Giants

Team USA's Leyland: Crawford 'the kind of guy you want on your team'

Team USA's Leyland: Crawford 'the kind of guy you want on your team'

Jim Leyland had a front-row seat of watching slick-fielding shortstop Brandon Crawford crush his heart as the Giants swept his Tigers in the 2012 World Series. Over four years later, Leyland is now all smiles as Crawford will be on his side this time. 

Earlier in the week, Crawford confirmed to Team USA manager Leyland that he intends to play for him in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

"I talked with him on the field during the playoffs [in 2014], and I expressed to him that he is -- without question -- one of my favorite players in the big leagues today," Leyland said to MLB.com. "I love the way he plays the game. I love the way he goes about his business."

Crawford hit .250/.308/.250 in the 2012 Fall Classic against Leyland's Tigers. 

"He is in, as of now," Leyland said on Crawford. "He's fired up about it, and so am I. I'm just thrilled about it, that he's accepted the invitation."

Crawford is coming off a season in which he won his second straight Gold Glove Award in arguably his best all-around season. The 29-year-old set a multitude of career highs in 2016, including batting average (.275), on-base percentage (.342), hits (155), triples (11), RBI (84), runs scored (67), and stolen bases (7). On defense, Crawford also set a career high in fielding percentage (.983). 

For Leyland, Crawford is the definition of a pure baseball player. "He's one of those guys where, to me, you talk about athletes and you talk about baseball players," Leyland added. "He's a baseball player. He's a good athlete, obviously, but I look for baseball players."

Notably, when Crawford beat Leyland in the World Series, it was the first of two rings he's won with the Giants in his six-year career. On the biggest stage, Crawford has continued to deliver. In 11 World Series games, Crawford has slashed .286/.350/.286 with 10 hits and five RBI.

"In just about every situation I've ever seen him, he makes big plays," said Leyland. "He does it all. He knocks in runs. He makes big plays in the field. He'll run into one [and hit a home run].

"He's a big-time player on a big stage. That's one of the reasons I was so interested in him. He's come out on top quite a bit. He's the kind of guy you want on your team."

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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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

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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.