Bochy, Giants have their eyes open as Mac Williamson puts the pressure on in Triple-A


Bochy, Giants have their eyes open as Mac Williamson puts the pressure on in Triple-A

SAN FRANCISCO — A year ago, the Giants told Christian Arroyo to go down to Triple-A and force his way up. Arroyo hit his way into the big league lineup by April 24. 

Could Mac Williamson do the same thing this year?

After a big swing, Williamson was sent back to the River Cats to continue working on swing changes he made in the offseason. The results so far have certainly opened eyes. Williamson is 10 -or-17 through five games with two homers, three doubles and just two strikeouts. 

[JOHNSON: Down on the Farm: Mac Williamson off to scorching start in Sacramento]

“A really good start. He’s doing what we were hoping he would do — go down and make noise and play well and put pressure on us,” manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday morning. “This is a huge year for Mac and where he’s at as far as his career. It’s time for him to dominate that league.”

Williamson, 27, now has 856 at-bats in Triple-A. He would appear to be stuck in limbo, as the Giants prefer center field options — Gregor Blanco and Gorkys Hernandez — on their bench and there are veterans at every starting outfield spot. But this is a bit of a different time for the front office and coaching staff. There is a greater sense of urgency, seen already with moves in the bullpen that will continue as the Giants aim to increase their flexibility. Bochy said he has talked to relievers already about the fact that they might be sent down regardless of their numbers, if they have options and the Giants need a fresh arm. 

All involved with these decisions know that they might not survive another losing season, and the offense has been frustrating to watch through most of nine games. Hunter Pence, in the last year of his contract, has a .435 OPS so far in left field, and while the bench has been part of some comebacks there haven’t been many power flashes. 

“We would find a way to put somebody in our lineup when we think he could help us,” Bochy said. “We could get creative here to mix it up. It’s a small sample, whether it’s here or in Triple-A, so let’s play some baseball and see where we’re at.”

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

One team reportedly might be making their final push to sign Bryce Harper, and it's not the Giants. 

Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton's private jet was in Las Vegas -- hometown of the free-agent outfielder -- on Friday, a "person in that city" told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury. 

This does not, however, mean the Phillies and Harper are quite ready to complete a deal, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Friday night.

Hours earlier, the Washington Nationals ruled themselves out of signing Harper. The Nationals drafted Harper No. 1 overall in 2010, and he has played all 927 games of his major league career in a Nats uniform to this point.

The Giants would seem to be the last team standing aside from the Phillies, and NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Friday that San Francisco doesn't "intend to do dollar-to-dollar" with Philadelphia. 

[RELATED: When Giants' spring training competitions will start]

But, that doesn't mean this all comes as a surprise to the Giants. They already saw the Phillies as the favorites to land Harper. 

If Middleton's presence in Las Vegas leads to something larger, the Giants might not have to wait for Harper's official decision all that much longer. 

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Real baseball gets closer by the day, and on Friday morning, we finally got a 2019 Giants lineup. 

Well, kind of. 

The group that will take the field Saturday against the Angels includes potentially just one starter, depending on who you think will win the jobs in left and right. But there still will be plenty to watch. 

Cameron Maybin and Yangervis Solarte will make their Giants debuts, hitting first and third, respectively. Mac Williamson, Austin Slater and Henry Ramos, all fighting for outfield jobs, will start. Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick, is starting in center. Aramis Garcia, who hopes to win a backup job, will catch Chris Stratton. 

Stratton may be in the toughest spot. He is out of options and seventh on the starting depth chart. 

"He's a guy we look at as a starter and a long man," manager Bruce Bochy said. "The guys that are out of options, we've got to make a call there for sure."

Stratton has had some dominant stretches at the big league level but hasn't shown consistency. Ditto for Ty Blach, who will be stretched out this spring but profiles as a reliever moving forward. Although you never know ...

"You saw what happened last year," Bochy said, smiling. "He ended up being our Opening Day starter."

Bochy plans to have Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik in the lineup Sunday for the home Cactus League opener. He had previously said that Buster Posey, coming off hip surgery, will not play until March 1. On Friday, Bochy said Steven Duggar (shoulder surgery) and Ryder Jones (knee surgery) will also be held out until March 1. 

Duggar still should have plenty of time to try to win the job in center. 

"This was the plan," Bochy said. "But he's doing well. He's doing just about everything. We just don't want him diving for a ball."

--- The main story today is on Mac Williamson, who battled a concussion last season. He opened up about how difficult the summer was. 

--- Nick Vincent passed his physical last night and is officially a Giant. 

"A good arm, a good pitcher," Bochy said. "He increases our depth on the bullpen side."

[RELATED: Is Bryce Harper bidding now two-team race between Giants, Phillies?]

The Giants will have some pretty good arms headed for Sacramento no matter how this all plays out. On a related note, the River Cats announced that they're lowering some of their ticket prices. Even before this, that was a place I have always recommended to Giants fans. It's a really fun place to watch a game.