Samardzija sends 'start fast' message to new-look Giants


Samardzija sends 'start fast' message to new-look Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — At some point this month, Bruce Bochy will stand in front of his players in the home clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium and deliver a motto for the season. Jeff Samardzija already knows what it should be. 

“The words coming out of my mouth all spring will be ‘start fast,’” Samardzija said during an appearance on The Giants Insider Podcast. “You can’t win it in the first month but you want to be right there for a good summer run and then a late fall run, too.”

The Giants got a reminder of that reality last season. They were 10 games out of first by May 9, and before the weather ever got warm they had been buried by the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies. Some would look at last year’s NL West standings and see a problem for 2018. Samardzija watched three division rivals make the postseason and saw an opportunity. He remembers how hard the Giants had to grind physically and mentally to make it to the NLDS the year before. 

“We know we’ve got three playoff teams coming into the season in our division, but (those are) three teams that had long seasons, you know, and battled and left a lot out there,” he said. “Hopefully we can pick it up early and get off to a fast start and see where we’re at.”

To make sure this April follows a different path, the Giants brought in Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson. Samardzija is very familiar with McCutchen, having faced him 40 times over the years, mostly while both were in the NL Central. He already has run into Longoria at the Scottsdale facility, and he certainly will benefit from the addition of Jackson, who will help shore up an outfield defense that hurt Samardzija more than any Giants pitcher. 

Samardzija said the group is already bonding and they have found common ground in a trait that outsiders view as their potential downfall. The Giants have added three 30-somethings to an already old team, but the 33-year-old Samardzija said that has become a rallying cry.

“(We’re) joking around about our ages. That’s the cool thing about having a bunch of veteran guys,” he said. “Everyone has thick skin and has been there and is able to take things with a grain of salt. Everyone understands that the stories will be written after the 162 games are played and that’s when it matters.”

For more from the interview, including Samardzija’s thoughts on what makes McCutchen such a special player, stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase


Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

Tim Lincecum was back on a mound Thursday, trying to prove to teams once again that he still has a little bit of magic left in his right arm. 

The former Giants star held a bullpen session for scouts Thursday in Seattle. The event was closed to the media, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that between 25 and 30 scouts were in attendance. 

And Lincecum may have some of his velocity back. According to Heyman, Lincecum was sitting between 90 and 93 miles per hour. 

Lincecum last pitched in 2016 with the Angels. In that season, his fastball averaged just 88.4 miles per hour. In nine starts with the Angels, Lincecum was nowhere near what he once was and went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA. 

The Giants planned to be at Lincecum's showcase, according to Insider Alex Pavlovic. 

Over nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum posted a 108-83 record and a 3.61 ERA. He won back-to-back National Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, was a four-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts three times. 

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul


Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

SCOTTSDALE — Catchers are usually the only position players to hit on the main field during the first few days of spring training, but Austin Slater snuck into a group Thursday to take a few cuts. With manager Bruce Bochy leaning against the back of the cage, perhaps Slater’s session will serve as a reminder: I’m still here, don’t forget about me.

The 25-year-old broke through last summer before injuries halted his progress. As Slater focused on getting healthy this offseason, Bobby Evans focused on overhauling the outfield. That has left several familiar faces in precarious spots, and Slater finds himself fighting for a fifth outfielder job a year after batting .282 in his first 117 big league at-bats. 

At the same time, he’s trying to balance competition with health. He wants to push for an Opening Day job, but also is very aware that he needs to back it down at times as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

“You want to prove that you can play here and win a job, but (the staff) stressed health over everything,” he said. “It does no good to push and then start the season on the DL. For me, health is the most important thing. I feel like if I’m healthy I can prove myself. There’s nothing I can prove on the DL.”

Slater originally tore his groin on July 8 and the Giants thought it would prove to be a season-ending injury. He worked his way back ahead of schedule, though, seeing limited action before sports hernia surgery the last week of September. “They went in there and cleaned up the groin,” he said, smiling where others might grimace. The procedure kept Slater from playing in the Dominican Republic as planned, although that might have been a blessing in disguise. 

The Giants were aggressive with their winter ball plans because so many young players got hurt during the season. But Jarrett Parker lasted just 24 hours before being sent home with a health issue. Christian Arroyo’s hand swelled up soon after he arrived, and he headed home. Ryder Jones immediately got food poisoning and lost 12 pounds in just over three weeks before player and team decided a mutual parting would be beneficial. 

Slater stayed home throughout, living in the Bay Area and rehabbing. The Giants told him to focus on his rehab instead of lost at-bats and then come out and try to win a job in Scottsdale. By mid-November, he was hitting again. By Thanksgiving, he was on a regular lifting and running schedule. In late January, he felt like his old self again. 

For the Giants, that means a versatile option in a new-look outfield. Slater had a .290/.343/.430 slash line going before his first injury and he’s working to tap into more power. As Bruce Bochy pointed out Thursday, Slater has a long history of putting up numbers at every level. 

“He really did a nice job of figuring out what it takes to play in the major leagues, and he has a tendency throughout his career to just get better,” Bochy said. “You have to love his right-handed bat. He’s got some pop. I think he can play all three outfield positions, so he’s in the mix.”

The Giants have Andrew McCutchen in right and Hunter Pence in left and Austin Jackson as the third guy, and Bochy’s preference is to have a true center fielder as his fourth outfielder. That leaves Slater fighting for the fifth job, alongside many others. No matter what he did last year or does this spring, Slater has options remaining, and that will come into play. A year after using 13 different players in left field, the staff is intent on having greater depth at the Triple-A level. 

Slater is a Stanford product who spent the offseason surrounded by Giants fans. He knows the math after the offseason moves.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It just adds some great guys to learn from, and there are still outfield spots to be won, so it’s not discouraging, it’s encouraging. I didn’t expect them to keep an open roster spot for a guy with 120 at-bats. We’re trying to win a championship here.”