Giants

Surkamp gets wise counsel from Lincecum

704992.jpg

Surkamp gets wise counsel from Lincecum

GOODYEAR, Ariz. Eric Surkamp won an ERA title in Double-Alast season, he enjoyed the thrill of his major league debut and he got dousedwith the celebratory beer shower that accompanies your first major league win.

All good things.

But last season ended on the worst possible note.

In his second to last start, he didnt survive the firstinning at Arizonas Chase Field. And the Diamondbacks destroyed the Giants15-2. Surkamp faced eight batters and retired just one of them. It was fourwalks, two singles, a double, three stolen bases and an early shower.

It was a smoldering wreck of an outing. And it was the night thatArizona clinched the NL West title.

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti told Surkamp to forgetthat night and take only the positives out of what otherwise was a startlinglygood season. But when Surkamp went to work out at Fischer Sports in the Phoenixarea, the reminders were all around him.

J.J. Putz, Miguel Montero those guys were there everyday, Surkamp said. A lot of Diamondbacks players train there. But it wasgood. It motivated me.

Surkamp didnt lack for motivation over the winter. Perhapsno Giants player made a bigger improvement in terms of fitness andconditioning. But Surkamp needed to improve his mind, too especially afterhis first Cactus League outing was another rough one.

The first outings, I was pretty tense, knowing I didnt endthe season so great last year, Surkamp said. When you struggle in your firstouting, you get down on yourself.

Thats where Tim Lincecum stepped in. Surkamp said he was runningwith the two-time Cy Young Award winner one day when he received a piece ofadvice.

He helped to take the pressure off, Surkamp said. Its justhave the mindset going into games, like, Maybe the weight of the world isnton you. So stay calm. That was the gist of it. Coming from a guy like him,facing No.1s all the time, it says a lot about him and the composure he pitcheswith.

Surkamp has looked more calm and composed with every outing,winning the confidence of manager Bruce Bochy and making himself into a solidoption whenever the club has a vacancy in the rotation. He got close to 90pitches in five innings of a 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesdayat Goodyear Ballpark.

The only runs he allowed came on Shelley Duncans two-runhome run in the fourth inning. Surkamp didnt let it faze him, settling backdown and throwing strikes to retire the next three hitters.

I think the kids had a nice spring, Bochy said. Hesbetter with experience. It seems his confidence is growing. He threw 90 pitchestoday and thats a good effort. He seems to be commanding his pitches better,and when he gets out of sync, he seems to be regrouping out there.

Hes got a calmness about him that you like.

Surkamp said he began incorporating his slider in hisprevious start and started throwing it to right-handers on Wednesday. He stillchastised himself for getting lazy on a few pitches in the early innings, whenhe was leaving a few balls armside.

Ive got to eliminate the pitches I leave up and over theplate, he said. The home run was a wakeup call, almost. Ive got to learn tobe locked in. It shouldnt take a home run for that to happen.

Even if Ryan Vogelsong must start the year on the disabledlist, the Giants wont need a fifth starter until April 15 the ninth game ofthe season. So Surkamp probably wont be needed in the near term.

But if Barry Zito struggles mightily, Vogelsong needs moretime or an injury befalls the rotation, Surkamp wants to leave the clearimpression that hell be ready for anything even if a division title is onthe line.

Its hard because you want to go out there and prove it to Giantsfans and everybody else, Surkamp said. Really, you just need to prove it toyourself. Just know you belong up here and its the same game.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

gillaspie-moncrief-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

righetti-dugout-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.