Top pick Heliot Ramos visits AT&T Park, will start Giants career this weekend

Top pick Heliot Ramos visits AT&T Park, will start Giants career this weekend

SAN FRANCISCO — As he was wrapping up the first press conference of his career, Heliot Ramos was asked when he expects to be back at AT&T Park as a player. The 17-year-old smiled and said he hopes to debut in three years. 

“I know it’s hard, but that’s my dream,” Ramos continued. “I know I’ve got to work hard for that.”

A half-dozen Giants officials stood a few feet away, smiling. Three years would be incredibly impressive. It took Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones four years after being drafted out of high school to reach the big leagues. Buster Posey got a cup of coffee a year after he was drafted, but he was already 22 years old because he had played three years at Florida State. 

Ramos doesn’t turn 18 until September. The Giants hope he is dominating A-ball in three years, and yet, he’s the the kind of prospect that allows them to dream for so much more. 

“If he grew up in Southern California (instead of Puerto Rico) we never would have had a shot at drafting him,” one team official said Tuesday.

Ramos certainly opened eyes in his second trip to AT&T Park, but then again, he put on a display the first time, too. The Giants brought him in for a pre-draft workout and someone pointed out to Ramos that the deepest part of the park was 421 feet. The right-handed hitter, making the transition to a wood bat, wasn’t bothered by the dimensions. He took aim at Triples Alley and tried to blast one out, and he nearly did. Then he started pulling the ball, peppering the left field bleachers with homers and convincing the front office that he was the right pick at No. 19 in this month’s draft. Ramos, described as a potential five-tool center fielder, said he enjoys hitting here.

“It’s a park with a lot of history, and I like that,” he said. 

The clock on his career starts this weekend. Ramos will travel back to Arizona and play in a rookie league game Friday or Saturday. It is always a slow progression for a high school draft pick, but the Giants believe Ramos is physically mature enough to jump right in with both feet. 

Ramos, who said his favorite player is Andrew McCutchen, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds and he carries it well. One member of the front office compared his body type to Yasiel Puig as a rookie; another called him a “mini-Cespedes.” Bruce Bochy lit up when asked about the physicality of the organization’s latest top pick. 

“Any time you get a young kid like this, the ceiling is so high,” he said. “That excites you.”

Bochy spent some time with Ramos and his family after batting practice. As they posed for photos, the manager looked out at the field and then turned to a PR representative.

“Can he take BP? Put him in the last group,” Bochy said, smiling. “I’ll put him in the lineup tomorrow.”

Ramos didn’t end up taking swings, but if all goes according to his plan, it won’t be long.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”