Chris Shaw

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.”

Shaw makes offseason changes to clear final hurdle to big leagues


Shaw makes offseason changes to clear final hurdle to big leagues

SCOTTSDALE — Like every player at Triple-A, Chris Shaw hoped to be greeted by the general manager when his minor league season was over. But he was hoping that meeting would take place in San Francisco, not Sacramento. 

Shaw led the organization in home runs last season with 24 across two levels, but he wasn’t on the list for a September call-up, even though the big league team was finishing off a disappointing season that lacked any semblance of buzz down the stretch. The front office was hesitant to promote Shaw, one of the system’s top prospects, because he doesn’t have to be placed on the 40-man roster until after this season and team officials knew roster spots would be valuable as they tried to reshape the big league team. 

But there was an on-field reason, too, and Bobby Evans always pointed to Shaw’s lack of experience in left field when asked about roster moves. It was a message that Evans gave Shaw in person when they met after a season in which the lefty slugger had a .871 OPS, with 35 doubles to go with those homers. 

“He told me, ‘I think you could help the lineup this year, but we don’t want to rush you defensively.’ I understand that,” Shaw said. “Obviously it’s a little tough to hear when you put yourself in a spot to be up there, but I don’t want to be a guy who goes up and comes right down because my defense is not up to snuff.”

To quiet any doubts the big league staff might have, Shaw has done more than just work on the fundamentals of left field. He lost 15 pounds in the offseason to try and become lighter on his feet in left field. The transformation was not something that the front office or training staff told Shaw to do. It was something he felt was necessary, though. 

“In my mind, it was how can I stay lighter on my feet and be quicker. I talked to the Giants (coaches and front office people) and they said I get good reads out there, but it’s just that first step that’s lacking a little quickness,” he said. “I thought that if I get leaner that the first step quickness would come on its own. 

To drop the weight, Shaw — who was listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds last season — tried a modified paleo diet. It wasn’t as strict as the one Hunter Pence famously embraced in past years, but Shaw still stuck to healthier food for most of an offseason spent training in Boston.

“But obviously there were days I would go crush a pizza,” he said, laughing. 

Shaw’s physique has never been an issue for the Giants. He was physically imposing the day he visited AT&T Park after being drafted 31st overall in 2015. He likes what he’s seen from the offseason changes, though.

“My swing feels the same and the power is the same, but the outfield stuff is where I feel different this spring,” he said. “I feel lighter on my feet and I have more energy in games.”

In his second big league camp, Shaw has been working with the big league outfielders in the morning and soaking in advice from a group of veterans. He already has implemented one tip from Hunter Pence about pre-pitch preparation, and the work — both on the field and in the offseason — has been noticed. Bench coach Hensley Meulens now works with the outfielders, and he said Triple-A manager Dave Brundage and hitting coach Damon Minor have already mentioned that they’ve seen a difference in Shaw’s defensive ability. 

“They said he’s definitely improved the way he’s moving in the outfield,” Meulens said. “He sees the writing on the wall."

Three top prospects highlight Giants non-roster invitee list for spring training

Sacramento River Cats

Three top prospects highlight Giants non-roster invitee list for spring training

SAN FRANCISCO -- This year's list of non-roster invitees is highlighted by top prospects and players who already have seen plenty of time at AT&T Park. 

The Giants announced on Thursday that 16 players will be in camp as non-roster invitees, including center fielder Steven Duggar, who is vying for an Opening Day job, power-hitting outfielder Chris Shaw, and left-hander Andrew Suarez, who could win a job at the back end of the rotation. 

Six pitchers will be invited to camp, with right-handers Tyler Cyr, Jose Flores, Dereck Rodriguez, Jose Valdez and Madison Younginer joining Suarez. Two of the three catchers have already gotten plenty of experience behind Buster Posey. Hector Sanchez and Trevor Brown were invited and likely will make up the Triple-A catching tandem. Justin O'Conner is the third catcher joining camp. 

Orlando Calixte is among five infielders, along with Chase D'Arnaud, Alen Hanson, Kyle Jensen and Josh Rutledge. Duggar and Shaw are the only two non-roster outfielders, but they will be two of the most-watched players in camp.

Barring another trade, Duggar will head to Scottsdale with a legitimate chance of winning the starting job in center field. He also could end up platooning with Austin Jackson, who signed on Monday. The Giants anticipate Shaw spending most of the 2018 season in Triple-A, but the left-handed hitter could force the issue early in the season. He led the organization with 24 homers last year while playing in Double-A and Triple-A. 

The Giants have found plenty of success with veteran non-roster invitees over the years, but this spring's list is heavy on youth. Of the young players, Suarez should battle Duggar for the best shot at a significant role. Suarez and Tyler Beede will try and take rotation spots from Chris Stratton or Ty Blach when the Giants kick off Cactus League play in late February.