Are Brandon Belt, Giants’ backup infielders being seen as outfield help?


Are Brandon Belt, Giants’ backup infielders being seen as outfield help?

SAN FRANCISCO — It was an odd scene Friday.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was the first to meet with reporters during the annual pre-FanFest session, and the first question he received was about Bryce Harper. Manager Bruce Bochy didn’t get five minutes into his own session before being bombarded with Harper questions.

Catcher Buster Posey, a couple of doors down, was asked about Harper several times. 

The Harper chase took up most of the oxygen in the room Friday, and for good reason. The Giants are serious about trying to sign Harper, a superstar they need, and on Saturday, there were some signs that the run might be successful. 

But that also meant that dozens of current Giants didn’t really have a chance to give many updates Friday. So here are some leftover notes from the first weekend back at Oracle Park … 

--- Ryder Jones had a gruesome knee injury last September, costing the young infielder a chance at real playing time down the stretch. Jones said he’s two weeks ahead of schedule in the rehab process and anticipates having a mostly normal spring, although he might miss the first week of Cactus League action.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Giants use him. Jones is open to working in the outfield, and some on the coaching staff have discussed it, but the injury might give the training staff some pause. 

--- I wrote last October about how much the staff loved Abiatal Avelino’s enthusiasm during a September cameo. That carried over into the offseason. Bochy said he regularly received texts from the young shortstop while Avelino played winter ball, which is not common.

He ended up playing in the outfield quite a bit and moving all over the infield, and that should continue into the spring. Avelino definitely will be a guy to watch, given Zaidi’s preference for versatility. 

--- The Giants signed Rene Rivera to a minor league deal Friday, according to Jon Heyman, but a few hours later, Zaidi again said he’s looking for catching depth. 

“Buster is feeling great, but having some additional depth there is going to be important for us going into the season,” Zaidi said. 

So … Nick Hundley? Well, a source said a reunion is unlikely. Hundley has been caught up in this rough offseason for players, and he’s said to be examining offers to enter big league camps on a minor league deal and try to win a job, similar to what Hunter Pence is doing with the Rangers.

If that ends up being the case, it shows you why players are so ticked off right now. Hundley signed one-year guaranteed deals the past two offseasons and gave the Giants plenty of value. 

--- The Giants announced Friday that John Andreoli and Derek Law cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A. Both will be in big league camp. Mike Gerber is in the same boat. Honestly, that’s a good sign for this revamped front office.

A strong executive knows the true value of his players and has a good idea of when to take risks, and thus far Zaidi has read the room correctly, adding Andreoli and Gerber and keeping Law. They might not be big names, but no team likes to lose inventory, and the Giants have not by correctly choosing which players to put through waivers.  

--- Brandon Belt and Cody Bellinger are very different types of players, but given how often Bellinger played center field for Zaidi’s Dodgers, it’s been easy to wonder if he’ll throw Belt back into the mix in left. Zaidi’s body language when asked left the impression that he doesn’t love the idea. 

“As we sit right now, we see him as our everyday first baseman. We want him to primarily be focused at first, but I think we’re going to try to get him out there (in left) in camp because you just never know how the season is going to unfold,” Zaidi said. “We want him to at least be prepared to do it.”

--- Before Harper became a thing, there was a lot of talk about the Giants and the Raiders striking a deal to let the NFL team play at Oracle Park next season. Well, it sounds like it's no longer happening. That session with Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey produced some of the lighter moments from FanFest, including this exchange: 

KNBR host: "How do you get the rights to the boombox in the clubhouse?

Crawford: "It's 2019. We don't have a boombox."

The shortstop still is the clubhouse DJ, though, and as he prepares this year's victory soundtrack, he might have to make an adjustment. Crawford and Chad Chop always got together in spring training to come up with the playlist while shooting jumpers at Crawford's Scottsdale home.

But Chop, part of the replay team the last few years, was let go at the end of the season, and officially has caught on with the Dodgers ... 

Giants encouraged by Jeff Samardzija's progress to begin spring training

Giants encouraged by Jeff Samardzija's progress to begin spring training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If you sent a congratulatory text to Bruce Bochy and you haven't heard back yet, don't worry. There's quite the backlog. 

A day after he announced that this will be his final season, Bochy said he couldn't believe how many people reached out in the following hours. 

"By the time I got back to my office, the phone had blown up completely," he said. "I didn't see that coming. I've heard from everybody."

Bochy got a break from the texting Tuesday morning, when the Giants took the field for the first round of live batting practice sessions. It started with Madison Bumgarner against Joey Bart, because the other members of Bart's hitting group wanted him to go first. 

"They wanted to make sure Bum wouldn't throw one way up and in on the first pitch," Bochy said, smiling. "So they put the kid up there."

Bumgarner did not throw at Bart. That's one observation from the day, here are a few more ... 

Sharp Shark

Jeff Samardzija said he has eight hurdles to hit this spring: Bullpen session, "heavy" bullpen session, live BP session, and then five Cactus League starts. He got through his live BP on Tuesday and said it felt good. Samardzija threw all his pitches while facing players on a back field. 

"No pain, no restrictions," he said. "I just need more work."

He'll get it. Samardzija, coming off a season-ending shoulder injury, will be in the rotation when the Giants kick off spring action this weekend. The Giants are encouraged by how he feels, and anticipate Samardzija being ready to start the season. 

"I thought he threw really well," Bochy said. "He had a nice day out there."

Different Look

We've gotten used to some trash talk during the first day of live BP, but there was none of that today. We didn't see a Bumgarner vs. Buster Posey matchup as we've gotten in the past. There was an interesting feel to the sessions, though. 

[RELATED: Posey appreciates Bochy's longevity, passion for the game]

The Giants set up a TrackMan machine behind the pitcher and a Rapsoda device about 40 feet in front of the mound. They're tracking spin rate, release point, etc.  on just about every pitch now, even if it's just live BP. 

For years, we would see Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner standing behind the pitcher. On Tuesday it was Yo Miyamoto, the club's manager of video systems. He had a laptop in his hand and could give the data right to the pitcher. The Giants were already using TrackMan and Rapsodo last season, but they've certainly appeared to swim even further into the deep end when it comes to all this stuff. 

Camp Versatility. 

Guys will move all over during camp, so not too much can be deciphered by early fielding work. But it was interesting to see Aramis Garcia get a lot of work in at first yesterday, and Stephen Vogt spend a chunk of the early workouts taking fly balls in left. Bochy has said the team may carry three catchers, so at least one of the backups will need to be able to move around the field. 

Sad News

Don Newcombe, the legendary Dodgers pitcher, passed away at the age of 92. I'll never forget the way Newcombe would come to visit Bochy during every Dodgers series. He was always in a suit, no matter how hot it was at Dodger Stadium, and he would walk over when Bochy was talking to the media and wait patiently with his wife, Karen. Often times they would stand there for 10-15 minutes and wait for Bochy to finish his required work before they could have a quick chat.

[RELATED: Pence calls playing for Bochy with Giants 'a real honor']

"Every time we went to L.A. they made sure they came over and said hello," Bochy said. "We talked about baseball and different things. I don't know if we ever missed a series, that's just how nice this man was, to come over and say hello to me. I just respect him so much for what he did in baseball -- this guy won a Cy Young and an MVP in a year, and served in the military. 

"He was just a real nice gentleman that was I'm sure inspiring for all the players there in L.A."

Where Bryce Harper market stands after Manny Machado-Padres contract

Where Bryce Harper market stands after Manny Machado-Padres contract

In a $300 million tortoise race, the first domino has fallen. Manny Machado beat Bryce Harper in finding his team for 2019 and beyond, but will Harper beat him in the bank? 

Machado reportedly agreed to a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres on Tuesday, good for the largest free-agent contract ever in American sports. It felt like the two superstars were always playing a game of chicken to see who would sign first. Now that the infielder has, the outfielder can step to the plate. 

And Harper will surely want a fatter wallet than Machado. 

The Phillies went into the offseason vowing to spend "stupid money," and talks between Philadelphia and Harper were reportedly "heating up" on Sunday. The team has long been seen as favorites to land the 2015 NL MVP, and recent rumors have re-affirmed that. But as we've learned all offseason, anything can happen. 

Harper is now "unsure" about signing with the Phillies, Andy Martino of SNY reported on Tuesday.

And here come the Padres. Despite handing out such a lucrative deal to Machado, San Diego is not ruling out a possible Harper signing, reports FanCred's Jon Heyman. 

As far as the Giants go, their willingness to back up the Brink's truck remains a mystery. Brandon Crawford's wife can keep trying to recruit Harper and his wife to San Francisco, but the simple fact is, a short-term deal, which has been Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi's staple, won't get Harper here any time soon. 

[RELATED: Giants continue discussing trade options as they wait for Bryce Harper]

Machado giving San Diego their first superstar in ages should speed things up with Harper handing a rose to someone soon.

But where, and how quickly, is still anybody's guess.