Notes: Giants to test Nunez, unlikely to have him vs Syndergaard

Notes: Giants to test Nunez, unlikely to have him vs Syndergaard

NEW YORK -- Noah Syndergaard allowed just 11 home runs, but there's another way to round the bases quickly against the big right-hander. Syndergaard allowed 48 stolen bases this season, with just nine runners getting caught, a weakness that becomes glaring in October. 

The Giants, however, won't be able to chip away with their speediest weapon. Eduardo Nuñez remains a long shot to be ready Wednesday, and even if he makes the Wild Card roster, a strained hamstring will keep him from running on Syndergaard. Nuñez was limited to a light workout Tuesday

"We're going to test him," Bochy said. "He's going to take some swings, go run a little bit, and we'll see where we're at."

Nuñez jogged in the outfield and then went back to the clubhouse. Team officials hope he's available to pinch-hit, but anything beyond that seems unlikely.

Conor Gillaspie appears a lock to start the biggest game of the year, and that might be a big positive given how Gillaspie has played over the past week. Gillaspie was 7-for-14 on the season-ending homestand. 

"He's been great," catcher Buster Posey said. "Conor's definitely a team favorite. He's a good guy to have around and has really stepped in late with Nuñez taking a lot of the games down the stretch. That sometimes is not an easy thing to do, but I think that's a credit to Conor, being ready every day. 

"Whether he's pinch-hitting or possibly coming in later in the game when Nuñez was playing every day, I think that probably helped him stay ready for being able to step in."

The Giants will announce their lineup at around 10 a.m. out here on Wednesday.

--- The end of the 2014 run was so thrilling that it kind of pushed the Pittsburgh win to the back pages a bit. Posey and Hunter Pence lit up Tuesday when asked to recount that first Wild Card Game. 

"I remember just walking in from the bullpen in Pittsburgh and thinking and taking a second to look around because even 10-15 minutes before the game, it was rocking," Posey said. "I expect it to be the same here tomorrow. Shoot, that's the type of stuff when you're a kid that you dream about."

Pence called the 15 minutes before that game "the most intense atmosphere I've ever been a part of."

"You're just jumping right into it, and this huge, emotional, intense all-in, all-or-nothing game," he said. "It's definitely a wild ride. That's why they call it the Wild Card."

--- Only two of the final-week Giants did not make the trip to New York. Mac Williamson was sent to Arizona for a week of rehab, since a win Wednesday sends the Giants to Chicago and the most cramped clubhouse in the league. Williamson will rejoin the Giants if they return home Sunday. Gordon Beckham was not eligible for the playoffs since he wasn't in the organization on Sept. 1, so he flew home for the offseason, to watch and see if he's in line for a World Series ring. 

--- Shawn Estes was the latest guest on my podcast. You can find it here. We talked about the second half, the final week, the wild card matchup, and his experiences with fans in New York and Chicago. 

--- Pence has a wild thing going with the hair-beard combo, and it came up during his press conference. A local reporter asked him if it was something he came up with for the playoffs.

"Yeah, I just created this look instantaneously," Pence deadpanned. "It just showed up."

Pence later said that Hunter Strickland wasn't getting a haircut, so he joined in.

"It's not because I wanted to look like this, but because it's fun to do things that are crazy with your teammates," he said. "There are not too many jobs where you get the opportunity to look like a bum and have fun doing it."

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”