Notes: Old friend Vogelsong can help Giants on Sunday


Notes: Old friend Vogelsong can help Giants on Sunday

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants know Ryan Vogelsong well enough to know that it doesn’t matter what’s at stake Sunday. The glare would be on Vogelsong’s face no matter the opponent. The will to win would be there no matter the date.

Still, just in case … 

“I was talking to Buster, and we said we should send him some enchiladas,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “Just order some up and send them to his hotel room in St. Louis.”

Vogelsong, now with the Pirates, will face the Cardinals on Sunday at Busch Stadium. The Giants and Dodgers will get going 10 minutes earlier at AT&T Park, and the Giants need just one more win to clinch a postseason spot. If they can’t finish the sweep, however, they’re hoping to get some help from an old friend. If Vogelsong beats the Cardinals, the Giants will be in the postseason regardless of what they do.

It’s a peculiar position for a player who hoped to return to San Francisco this season. Vogelsong helped the Giants to two titles, and now he has a chance to help them clinch a trip to New York for Wednesday’s wild card game. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle could have started a young prospect, but he told that he chose Vogelsong out of respect for competition. 

"Ryan's buy-in is going to be bigger than anybody else's buy-in in that clubhouse to go out and pitch a good ballgame,” Hurdle said. 

Vogelsong, 39, told CSN Bay Area in August that he’s committed to playing next season. He has struggled down the stretch and he had an 8.72 ERA in September, so the start represents one final chance to put up a solid box score before the offseason. 

The Giants will have one eye on Vogelsong and the Cardinals, but to a man they said the only goal Sunday is to win it at AT&T Park. Several Giants did, however, send Vogelsong text messages on Saturday afternoon. 

“I’m going to tell him I love him, and then I’m going to tell him to bring his A-game,” George Kontos said. 

Second baseman Joe Panik didn’t play with Vogelsong as long as most of the clubhouse, but he joked that he might reach out anyway with a simple, “Hey, Ryan … we’re thinking about you.” 

“Seriously, though, if someone from Pittsburgh is going to be in that situation, I want it to be him,” Panik said. 

Crawford agreed. He wasn’t sure if he would actually send a text to Vogelsong, who famously starts to lock in the day before a start, but Crawford does know that extra motivation isn’t necessary. 

“He’s going to go out and try to win, because that’s what he does every single start,” Crawford said. 

--- From earlier, here’s my game story on Ty Blach’s big day at the park. And, this seems a good time to note that Blach was on my podcast last month talking about his call-up. You can listen to him here. 

Thanks in large part to Blach, the math tomorrow is pretty simple. If the Giants win, they’re in. If they lose and the Cardinals win, the teams will play Monday night in St. Louis. If both teams lose, the Giants are headed to New York to face Noah Syndergaard.

--- Vin Scully was taken through the lower concourse on a golf cart after the game, and he got a loud ovation from Giants fans. He tried to stop the cart as he passed the clubhouse because he saw Buster Posey. He reached out and shook hands with the catcher. A reminder: CSN Bay Area will carry Scully’s call during the third inning of tomorrow’s broadcast. 

In case you missed it, Jon Miller was on my podcast to tell stories about Scully. 

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

SAN FRANCISCO — The excitement could be heard in Bruce Bochy’s voice as he spoke on a conference call Tuesday afternoon, which was understandable. Bochy used 136 different lineups last season, largely because the Giants never found permanent solutions in the outfield or at third base. 

Since the final game of a 98-loss season, the front office has handed Bochy an everyday third baseman in Evan Longoria, a star in right field in Andrew McCutchen, and a versatile outfield option in Austin Jackson. With every new addition, Bochy has tinkered with the lineup bouncing around his head. He isn’t ready to reveal anything publicly, but he said the new-look staff is already discussing lineup options. 

“It’s going to be probably toward the end of spring training until we have this lineup down,” Bochy said. “It’s a different lineup, as you know. I’ll see or we will see what makes the most sense.”

In McCutchen and Longoria, the Giants added two guys used to hitting right in the heart of the order. After the Longoria deal, Bochy did say he would like to hit Longoria in front of Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. Since then, McCutchen has given him another option, and a lot more could still change. 

Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans would like to add one more center fielder, and it’s possible that player can lead off. Steven Duggar could win the job in camp, and with his speed and strong eye at the plate, he would be an ideal leadoff option. That is, however, a lot of pressure for a rookie, and Bochy mentioned McCutchen and Jackson as options atop the lineup. Both hit there quite a bit earlier in their careers, but McCutchen hasn’t been a leadoff hitter since 2011 and Jackson has just 56 starts there the last three years. Joe Panik and Hunter Pence also have experience leading off for Bochy, and it’s possible the top of the lineup could change depending on the opposing pitcher.  

“I’ve always liked to have the versatility or flexibility to mix it a little bit,” Bochy said. “Maybe it’s a matchup thing or lefty-righty.”

It will be a lefty, Clayton Kershaw, staring in at the Giants on opening day. So for now, here’s a guess at the group Bochy will send out there at Dodger Stadium … 

1. Andrew McCutchen RF
2. Joe Panik 2B
3. Evan Longoria 3B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Brandon Belt 1B
6. Hunter Pence LF
7. Brandon Crawford SS
8. Austin Jackson CF
9. Madison Bumgarner LHP

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder


Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants had a glaring hole in center field after the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen and his subsequent move to right field, so it stood out when a press release to announce the signing of Austin Jackson included the words “depth at all three outfield positions.”

A day later, team officials made it clear that Jackson is not necessarily the final piece of the puzzle, or even the solution in center field. After mentioning several times that it was a strategic signing, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean gave a blunt answer when asked about Jackson’s role. 

“Did we get him to be our everyday center fielder? Probably not,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that in his recent history he’s been able to go out there in that fashion.”

Jackson played just 54 games in 2016 and 85 last season for the Indians. The Giants see him as a complementary piece, someone who can handle plenty of time in center, spell McCutchen and Hunter Pence in the corners, and give them a dangerous bat against left-handed pitchers. 

It seemed that was a role that would mostly go to Austin Slater, but the Giants gave Jackson a two-year deal for $6 million, basically wiping out the rest of their room under the tax line. They will not be significantly involved in free agency from this point on, which leaves two options for one more outfield addition. 

Steven Duggar was mentioned over and over again on Tuesday’s conference call, and the Giants will give the prospect a chance to win a significant role this spring. It’s possible that Duggar and Jackson could form a platoon, but before committing to that, the front office will look to add a third offseason addition via trade. 

“There are still some fronts that we are pursuing with minimum-service type of players, which are low in salary,” Sabean said. “We’ll flush out other possibilities.”

Evans has spent months laying the groundwork for multiple deals, and the front office remains confident that one more outfielder can be added via trade. The player would have to be young and pre-arbitration to line up financially with the rest of the offseason work.

If that doesn’t end up happening, Bruce Bochy won’t be too upset. Bochy said he couldn’t be happier with the work Sabean and Evans have done to overhaul an outfield that was unfathomably bad on both sides of the ball last season. If Jackson is the final piece, Bochy is ready to make it work. 

“Right now, as we start the season, I think you’ll see Austin out in center field as much as anything,” he said. “We’ll see where we’re at when we break camp, but that’s a need for us out there in center. As we break camp, we’ll know where we’re at with other options, Gorkys (Hernandez) or Duggar. But center field is where (Jackson) will spend most of his time this spring.”