starter. The Giants will also have to lean heavily on young pitchers Chris Stratton and Ty Blach. Johnny Cueto is the de facto ace, but he's coming off a down year and at times has struggled this spring. 

There are not many appealing options left in free agency and the Giants likely would have to go into the tax to sign one. Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez are the top in-house options.