Giants

Whiteside aims to instill confidence again

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Whiteside aims to instill confidence again

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Eli Whiteside will never beconfused with Buster Posey, nor should he be. Whiteside is a backupcatcher, an organizational asset and a member of the supporting cast. He isalso the only Giant in nearly four decades to catch ano-hitter. And like Posey, he hopes to be much healthierthis season. Coming out of last spring, we felt we couldmanage it, said Whiteside, glancing down at his right elbow. We could get bybecause I wasnt playing every day. Then Buster got hurt and well, it hungaround a little bit.

There is no comparing Poseyscatastrophic lower leg injury in May with Whitesides grinding, chronicallysore elbow. But in one respect, Whiteside had it worse. Although obviouslycompromised, he still had to go out and compete. Manynights, he couldnt throw to second base without short-hopping it. And scoutswere watching. It was pretty obvious teams saw I wasntthrowing the ball that great, Whiteside said. Theyre taking off every chancethey got. Mentally, its not a comfortable feeling. Especiallywhen you are the backup catcher. Your job isnt to hit home runs or play everyday. Its to provide continuity to the pitching staff on the days you start.Its to imbue the pitchers with confidence. Its to be someone they trust andwant to throw to. Although the pitchers were too gracious tosay anything, Whiteside knew with every ailing throw that some of theirconfidence must be draining away. (It became especially obvious that Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy didnt want to pair Whiteside with Tim Lincecum, whoalready had trouble holding runners.) By the Giantsaccounting, Whiteside threw out only 13 of 71 attempted base stealers -- an18.3 percent success rate that ranked far below the league average. ChrisStewart, who largely outplayed Whiteside behind the plate, threw out 22 runners(39.2 percent) despite catching almost 120 fewer innings. Throwingwell is something I always took pride in, Whiteside said. (The elbow) wasnothing that I felt was going to keep me off the field, but it was hard to havea lot of confidence. Sometimes it felt good. Sometimes it didnt, but I didntwant to let that keep me out of the lineup. After theseason, Whiteside had another MRI and traveled to Pensacola, Fla.,to have noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews take a look at the films. Andrewsdiagnosed Whiteside with medial epicondylitis, which sounds worse than it is.Another name for it: Golfers elbow. Whiteside didntrequire surgery. Instead, he had a series of procedures to inject plasma-enrichedblood into his elbow. He had three treatments roughly a month apart, with thelast one in December. It helped, Whiteside said. From thefirst treatment on, it was getting better. Now it feels good. Im getting mystrength up to where it was in the past. Although theGiants did not offer Whiteside a contract through arbitration, the two partiescame to terms for 600,000 and he remained on the 40-man roster. Hell competewith Stewart for what should be one backup job, assuming Poseys ankle has nosetbacks this spring. Young switch hitter Hector Sanchez is likely to start atTriple-A Fresno, but club officials are remaining open-minded while evaluatinghim as well. Based on last season, it would seem an easychoice to take Stewart over Whiteside. But its no secret that Whiteside hasendeared himself to Bochy, a former backup catcher in his playing days whomight see something of himself in the gray-haired, soft-spoken man fromMississippi. Nobody in black and orange has forgotten how,just a few days after the Posey collision at the plate, Whiteside stood hisground -- became the aggressor, actually -- when Prince Fielder tried tosteamroll him in Milwaukee. It was a "we're not taking this lyingdown" moment that inspired the whole team. Then camethe day in August, when Ramon Ramirez hit Shane Victorino with a pitch and itbecame obvious a brawl would ensue. Whiteside bunny hopped like a tennis playerawaiting a 150-mph serve. It wasn't an act to incite violence. He wanted to beready to react and protect his teammates from whichever direction dangercame. If theres such a thing as an incumbent backupcatcher, Whiteside qualifies. Ive been here three yearswith these guys, Whiteside said. This is the fourth. This is where I want tobe. Its one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and its been a lot of funcatching them the last three years. I want to be that guythe pitchers want to see back there behind the plate. I want to be what theyneed back there.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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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

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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.