Morse, Rollins among Giants' 28 non-roster invitees

Morse, Rollins among Giants' 28 non-roster invitees

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants signed only one free agent to a significant deal this offseason, but a winter of minor moves led to one of the most intriguing non-roster invitee groups in years. The list, released Wednesday, includes a former MVP, a 2014 fan favorite, top prospects, former Giants, a Korean slugger, and plenty of veterans who will try to play their way onto the opening day bench or bullpen. 

Many of the 28 names had previously trickled out, including Michael Morse, a key member of the last title team, and Jimmy Rollins, a Bay Area native who won the MVP award with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007. Tyler Beede and Christian Arroyo are among the many top Giants prospects who will be back in camp. 

Morse disappeared from the game early last season after being released by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit 16 home runs for the Giants in 2014 and added a clutch shot in the NLCS, but he has just 237 at-bats over the past two seasons. He was extremely popular with teammates, the staff and fans, and the Giants will take another look to see if the 34-year-old can provide some much-needed pop off the bench and if he is still viable in left field. 

Rollins, 38, is attempting a comeback with a team that nearly signed him a year ago. The former Encinal (Alameda) High star chose the White Sox last spring because he wanted one last shot at an everyday job. He hit just .221 before a June release, but Rollins has always intrigued the Giants, and he’ll compete for a utility infielder job. The Giants do not have a set backup for Brandon Crawford after designating Ehire Adrianza for assignment. Rollins, a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner, will also play second base and third during the spring. 

"The challenge for Jimmy -- he hasn't necessarily had the bat recently that he's had in the past. And coming off the bench is very different than starting every day," general manager Bobby Evans said recently on KNBR. "And playing second or third is not something he's done. So there's going to be challenges for him, but I'm excited that he wanted to come here. That says a lot about him and about the organization and about his interest in the Bay Area."

Beede, the organization’s top pitching prospect, and Arroyo, the top position player, highlight a group of younger players who have plenty of experience already in big league camp. Coming off a strong Double-A season, the 23-year-old Beede is likely ticketed for Triple-A as the next man up behind Matt Cain and Ty Blach, and the Giants expect him to make his MLB debut sometime in 2017. Beede will get a chance to speed up the timetable this March, and the budding rapper will also get a second shot at cracking Crawford’s batting practice soundtrack. 

Arroyo, 21, has looked right at home in two previous springs at Scottsdale Stadium, going 14-for-26 at the plate with a pair of homers. The focus this spring will likely come on the defensive side, as Arroyo will primarily play third base going forward. Like Beede, he has put himself within shouting distance of a call-up, and he’s viewed as the future starter alongside Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Crawford. 

Austin Slater is the young position player who is perhaps closest to the majors, and he'll be in camp for the first time. The 24-year-old outfielder hit .298 with 13 homers in 68 games at Triple-A last season and could benefit from the front office's decision to go young in left field. Ryder Jones and Aramis Garcia, who represented the Giants in the Arizona Fall League, will be back in camp, along with Sam Coonrod and Matt Winn.

The Giants traditionally identify a list of minor league free agents (like 2012 non-roster addition Gregor Blanco) who might be able to thrive with a fresh start. One of the first who signed this year was Chris Marrero, a former first-rounder who brings some more power potential. Jae-gyun Hwang signed in late January and the Giants are hoping his bat translates from Korea. He will fight for a backup job at third base. Bryan Morris, a right-handed reliever, signed shortly after Mark Melancon as a depth option in the bullpen. 

In all, the Giants invited 11 pitchers. The right-handers are Beede, Coonrod, Morris, Carlos Alvarado, Jose Dominguez, Roberto Gomez, and Neil Ramirez. The lefties are Matt Reynolds, Michael Roth, Kraig Sitton and Andrew Suarez, who is one of the organization's top prospects. 

Former big leaguers Tim Federowicz and Josmil Pinto will join the younger catchers. The eight infielders are Rollins, Arroyo, Hwang, Marrero, Jones, CJ Hinojosa, Kyle Blanks and Juniel Querecuto. The five outfielders are Morse, Slater, veteran left-handed-masher Justin Ruggiano, Steven Duggar and Wynton Bernard. 

Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 13 and the first full squad workout at Scottsdale Stadium comes on Feb. 17. All 28 non-roster invitees are listed below.

Pitchers (11)

  • RHP Carlos Alvarado
  • RHP Tyler Beede
  • RHP Samuel Coonrod
  • RHP Jose Dominguez
  • RHP Roberto Gomez
  • RHP Bryan Morris
  • RHP Neil Ramirez
  • LHP Matt Reynolds
  • LHP Michael Roth
  • LHP Kraig Sitton
  • LHP Andrew Suarez

Catchers (4)

  • Tim Federowicz
  • Aramis Garcia
  • Josmil Pinto
  • Matt Winn

Infielders (8)

  • Christian Arroyo
  • Kyle Blanks
  • CJ Hinojosa
  • Jae-Gyun Hwang
  • Ryder Jones
  • Chris Marrero
  • Juniel Querecuto
  • Jimmy Rollins

Outfielders (5)

  • Wynton Bernard
  • Steven Duggar
  • Michael Morse
  • Justin Ruggiano
  • Austin Slater

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.”

Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too


Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too

Will Clark won his first and only Gold Glove at first base for the Giants at age 27 in 1991. It was Clark's sixth year in the major leagues. 

Steven Duggar won't have to wait that long to win the biggest hardware for his defense in Clark's eyes. 

"He can play Gold Glove center field right now in the big leagues. He can flat out go get it in center field," Clark said on the Giants' prospect Tuesday on KNBR. "He can definitely, definitely play a Gold Glove center field." 

Clark, who now serves a role in the Giants' front office after playing in five straight All-Star Games for his former team from 1988-92, has watched Duggar closely for more than just this spring training. When asked about his feelings on the 24-year-old, Clark made them clear right away. 

"I've seen Steve parts of the last two seasons in the minor leagues and I am definitely a Steven Duggar fan," Clark said. 

The question with Duggar has always been his bat. He has elite speed, gets great jumps in center field and everyone from Bruce Bochy to Buster Posey has praised his ability to track down fly balls. 

"His thing is, how quick is he going to make the adjustment in the big leagues with the pitching. I know there's a lot of people that are asking that question right now," Clark. 

Count The Thrill as one of the leaders in Camp Duggar. He joined many others in complimenting his glove left and right. But what he has to say about the Clemson product's bat is what puts him over the top. 

"He's succeeded at each level he's been at," Clark pointed out. "He will do it at the major league level and I'm kind of staking my reputation on that."

This is confidence -- to say the least -- coming from someone who was a .303 lifetime hitter and bashed 284 home runs in 15 seasons. 

Over three years in the minor leagues, Duggar is a .292 career hitter with a .384 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. Duggar started off scorching hot this spring with the Giants, but has cooled down with the Cactus League soon coming to a close. In 16 games, Duggar is slashing .250/.353/.545 and has shown more pop with four home runs.