Vogelsong, current Giants stars helped recruit Melancon

Vogelsong, current Giants stars helped recruit Melancon

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — When Ryan Vogelsong was let go after the 2015 season, many Giants officials insisted that the breakup would be a short one. It’s believed that Vogelsong, a fan favorite and contributor to two title teams, will eventually return in some respect, as a coach or team employee or possibly a member of the broadcast team. 

It turns out Vogelsong, who is currently a free agent, has already been playing a role for the Giants. He was a secret recruiter for Mark Melancon. 

On a conference call to discuss his four-year, $62 million deal with the Giants, Melancon said Vogelsong consistently had good things to say about the Giants when the two played together in Pittsburgh. The veterans were teammates for barely half a season, but Vogelsong, without being asked, often would sing the praises of the place that would become Melancon’s new home. 

“He was very open about how much he liked the Giants organization, and he never had a bad thing to say,” Melancon said. “And that was without prying, because I had no idea this opportunity would come up, and that speaks volumes and that kind of initiated my excitement (about the Giants). My visit to San Francisco (in November) basically proved Ryan’s point, and I saw what a great front office that we have and the ability they have to go out and get guys when they want to. I saw the reason that they’re such a good organization and why they want to win so much and the effort that they put into winning.”

In recent weeks, current Giants joined the effort. Melancon talked to George Kontos, who was a member of the same 2006 Yankees draft class, and Hunter Pence, a former Astros teammate and yoga partner. He listed Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford among the players who reached out.

The process is not a coincidental one. The Giants have focused on building a family atmosphere, and they have benefited from players serving as recruiters. Posey has attended meetings with marquee free agents in previous years, and other players talk quietly during the season about stars who have relayed that they would like to join the organization in the future. 

The list of recruiters has a common thread. Vogelsong has a son who was always around during his Giants tenure. Crawford has three children, Posey has two, and Belt has one. 

Melancon has two daughters, ages five and one, and a two-year-old son. He said the Giants made a big deal about the family-friendly atmosphere in their organization. 

“I’m a huge proponent of making sure that my family is taken care of, and I’m excited about that and all the guys I’ve spoken to on the team have backed that up,” he said. “My wife is extremely excited, and as you know, happy wife, happy life. My kids are already talking about San Francisco and they don’t even know what it is. They know about the Golden Gate Bridge and they’re excited. They’re five, two, and one, and they’re going to bleed black and orange.”

The Melancons will also bring their dog, Lou Holtz, to San Francisco.

The Giants hope the comfort factor leads to Melancon continuing the run that has made him a three-time All-Star. Over the past three seasons, Melancon has an MLB-leading 131 saves, but he has never been part of a team that has won a postseason series. As Melancon narrowed the field, the Giants’ tradition of winning stood out. Had those recruiters all gathered in one room, Melancon would have been looking at 13 World Series rings. 

“It was obvious that this organization knows how to win and that’s their top priority,” he said. “They’re set up with the Gold Glovers up the middle, Buster Posey, Crawford and (Joe) Panik. And being a ground ball guy, that’s a huge priority. Being on the other side, you can tell how much character is in that other clubhouse, so to be able to join it and join the group of guys that are veterans and winning, it was the total package in my opinion.”

Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder


Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder

The Giants almost made it through spring training with no serious injuries.

But as they get set to leave Arizona for the Bay Area, Jeff Samardzija is dealing with a shoulder issue.

On Wednesday, Samardzija pitched in a minor league game. He gave up two homers, hit a batter in the fourth inning and was pulled from the game.

A day later, the Giants announced that Samardzija will undergo an MRI on his right shoulder. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, results of the MRI will be known later Thursday evening.

Samardzija's numbers in official spring training games this year are ugly. In 11 innings, he's 17 hits, 13 earned runs and six home runs.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”