Ty Blach

Could Kelby Tomlinson be part of Giants' solution in outfield?

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USATSI

Could Kelby Tomlinson be part of Giants' solution in outfield?

SAN FRANCISCO — The “hot stove” seemed to finally get going Wednesday morning when several reporters tweeted that Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole was headed to Houston. 

Would that lead to free agent starters signing deals they had in hand? Would the Pirates finally tear it down and trade Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison, too? Would the Giants be on the other end of a McCutchen deal?

Well … none of the above. Cole hasn’t been traded, at least as of this posting, and the offseason remains as quiet as ever. 

But, there are still Giants topics to go over, so here’s another round of Q&A as we wait for real moves. Thanks to everyone who reached out on Twitter and Facebook, and as a reminder, you can ask your questions here on Twitter or here on Facebook and I’ll get to them in these mailbag pieces or on the podcast. 

What is Kelby’s role? Can’t they groom him for center field and put him in the leadoff spot? — Frankie Jai Barker, via Facebook. 

Kelby Tomlinson has played parts of three seasons in the big leagues and the staff has simply never really viewed him as a starter. It’s a bit weird when you look at his career splits: he has a .280/.347/.352 slash line as a starter and a .292/.359/.348 line off the bench. I mean, he is what he is, an average-dependent player with intriguing speed and little power, but that’s a nice piece on a team without much depth. 

Tomlinson is blocked at every infield spot, and to answer this specific question, the Giants don’t believe that he can really transition to the outfield.

At the same time, I watched this front office and coaching staff put Aaron Hill in left field at the end of his career. I watched Travis Ishikawa move out there. I watched Ryan Theriot take fly balls. I have no idea why Tomlinson got just two starts in the outfield on a 98-loss team. The most underrated failure of the 2017 season is that the Giants saw practically no development at the big league level. A lot of that had to do prospects getting hurt, but the staff certainly missed an opportunity to experiment a bit with guys like Tomlinson or Chris Shaw, who I still believe should have gotten September at-bats.

Steve Young retired after his fourth concussion in three years. Brandon Belt is in that ballpark. Has he or the team given retirement a thought? — Patrick Connolly, via Facebook

Belt’s concussion in August was his third in the last four seasons and fourth in eight years when you include a really bad one he suffered while playing at the University of Texas. There was concern when this latest one happened and I’m sure Belt and the team still have concerns, but in talking to Belt and team officials, I’ve never heard a hint of retirement talk. In September, when he admitted his season was over, Belt said he was focused on 2018, and added that none of the doctors he has seen have told him he should stop playing. 

“There are always going to be some questions about whether this has some long-term effects, and hopefully it doesn’t,” Belt told me. “But right now it’s not going to keep me from playing baseball … It’s not like I’m repeatedly banging my head against something. If that was the case, it might affect me more in the long term. This is more sporadic and the hits aren’t too terrible. Once I get over these concussions, they tell me that I won’t have to worry about them anymore.”

For the sake of Belt and his family, you hope that that’s true. This is different than football in that Belt doesn’t really have any other collisions that have gone undiagnosed, and there’s no reason to think he’ll take another blow to the head. As I always say when people call him injury prone, people just need to stop throwing baseballs at Belt and he’ll be fine. Hopefully that’s the case for the rest of his career.

Why would the Giants pursue either a free agent (Bruce) or a rental player (McCutchen), rather than try to get a player that they would have more control over the next few years? I would think that the allure of having a stable lineup would be better than the volatility of the market. — Eric Quertermous, via Facebook. 

In a perfect world, the Giants would have walked away from the Winter Meetings with Marcell Ozuna, or they would be at the front of the line for Christian Yelich, or they would have a deal ready for Jackie Bradley Jr. Unfortunately, they live in a world where they just don’t have very many prospects that appeal to other teams. The Marlins made it clear that the Giants didn’t have enough to get Ozuna, who would have solved a ton of their problems, and there’s no way they can outbid others for Yelich, who is 26 years old and owed just $44.5 million over the next four years. 

This is why Brian Sabean has said that he doesn’t want to give up draft picks (second and fifth rounders) for a player like Lorenzo Cain, and it’s why I believe strongly that they need to stick to those guns, no matter how weird this offseason gets. To compete as this core ages, they’ll need a better farm system so they can be more competitive on the trade market. 

Or, a more ideal situation: Start developing homegrown stars again and then lock those guys up. That’s light years more efficient than their recent run of spending hundreds of millions in free agency. 

With Matt Moore gone, is Ty Blach back in the rotation? Stratton, Beede, Suarez or get a vet starter to round out the top five? — @Jeff_Henig

After the Moore trade, I kept thinking back to a conversation I had with Bruce Bochy in September. I asked him if Chris Stratton was legit and if he would be the No. 5 starter in 2018. “I think he’s more than that,” Bochy said. He always viewed Stratton as more than a swing guy, and I would expect the right-hander to open the year as the No. 4 starter. The Giants have been hesitant to say much about Blach’s role before he gets to spring training, but my gut says he’s headed for the bullpen as another lefty/long reliever. As I wrote in an earlier mailbag, don’t overlook Andrew Suarez in the race for the No. 5 spot, but my guess is that the Giants will sign a veteran to a minor league deal, and that he will win the job in Scottsdale. That’s what they do. 

Alex, wondering if Eduardo Nuñez is still available? Would definitely prefer to see Nuñez over Pablo Sandoval. — Mark Hanes, via Facebook. 

Mark, I’m sure the rest of the fan base agrees, and Nuñez is still looking for a job. Ken Rosenthal wrote recently that some established big leaguers have started to ask their agents if they’ll have to take minor league deals, and if Nuñez is sitting there in a month and looking at nothing but cheap one-year offers, I would absolutely make the call. He would be perfect as super-utility backup, and man, this team sure could use more guys with energy. I’ve got to think that eventually someone will give him $4-5 million or so, and the Giants would be better served using that kind of money on their bullpen, but who knows … this continues to be the weirdest offseason in recent memory. 

Crick comes up big in tight spot, but Giants fall to D'Backs

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USATSI

Crick comes up big in tight spot, but Giants fall to D'Backs

PHOENIX — For months now, the 2017 Giants season has been about finding out what some players can do in 2018. In that respect, this was a big night for a young right-hander. 

The Giants lost 4-3 to Zack Greinke and the Diamondbacks, but in the seventh inning of the defeat, Kyle Crick opened some eyes by getting Josh Osich. Crick entered with runners on the corners and got a strikeout and pop-up to end the inning and strand both runners. 

“It was a good spot for him with his stuff,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He hasn’t really been in a situation like that, and I loved the way he handled himself.”

Crick came on after Osich did something he has done so often in a disappointing season. He walked the first batter he faced, and a seeing-eye bouncer by David Peralta kept the Diamondbacks going. Crick went 3-2 on Chris Iannetta before blowing a 96 mph fastball past him on the outside corner. A.J. Pollock, the No. 3 hitter, saw two pitches at 96 mph. He popped up to second to end the inning. 

Crick lowered his ERA to 2.70 with a 1.16 WHIP. After years of struggling with his command in the minors, he has reigned that in just enough to be effective. Crick has 10 walks in 23 1/3 innings to go with 21 strikeouts. 

The Diamondbacks held on by getting a big inning out of Archie Bradley, who has a similar profile to Crick. He’s a hard-thrower who couldn’t stick in the rotation and now dominates out of the big league bullpen. That’s the model that would be a dream scenario for the Giants, but for now, they’ll settle for just having another reliable reliever. 

“He’s just matured as a pitcher and he can handle it, so I’ll up his role here,” Bochy said of Crick. “We have our setup guys and a closer, but that was a tight ballgame tonight and we’re trying to keep it at one run. What a nice job he did.”

The Giants couldn’t take advantage of it. They scattered three runs and gave up four in the third. The big blow was a three-run homer from Paul Goldschmidt on a Ty Blach changeup that wasn’t buried as much as he had hoped. Blach was visibly frustrated after the game, but his manager said he should keep his head up.

“I know you’re looking at four runs, but he could have come out of that better,” Bochy said. 

Blach was hurt by his defense, with Denard Span making an error on a bloop to center and Pablo Sandoval failing to make a play on a slow roller to third. Those are issues the Giants will need to fix in the offseason. The bullpen needs some help, too, particularly from the left side, but the Giants can at least be a little excited about the continued developments they’re seeing from a young right-hander who recently joined the group. 

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' loss to Grienke, D'Backs

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' loss to Grienke, D'Backs

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks put out a press release Friday afternoon with long explanations of their Players Weekend names. In the middle of the release was a three-word section. 

Zack Greinke: “Greinke.” 

The right-hander doesn’t much care for the goofier sides of the game. He’s here to dominate on the mound, and he once again did so against the Giants. Greinke was sharp into the seventh, leading the Diamondbacks to a 4-3 win over the Giants. 

It turns out Players Weekend is just like the rest of them for the Giants. Anyway, here are five things to know ... 

—- Ty Blach ended his night by getting Paul Goldschmidt to bounce into a double play. It was a pitch he needed two innings earlier, when Goldschmidt blasted a hanging breaking ball for a three-run shot. Blach was charged with four earned in five innings. He has allowed 16 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings over his last three starts. 

—- Blach didn’t get any help from his defense. Denard Span let a bloop get by him for an error that let two runners take an extra base. The next batter, A.J. Pollock, hit a slow roller to third that Pablo Sandoval couldn’t barehand. 

—- Before lining a single off Greinke, Carlos Moncrief pulled a foul ball a dozen rows into the upper deck. On the last homestand, he pulled one foul into the cove. If he straightens it out, it should be fun. 

—- Brandon Crawford entered with an eight-game hitting streak and a .407 average during that stretch, and he stayed red-hot. Crawford had a single and two doubles against Zack Greinke. He has raised his average from .224 to .241 during the streak. 

—- Kyle Crick got a big spot in the seventh. He entered with runners on the corners and one out and promptly blew a 96 mph fastball past Chris Iannetta for a strikeout. A.J. Pollock popped out to end the inning. He should probably be in Bochy’s late-innings mix going forward.