Shaw makes offseason changes to clear final hurdle to big leagues


Shaw makes offseason changes to clear final hurdle to big leagues

SCOTTSDALE — Like every player at Triple-A, Chris Shaw hoped to be greeted by the general manager when his minor league season was over. But he was hoping that meeting would take place in San Francisco, not Sacramento. 

Shaw led the organization in home runs last season with 24 across two levels, but he wasn’t on the list for a September call-up, even though the big league team was finishing off a disappointing season that lacked any semblance of buzz down the stretch. The front office was hesitant to promote Shaw, one of the system’s top prospects, because he doesn’t have to be placed on the 40-man roster until after this season and team officials knew roster spots would be valuable as they tried to reshape the big league team. 

But there was an on-field reason, too, and Bobby Evans always pointed to Shaw’s lack of experience in left field when asked about roster moves. It was a message that Evans gave Shaw in person when they met after a season in which the lefty slugger had a .871 OPS, with 35 doubles to go with those homers. 

“He told me, ‘I think you could help the lineup this year, but we don’t want to rush you defensively.’ I understand that,” Shaw said. “Obviously it’s a little tough to hear when you put yourself in a spot to be up there, but I don’t want to be a guy who goes up and comes right down because my defense is not up to snuff.”

To quiet any doubts the big league staff might have, Shaw has done more than just work on the fundamentals of left field. He lost 15 pounds in the offseason to try and become lighter on his feet in left field. The transformation was not something that the front office or training staff told Shaw to do. It was something he felt was necessary, though. 

“In my mind, it was how can I stay lighter on my feet and be quicker. I talked to the Giants (coaches and front office people) and they said I get good reads out there, but it’s just that first step that’s lacking a little quickness,” he said. “I thought that if I get leaner that the first step quickness would come on its own. 

To drop the weight, Shaw — who was listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds last season — tried a modified paleo diet. It wasn’t as strict as the one Hunter Pence famously embraced in past years, but Shaw still stuck to healthier food for most of an offseason spent training in Boston.

“But obviously there were days I would go crush a pizza,” he said, laughing. 

Shaw’s physique has never been an issue for the Giants. He was physically imposing the day he visited AT&T Park after being drafted 31st overall in 2015. He likes what he’s seen from the offseason changes, though.

“My swing feels the same and the power is the same, but the outfield stuff is where I feel different this spring,” he said. “I feel lighter on my feet and I have more energy in games.”

In his second big league camp, Shaw has been working with the big league outfielders in the morning and soaking in advice from a group of veterans. He already has implemented one tip from Hunter Pence about pre-pitch preparation, and the work — both on the field and in the offseason — has been noticed. Bench coach Hensley Meulens now works with the outfielders, and he said Triple-A manager Dave Brundage and hitting coach Damon Minor have already mentioned that they’ve seen a difference in Shaw’s defensive ability. 

“They said he’s definitely improved the way he’s moving in the outfield,” Meulens said. “He sees the writing on the wall."

Bumgarner undergoes surgery on pitching hand


Bumgarner undergoes surgery on pitching hand

A day after a line drive fractured a bone in his pitching hand, Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner underwent surgery to stabilize it.

A specialist in Arizona added three pins to Bumgarner's fifth metacarpal bone in his left hand on Saturday, the Giants announced. 

Bumgarner told reporters on Friday that the pins will remain in his hand for four-to-six weeks. Then, he will begin to fully work towards a return to the rotation.

The 28-year-old suffered the fracture in his final start of spring training, and was set to start Opening Day against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 29. In 21.0 innings over six appearances this spring, Bumgarner posted a 3.43 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. 

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Eight years ago in this very space, I postulated that Brian Sabean had done a lucrative deal with Satan.Co to win the Giants’ first World Series in 56 years. He never denied it, so I took that as silent affirmation.

Now, it seems Beelzebub has brought the bill, to be paid in full on receipt of same.

The San Francisco Giants, who needed as few things as possible to go wrong to start this season, just got two full-on groin shots in the space of less than a week, the second of which was delivered when Madison Bumgfarner fractured his hand trying to repel a line drive from Kansas City second baseman Whit Merrifield during Friday’s Cactus League game.

The injury did not look serious at first because, well, because Bumgarner pretends to be made of adamantium, but an X-ray revealed the fracture and though no time for recovery was listed, Bumgarner may return to health before the Giants do.

And yes, I know spring training is no time for fans to lose hope for a cheery season, but you take the fact as they present themselves, and the Giants are already 40 percent down from their projected starting rotation. Jeff Samardzija is already on the disabled list with a hinky pectoral muscle, and as the Giants know all too well, things like this tend to come in sixes, if not eights.

The 2010 Giants hit on every midseason trade and parlayed that good fortune and the assets already on board to a storied October run. A year later, Buster Posey got Scott Cousin-ed, and his broken ankle snapped the team’s hope of repeating.

The Giants then won in 2012 and ’14 without too much incident, but starting midway through 2016, continuing into last year when Bumgarner flipped his dirt bike, and now down to today, it’s been nothing but seeds and stems for Giantvania.

The rumor mill has been quick to offer up possible replacements for the Bumgarner vacancy (though not for his expected results), but at a time in the game’s development when the best and most progressive-thinking teams are talking about four-man rotations and Staff on every fifth day, a strategic development that requires strength in numbers, the Giants have neither that strength nor those numbers.

Their best internal choices are veteran Derek Holland, who might already have been penciled in as Samardzija’s replacement, and phenom-in-training Tyler Beede. But that essentially uses up the in-house bank of usable goods, so Sabean can either buy something very off-the-rack or hope he and Bruce Bochy can fake it long enough for Samardzija (three to four weeks) and then Bumgarner (six to eight, according to ESPN's Buster Olney).

This seems awfully daunting, especially for a team that has buzzard’s luck and a rotting bat rack for a season and a half. But with six days before the regular season starts in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers...oh, the hell with it. If you’re a Giant fan, start drinking, and continue until further notice. The evil lord of the netherworld will tell you when it’s time to stop.