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How Sean Hjelle impressed Farhan Zaidi in Giants spring training debut

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USATSI

How Sean Hjelle impressed Farhan Zaidi in Giants spring training debut

It's easy to pick Giants prospect Sean Hjelle out of the crowd, but the 6-foot-11 pitcher stood out for other reasons over the weekend. 

Hjelle touched 96 mph on the radar gun in a perfect inning during San Francisco's first spring-training win Sunday, closing the Giants' victory over the split-squad A's. With three pitches, Hjelle caught Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi's attention.

"[He's] already an intimidating presence out there on the mound, [6-11] with a downhill plane," Zaidi said on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show" on Monday, "and I love that he just came in and threw strikes."

The 22-year-old finished the 2019 season in Double-A with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, posting a 6.04 ERA in 25 1/3 innings in five August appearances. He likely will spend a lot of time in Richmond in 2020, but Hjelle can make a strong case for an eventual call-up this spring. 

His first appearance went about as well as he could have asked for, but the Giants will monitor Hjelle -- and everyone else in camp -- in two key areas: Walks and strikeouts. Zaidi said strikeout-to-walk ratio "actually winds up being a little bit predictive" of regular-season performance, unlike most spring-training statistics. 

"If you're a pitcher and you've got a 6 or 7 ERA but you strike out 15 guys and walk one, it usually means that's a good springboard for you going into the season," Zaidi said. "And same on the hitting side: Guys that control the strike zone in spring training, that usually suggests that those guys are going to get off to a good start and have a good season."

[RELATED: Find out where some ex-Giants have ended up this spring]

Hjelle will need more than just a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio in the spring to make -- and eventually stick with -- the Giants. 

But early in spring training, he has turned the right head by impressing Zaidi. 

Watch Steph Curry mesmerize adorable baby Warriors fan with high five

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USATSI

Watch Steph Curry mesmerize adorable baby Warriors fan with high five

Warriors fans intently watch Steph Curry during his pre-game shooting routine, especially now that the injured star is so close to returning to Golden State's lineup.

None, however, stared as intently at Curry on Tuesday at Chase Center as this adorable baby with primo floor access. 

Curry was kind enough to give the tiny fan one high five, but he completely left them hanging for a second! Steve Kerr said Saturday that news of Curry's participation in a scrimmage prompted a standing ovation from his teammates, but that was before the two-time MVP left a baby hanging. 

That probably won't diminish any excitement in Golden State's locker room, though, especially after Curry did Curry Things before the Warriors' game against the Kings on Tuesday. 

[RELATED: Klay shares moving tribute to Kobe after attending memorial]

Curry has not played since breaking his left hand on Oct. 30. Four months and two surgeries later, Kerr said "the hope" is that Curry returns to the Warriors' lineup Sunday against the Washington Wizards. 

The 31-year-old's hand will be re-evaluated Saturday, and he'll play if all goes well. Whether or not he's cleared, the Warriors at least know that his hand is capable of making a young fan's day. 

NHL trade deadline winners, losers: Best, worst moves around league

NHL trade deadline winners, losers: Best, worst moves around league

The NHL trade deadline came and went, with many names moving and plenty of others staying put. 

Pending unrestricted free agents like goaltender Robin Lehner (Vegas Golden Knights), winger Wayne Simmonds (Buffalo Sabres) and center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (New York Islanders) all have new homes. Veteran Sharks center Joe Thornton wasn't traded, Chris Kreider re-signed with the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau just had to pee. 

Some teams, executives and fan bases stood out for reasons good and bad because of the deals made before noon PT on Monday. Here are your winners and losers from this year's NHL trade deadline. 

Winner: Doug Wilson

The Sharks general manager hasn't needed to sell in a half-decade, but he made the most of San Jose's down year in the last week. Brenden Dillon fetching a second-round pick and a conditional third was a tad underwhelming, but acquiring a 2020 first-round pick for Barclay Goodrow and a third is an inspired bit of business. Getting anything for veteran forward Patrick Marleau -- who the Sharks signed after the start of the season and very well could re-sign this summer -- was strong work, too, let alone for a third-round pick in 2021. 

Wilson woke up last Tuesday with just one pick among the first 62 in June's draft at his disposal, and he ended the deadline with three. The Tampa Bay Lightning pick won't be too far in front of the Sharks' own second-round pick, considering their respective place in the NHL standings. Wilson now has significant ammunition to move up in the draft or package them together in a trade to get the Sharks back into contention.

The GM said last week he thinks San Jose has the foundation in place to return to the playoffs in 2021, and he now has the pieces to supplement that core this summer. 

Loser: Julien BriseBois

Wilson has been in his Lightning counterpart's skates shoes suit before, overseeing a salary cap-strapped team and trying to supplement an ultra-talented -- and ultra-expensive -- core with cheap depth. The Sharks, after all, have traded first-round picks for rentals before. Goodrow is a solid depth forward, he's valuable to Tampa Bay on a $925,000 cap hit through 2021 and most teams would take a first-round pick in the 20-plus range becoming a capable contributor of any kind.

The Lightning paid a premium, though, even when you factor in that the Sharks sent back a third-round pick and that the organization firmly is in win-now mode. Tampa Bay has a stellar track record of developing mid-round talent, but trading two first-round picks -- including one in exchange for versatile forward Blake Coleman --  could really sting down the line as the Lightning's more expensive forwards age out of their primes.

The price will be worth it if they win the Stanley Cup in either of the next two years, but Wilson can speak to the difficult position BriseBois would be in if the Lightning do not.

Winner: Vegas Golden Knights

Peter DeBoer probably didn't expect he'd have similar goaltending headaches in Sin City as he did the last two seasons in San Jose, but the Golden Knights coach has a much better outlook in the crease after Vegas acquired goaltender Robin Lehner from Chicago. Lehner hasn't quite reached the heights he did in his Vezina-finalist and Masterton-winning season with the New York Islanders in 2019-20, but he has still been one of the NHL's better goalies this season. 

Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't been, with the Quebecois goaltender posting his worst save percentage (.906) this season since joining the Golden Knights. Lehner, at the very least, offers DeBoer a chance to platoon Fleury down the stretch and keep the veteran rested for another postseason run. The Swedish netminder should be Vegas' starter based on his performance this season, however, and this is a smart hedge against Fleury's decline.

A wise bet in Las Vegas? It probably helps the Golden Knights' practice facility is in Summerlin, Nev. rather than on the Vegas strip.

Loser: New York Islanders

The Islanders immediately signed Pageau to a six-year contract extension, reportedly worth $30 million. Pageau is a good player in the middle of a career year, but he also is playing a minute-and-a-half more and has scored on an extremely unsustainable 17.8 percent of his shots this season. A first- and second-round pick (plus a conditional third) already is a hefty enough price to pay aside from the extension. 

It was a questionable deadline for legendary Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, who paid a premium to acquire a player he drafted and developed with the New Jersey Devils (a 2021 second-round pick for 37-year-old defenseman Andy Greene) and reportedly almost took on more money and team to bring in another player he drafted and developed with the Devils in the rumored Zach Parise-Andrew Ladd swap.

Barry Trotz is a miracle-worker behind the Isles' bench, but the Metropolitan Division is a meat-grinder and Pageau and Greene alone aren't enough to get them out of it. The duo might not be enough to help the Islanders avoid playing the Lightning or Boston Bruins as the second wild-card, either. 

Winner: Sharks fans

Rooting for one of Dillon and Marleau in the inevitable Capitals-Penguins bloodbath will be a far easier dilemma than having to choose between Marleau and a traded Thornton. One 40-year-old stayed put in San Jose, taking that potential Sophie's Choice off the board. 

Loser: Toronto Maple Leafs fans

There must be a German word for the very specific type of schadenfreude NHL fans felt seeing the Leafs lose to a Zamboni driver and the ensuing freak-out. Hockey types of all stripes have dunked on the Leafs for the last 48 hours, and Toronto's tepid trade deadline didn't bring them any closer to bridging the gap with Boston and Tampa Bay.

At least denizens of the Six have the Raptors. 

[RELATED: What trade Sharks did, didn't make mean going forward]

Winner: Carolina Hurricanes

It just keeps getting better in Raleigh. The Hurricanes arguably made the biggest splashes of the NHL trade deadline, revamping their blue line and re-loading up front by acquiring defensemen Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei, plus center Vincent Trochek. The former two can eat up minutes and move the puck, and Trocheck gives Carolina the luxury of playing Jordan Staal on the third line. 

The 'Canes are an elite puck-possession team with legitimate questions in net, but Monday's deals give them the depth to make some real noise this spring. Don't count on them finishing among the wild-card teams, and don't be shocked if they make it to the Eastern Conference final, either.