Giants

New Giants pitching coach comes with Righetti's recommendation

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AP

New Giants pitching coach comes with Righetti's recommendation

SAN FRANCISCO — When Curt Young met with Giants management last month, he did so with a hell of an endorsement on his resume. In introducing Young on Monday, general manager Bobby Evans said the new pitching coach was recommending by none other than Dave Righetti, the legendary outgoing pitching coach. 

Righetti will spend next season working with Evans in a front office role, with Young, the longtime A’s coach, sliding into the seat alongside manager Bruce Bochy. There will be familiarity in the new partnership. Young was the pitching coach for an All-Star squad that Bochy took to Japan years ago for exhibition games. 

“We’ve known each other for quite a while,” Bochy said. “He’s going to bring a different perspective in areas and that’s always welcome.”

From the outside, Young — who also worked for the Red Sox — appears to fit right in line with Evans’ push to have a more analytical approach in the dugout. He said his style is a mix of old and new. 

“There’s going to be a definite mix of both,” he said, noting that there are more resources than ever for coaching staffs. “It’s common sense and what it takes to be a great pitcher, and anything we can learn from the numbers side to help these guys is also going to come into play.”

Young enters in a comfortable position, and not just because he has spent most of his professional career across the bridge. While the Giants have gaping holes to fill in the lineup and bullpen, their rotation is just about set. Madison Bumgarner and Matt Moore had their options picked up Monday and Johnny Cueto announced over the weekend that he wasn’t opting out of his contract. Jeff Samardzija slides into the mix somewhere in the middle of the rotation, and the Giants have Chris Stratton in line for the No. 5 spot, with Ty Blach and Tyler Beede on deck. Young said he sees five guys who can pitch 200 innings next year. 

“I think the staff is going to be in a good place,” he said. 

Of course, the Giants felt that way last spring, too. They boasted of having four veterans who would approach or exceed 200 innings, but Bumgarner’s season was wrecked by an off-field crash, Cueto dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness, and Moore had the worst ERA in the National League. As a staff, the starters had a 4.58 ERA, ranking an uncharacteristic eighth in the National League. 

Asked about the pitching staff on Monday, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean called it the roster’s “bread and butter.”

“It’s really a must for us,” he said of the rotation being better. “We know we also have to fortify the bullpen, but we look at last year as an aberration (for the starters), a lot of that being driven by injuries.”

Bumgarner and Cueto have reason to believe they can again be Cy Young candidates if healthy. Samardzija should benefit from improved outfield defense. Moore, acquired in the middle of the 2016 season, is the mystery, and perhaps the greatest potential swing piece on the roster. He has All-Star stuff and he’s only 28, but he posted a 5.52 ERA last season. 

Young saw the good version of Moore in Tampa Bay. Bringing that guy back should be at the top of his to-do list. 

“He’s just a solid left-handed pitcher with real, real good stuff, and it's just a matter of him making sure he uses the right pitches at the right time,” Young said. “He went through a little bit of a struggle last year. I’m sure he’s the type of pitcher and person who wants to get back on top.”

Will Smith nearing return to big leagues: 'It's nice to be back under the lights again'

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AP

Will Smith nearing return to big leagues: 'It's nice to be back under the lights again'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Will Smith is generally in a good mood, but the smile was a bit bigger as reporters surrounded his locker on Monday afternoon. 

Smith has spent the last couple of weeks in the minor leagues but the long recovery from Tommy John surgery is nearly over. He will pitch in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, clearing the final hurdle in his rehab schedule. He will then pitch on Sunday. After that ...

"May 1. May 1, yeah," he said. "May 1."

That's the target date the Giants identified long ago and Smith is on track to be activated that day after missing all of last season and the first month of this one. In five rehab appearances, he has struck out nine over 4 2/3 innings. The reports on his velocity are good and he said his arm feels great.

"As long as these next outings go well we'll be back up here," he said. "It feels good. It feels really good. It's nice to be back under the lights again."

It's easy to forget now, but the Giants paid a steep price in prospects to acquire Smith at the 2016 deadline, hoping he would become a key part of the bullpen. He closed that season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances before contributing to the troubles in Game 4 of the NLDS. 

If Smith is back to form, the Giants would have one of the better left-handed combinations in the game. Tony Watson has been the best pitcher in the bullpen, and Bochy said he'll appreciate having the flexibility to use Smith or Watson in different roles. It's possible that Smith's presence could allow Watson to enter in the seventh to face a tough lefty like Cody Bellinger or Bryce Harper. 

Having both also will allow Bochy to have a reliable lefty for the eighth every night of the week. There have been times this season where he has been worried about overusing Watson. 

--- Elsewhere in the bullpen, Mark Melancon will play catch on Thursday. Melancon has not thrown since being shut down at the end of spring training and he had an injection in his pronator nearly two weeks ago to try and eliminate persistent irritation. 

--- Brandon Belt said he did not watch the full 12-minute version of his epic at-bat Sunday. 

"I have too much stuff to do," he said. 

He did, however, watch the sped-up replay. 

Giants win first series of 2018 season thanks to Cueto, Longoria and Belt

Giants win first series of 2018 season thanks to Cueto, Longoria and Belt

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM -- Brandon Belt hung in for an epic 21-pitch at-bat before flying out, but later homered to lead Johnny Cueto and the San Francisco Giants over the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 on Sunday.

Belt fouled off 11 straight pitches from rookie right-hander Jaime Barria in the first inning in the majors' longest at-bat since records began in 1988. The previous high of 20 pitches in a plate appearance since 1988 was when Houston's Ricky Gutierrez struck out against Cleveland's Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, according to Retrosheet.

In all, the left-handed Belt peppered the crowd with 16 foul balls his first time up. He hit two long fouls down the right-field line before lining out to right fielder Kole Calhoun, ending an at-bat the Giants said lasted 12 minutes, 45 seconds.

It took nine pitches for Belt to work the count full, as he fouled off five pitches in the process. He swung and missed just once, and was greeted with high-fives when he returned to the dugout.

Angels pitching coach Charles Nagy made a mound visit to check on Barria (1-1) after Belt batted. Barria had thrown nine pitches to Joe Panik, who hit a leadoff single, before throwing 21 to Belt.

Belt singled and scored in the third and launched a leadoff homer to right against Blake Parker in the fifth. Belt saw a total of 38 pitches in his first three at-bats, then hit the first pitch his last two times up.

Cueto (2-0) allowed only two hits in six shutout innings against cleanup batter Shohei Ohtani and the Angels. Cueto took a no-hitter into the sixth and struck out seven.

Cueto twice fanned the lefty-hitting Ohtani by getting the Japanese two-way sensation to flail at change-ups. Cueto also struck out Mike Trout twice.

The Giants right-hander walked two, hit two batters and lowered his ERA in four starts to 0.35.

The Angels were scoreless until Trout hit a two-run homer in the eighth, his big league-leading ninth and his third in as many games. The opposite-field shot to right-center came off Cory Gearrin.

Los Angeles had runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth before Hunter Strickland got Ian Kinsler to fly out to center for his third save in five chances.

Kinsler led off the sixth with a single for the Angels' first hit. Ohtani singled with one out to load the bases, but Cueto got Luis Valbuena to ground into a 3-6-1 double play. Cueto excitedly pumped his right fist after taking the throw from shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Ohtani batted cleanup for the first time because Albert Pujols got his first day off this season. He finished 1 for 4.

Panik also had three hits apiece for the Giants, who took two of three for their first series win of the season.

Barria threw 49 pitches in the first inning. He loaded the bases on three singles with one out before retiring Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval.

Barria loaded the bases with no outs in the third before making way for Noe Ramirez. Joe Panik scored on Buster Posey's double-play ball and Evan Longoria followed with a two-run homer, his fourth.

Barria allowed two runs and six hits, struck out one and walked one. He got only six outs on 77 pitches.

OHTANI WATCH:
The 23-year-old threw a bullpen session some 90 minutes before first pitch and is scheduled to make his next start Tuesday at Houston. A blister on his right middle finger forced him out of his start after just two innings Tuesday night against Boston.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Angels: SS Andrelton Simmons suffered a bruised right forearm when he was hit by a pitch by Cueto in the second. He was replaced in the top of the third by Jefrey Marte.

UP NEXT:
Giants: RHP Chris Stratton (1-1, 2.22) is scheduled to start Monday night in the opener of a home three-game series with Washington, which counters with LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49).

Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs (2-1, 3.98) looks to go 3-0 on the road this season when he opens series at Houston versus UCLA product Gerrit Cole (2-0, 0.96).