Morse out at least two weeks; Giants hopeful he keeps playing

Morse out at least two weeks; Giants hopeful he keeps playing

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Michael Morse came to camp last month with two options in mind: Make the opening day roster or go home and settle into retirement. With a week left in the desert, Morse is all of a sudden left with a third choice. 

Morse injured his left hamstring during Monday’s game in Glendale and he’s expected to miss at least two weeks. At some point after he celebrates his 35th birthday Wednesday, Morse will have to decide if he wants to rehab and potentially head down to Triple-A to get ready to try and join the Giants.

“I don’t know … I don’t want to think about that yet,” Morse said. “If it gets to that point, I’ll think about it, but right now it’s (about) how I feel every day. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

Manager Bruce Bochy is hopeful that Morse decides to play this out. 

“It’s going to be a little while for him,” Bochy said. “It’s hard to say exactly how long, but two weeks minimum. It’s really too bad for him. He was doing all he needed to do to make the club. It’s a shame.

“I think, not just the way he was swinging the bat, but he was playing a good first base and I put him in the outfield. I think he was moving around well. He came into camp in tremendous shape. That should show him he still has some baseball left. Good baseball.”

Morse has three homers this spring and he was coming on in the days before he got hurt. On Monday morning, a few hours before the game against the White Sox, a member of the staff said that -- barring an injury or unexpected breakthrough elsewhere  -- Morse would open the year with the club. While he was sprinting out of the box later that day, Morse felt tightness. An MRI showed enough damage to sideline him the rest of spring training.

The timing is brutal, but if Morse rehabs and then goes to Triple-A Sacramento to get at-bats, he would still be in a solid spot. The Giants like his presence, and not just on the field. 

“Hopefully we get him back pretty quickly,” Madison Bumgarner said. “We definitely enjoy having him around. He’s definitely a big contributor.”

Morse has had a smile glued to his face throughout 37 days at Scottsdale Stadium. Even Tuesday, a day after a sprint out of the box cost him dearly, he was a boisterous presence in the clubhouse. He took the bad news in stride. 

“I came in knowing I’d either do really bad or really good,” he said. “I thought I played pretty good. It just sucks that I had to get hurt. I don’t think this is something that’ll stop me from getting a shot at playing. I always thought I wasn’t done. I always thought I could keep playing, I’ve just been dealt a couple of bad cards the last couple of years. 

“I proved to myself that I can still play,” he added, smiling, “And I proved to myself yesterday that I’m not really a fast runner.”

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.”