Giants

After successful run overseas, former Giant turns to scouting

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AP

After successful run overseas, former Giant turns to scouting

SAN FRANCISCO — The lobby of the hotel that hosts MLB’s annual Winter Meetings is filled with men in their 20s looking for jobs with a big league organization. Last month in Orlando, a 33-year-old stood alongside a lobby coffee shop and looked out at the crowd. He, too, was starting life in a front office, so he would fit right in with much of the crowd, except for one small detail: He once hit a homer off of Clayton Kershaw. 

Brett Pill, a former Giant, attended the Winter Meetings in a new role. He serves as a scout for the Kia Tigers, the South Korean team that took advantage of his power for three seasons. Pill is still young enough to take his swings, but he move on from his playing days after spending time with the Detroit Tigers last spring. 

“I don’t know what it was, I just didn’t have that fire to grind through the minor leagues again,” Pill said. “Everybody knows the minor leagues is a tough time, and we’ve got two little kids.”

The family's children were born overseas, while Pill played three big years in the KBO. He hit 61 homers in 367 games, batting .316 with a .521 slugging percentage. Pill spent the prior three seasons in San Francisco, hitting nine homers in 240 scattered at-bats. He broke into the big leagues at a time when the Giants had Aubrey Huff at first base, Brandon Belt fighting for an everyday job, and Buster Posey occasionally moving over from catcher. 

Pill was this week’s guest on the Giants Insider Podcast, and he said the role change in South Korea helped him take off. 

“When I was in San Francisco it was tough for me to get in a groove in the major leagues because I felt like I was the type of guy that had to play every day to be successful,” Pill said. “Going over there gave me a chance to play every day so I could use those prime years and get something out of them.”

For more, you can stream the podcast here or download it on iTunes here. 

How Giants will keep two promising rookie pitchers healthy in stretch run

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USATSI

How Giants will keep two promising rookie pitchers healthy in stretch run

SAN FRANCISCO — Last August, Andrew Suarez threw 8 1/3 dominant innings at Raley Field, tossing 107 pitches while holding Salt Lake to two runs. Five days later, Suarez was working on another gem, this time in Reno, when he was pulled after just five innings and 74 pitches. 

Suarez was confused at first. Reno is one of the toughest parks in the minors, but he had allowed just one earned run when pitching coach Dwight Bernard told him his day was over. While sitting in the dugout, Suarez put it all together. 

“I figured I was just going to go five innings every start from then on,” he said. 

The lefty was right. He threw five innings the next two times out and four in his season finale, tossing 73, 70 and 75 pitches. After that Reno start, Suarez was told that the organization was limiting his innings, and he did not receive a September call-up. 

Eleven months later, the coaches and spreadsheets are still keeping a close eye on Suarez, only this time he’s contributing to the major league rotation. Alongside him, Dereck Rodriguez is in a similar situation. Rodriguez spent the first half of the 2017 season as part of a six-man rotation in A-ball for the Minnesota Twins. He spent the first half of 2018 grabbing hold of a big league rotation spot, and like Suarez, he is in uncharted waters. 

The Giants will not make a run unless Rodriguez (2.89 ERA) and Suarez (3.94) continue to pitch well every five days, but neither has ever been through a six-month season, and both rookies will smash their previous career-highs for innings pitched. In an era where every warm-up toss and bullpen session is tracked, a lot of attention will be paid to two promising arms. At the break, the front office and coaching staff is confident that both rookies will hold up. The Giants don’t intend to give either one an extended breather as other organizations — notably the Dodgers — have done with young starters. 

“If they made every start, you’re looking at 180 innings for these guys, and that’s where you would want to get them,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re comfortable not skipping them or having to back off right now. Now, that could change in a month if they’re showing signs that they could use a break, but there’s no plan to back off either of them.”

Instead, the plan is to — carefully — ride this out. Rodriguez will pitch the opener Friday night and Suarez debuts Tuesday in Seattle, and pitching coach Curt Young said both are scheduled for up to 13 starts in the second half. The optimistic view is six innings per start, which would mean approximately 78 second-half innings for each rookie. The Giants, like many organizations, feel comfortable adding 20 percent to a starter’s workload each season. 

Rodriguez threw 101 innings in 2016 and 143 1/3 last season, so the Giants had him ready for about 170 this year. If he’s able to tack on six innings for 13 more starts, he’d end this regular season at 175, which is no cause for concern. 

Suarez is on a similar path after throwing 143 2/3 innings in 2016 and 155 2/3 last year. He was projected around 185 innings before the season, and the current schedule has him set for about 190. 

Of course, there’s a vast difference between facing the Salt Lake Bees and trying to beat the Dodgers in the middle of a division race. There are contingencies in place to help both rookies, including adding an extra day of rest between some starts and “backing it down a little bit” every third bullpen session. A similar plan is in place for Johnny Cueto, who nearly had Tommy John surgery in the first half and will get an extra day of rest before five of his first six second-half starts. 

The Giants will have every Thursday off over the season’s final five weeks, and Bochy has always used those additional days to give his starters an extra break. That won’t change, and the Giants are confident Rodriguez and Suarez will be humming along through that stretch.

“We understand the stress level and intensity of these games, but knock on wood, they haven’t hit bumps,” Young said. “You hate to put the reins on a guy when he’s throwing well.”

Rodriguez and Suarez echoed that sentiment. 

“If it’s not broken, keep doing it,” Rodriguez said. 

“I’m just going to keep doing me,” Suarez said. 

Both are well aware of the situation and said they would lean on veteran starters and try to get advice on how to handle a long season. But they have their routines, and they’ll stick to them. There were no signs of fatigue as a stressful first half came to a close. Rodriguez gave up two earned runs over his final three appearances. Suarez allowed four total runs over four starts before one bad inning on Sunday. 

Rodriguez will take the ball Friday night at the Coliseum and try to start the second half with another strong performance. Can he keep this going through late September and possibly October? 

“Ask me in September,” he said, smiling. “But I’m fine now, and I’m going to keep working hard. I’m not even thinking about anything else.”

Manny Machado is a Dodger, so Giants must be better at being the Giants

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USATSI

Manny Machado is a Dodger, so Giants must be better at being the Giants

As Comrade Pavlovic explains here, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ acquisition of Manny Machado is a gaudy rental that only slightly narrows the San Francisco Giants’ path to a surprise postseason berth.
 
In short, the rich got richer, and the Giants continue to mind the tax line.
 
There is, of course, no fun in that position. The A’s aren’t selling for a change, which makes the Giants seem weirdly conservative in comparison to the noisy neighbors they never seem to notice. The Warriors, who move in down the street in a couple of years, are burning money like it’s a college football pregame bonfire, which also makes the Giants look uncharacteristically thrifty.
 
But Machado is the only real jewel in the trade deadline crown (the Mets have pitcher Jacob deGrom, but nobody expects the Mets to do anything other than standard Met-ism), and not only would he find a way to beg out of any trade to San Francisco on religious grounds (he does not worship in a power-restrictive park), the Giants already have a shortstop in which they are exceedingly proud.
 
In short, the Giants weren’t in the Machado race, and they don’t look like they will be in many others, either. This is their year of stasis, in which they will either win as they are or lose as they are.
 
Indeed, the Giants are operating outside their usual shopping norms. They would need to shave salary to acquire salary, which means there will be no 2010 Summer Of Love (Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Javier Lopez, Jose Guillen). And their prospect bin is running pretty low, so they can’t toss young’uns into the wind to see what veteran difference-makers they can attract.
 
Thus, the Dodgers improving their lot is of little consequence to the Giants, save that corner of the fan base that believes the Dodgers always must be monitored. The Giants need to be more concerned about what the Diamondbacks and Rockies and Phillies and Nationals and Braves and Brewers and Cardinals do, which means there probably are too many teams to keep track of down the stretch.
 
Indeed, the simplicity of the task before the Giants is clear. Their path to salvation is through a rehabilitated Evan Longoria, and a revitalized Johnny Cueto, and a transformed Jeff Samardzija, and an offense that doesn’t regard seeing its own players on base as evidence of plague. The Giants have to be better at being the Giants, and there is no guarantee of that based on the evidence of not just the past 98 games but the 230-some-odd before that.
 
But if it helps, someone will enjoy the trade deadline. It just isn’t going to be the Giants. They are, for one of the rare times since they moved from Candlestick Park, a team likely to do almost nothing of consequence this July.
 
But maybe they can get DeMarcus Cousins to throw out the first pitch at one of the Pirates games in August. I mean, if you can’t be in the market, you might as well enjoy someone who is.