Giants

Bumgarner's rehab includes use of new pitch tracking technology

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Alex Pavlovic

Bumgarner's rehab includes use of new pitch tracking technology

SAN FRANCISCO — Madison Bumgarner’s bullpen session on Saturday looked normal in almost every respect. Manager Bruce Bochy, pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen coach Matt Herges stood a few feet behind the pitcher, watching his mechanics and the movement of his pitches. Andrew Suarez, who would follow with his between-starts bullpen, sat on the grass as a spectator. Eli Whiteside caught Bumgarner, and special assistant Will Clark stood in the box to mimic a hitter. At Bumgarner’s feet was a bag of baseballs to help him get through his work. 

There was a new element, though, one that wasn’t present for Bumgarner’s rehab work last season but will likely be standard for the Giants moving forward. 

Behind Bumgarner’s left shoulder was a mounted camera shooting super slow motion images of his pitch grips, hand movement and release point. Behind the plate, the Giants set up a Rapsodo device to track everything from velocity and spin rate to horizontal and vertical break. Both devices had cords running directly to laptops held by members of the baseball operations staff. In real time, they were able to provide Bumgarner with any sort of data or image he might want. 

Some team officials were surprised that Bumgarner, known for an old-school approach to reading a hitter’s swing during an at-bat, would want the machines set up. But he did look at the results after his bullpen session. 

“I was trying it out. I was just curious about it, really,” Bumgarner said. “It tracks everything. Where the ball goes through the zone, release point, it gets your hand coming through in super slow motion. You can adjust if you need to. You’re not going to get a better look at (your pitches). It’s info to have, and that’s what I was curious about.”

Bumgarner didn’t need Rapsodo to know that he’s ready for a minor league rehab assignment Saturday in Sacramento. He could feel that his arm strength had returned but that his off-speed pitches needed work. Giants coaches are wary, too, about putting too much stock into the spin rate and velocity numbers for a rehab bullpen session, knowing that everything ticks up with the adrenaline of a game situation. 

But just as Bumgarner was curious, the team is, too. Trainer Dave Groeschner envisions a day in the near future when the data helps determine how a pitcher’s rehab is going. 

“In theory, down the road, you should know how the ball is spinning right away, and — especially with a guy like Bum, who is coming off a hand injury — you could see if he’s getting back to normal.” Groeschner said. “We haven’t used it to determine where he’s at because we haven’t had a baseline, but it’s nice to see the info.”

The baseline is key for practical use. The Giants acquired the technology in the offseason and started using it at their Arizona facility in January. During spring training, about 15 pitchers had their data logged while throwing off a mound on a back field at Scottsdale Stadium. That sets a baseline going forward and they can always check back and compare themselves to those healthy numbers, but because this is relatively new to the Giants, most of their established pitchers have not gone through that process. Bumgarner did not, and thus did not have baseline data to compare Saturday’s data to, but the staff still found the slow motion images of his hand placement and release point to be useful. 

Mark Melancon also used Rapsodo during some of his rehab bullpen sessions and the Giants expect it to be the norm going forward. It tracks eight pitch metrics and can show a 3D version of the ball’s path through the strike zone. It’s already used by other teams, including the Astros, Indians and Phillies, organizations known to be on the front lines of baseball’s data revolution. The Giants generally try to be quiet about their use of advanced metrics and emerging technology, but there was no way to hide a couple of cameras mounted around their franchise pitcher. 

“We’re just trying to use it with as many guys as we can,” Groeschner said. “I think eventually, when we get more baseline results, it’ll help us with guys returning from injury. There are a lot of things you can take out of the numbers.”

Bruce Bochy says Steven Duggar will get look as Giants' leadoff hitter

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USATSI

Bruce Bochy says Steven Duggar will get look as Giants' leadoff hitter

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Another day, another addition.

This time it’s Yangervis Solarte, and the former Padres and Blue Jays infielder has a good shot at making the roster. Here’s my story from this morning on Solarte, who still needs to pass his physical.

Solarte and Bruce Bochy spoke on the phone yesterday and the manager is psyched about the addition. He said Solarte will mostly play second and third, but Bochy liked what he saw of him at short in San Diego and that phone conversation included some discussion of playing left field.

Solarte even told the Giants he would be fine with center, but that ain't happening. 

“We’re excited to have him,” Bochy said. “We saw a lot of him in San Diego. A good player, can play a lot of positions, a switch-hitter. He’s a nice addition.”

Here are some more observations from Day 3: 

New Leadoff Hitter?

Steven Duggar (shoulder) and Ryder Jones (knee) took on-field batting practice for the first time since having surgery. Both looked good and shouldn’t face too many restrictions this spring.

As Bochy watched Duggar, he found himself thinking about the lineup. He said he hopes to have Duggar in one of the top two spots. 

“You look at the top of the order. That’s the first spot you think about,” Bochy said. “How it’s going and how they’re playing will dictate it but I think he’s a good leadoff hitter.”

Jersey Crunch

The Giants have retired so many numbers and have so many players in camp that they’re running out of numbers. So, Trevor Gott, who has big league experience, is currently wearing No. 91. And when the Giants signed a flood of veterans over the past week, some familiar numbers were given away.

Gerardo Parra will wear No. 8, formerly Hunter Pence’s number, and Rene Rivera will wear Matt Cain’s 18 if he’s on the roster. The clubhouse staff did agonize over all this as many fans do, but there was no other way. The only low numbers that remain are 5 and 22.

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

Parra wore 8 with the Rockies and Rivera has mostly worn 44, which isn’t an option here obviously. 

Don’t Mess With Bumgarner

That’s the main thing we were reminded of today. Maybe he was imagining Yasiel Puig coming down the line?

Giants continue discussing trade options as they wait for Bryce Harper

Giants continue discussing trade options as they wait for Bryce Harper

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For every move the Giants have made over the past week, the response from an anxious fan base has been the same.

“Uhhh, that dude isn’t Bryce Harper.”

The biggest name on the market remains on the market, but what do the Giants do if Harper chooses the Phillies or Nationals or Padres or some mystery team? Farhan Zaidi is working on Plan B, too, and that could involve remaining free agents or trades. The Giants do still need help in their outfield. 

“We’ve had trade conversations with teams about certain players that started in 2018 that kind of are continuing now,” Zaidi said. “It’s a little bit of a function of the slow market. I think with anything that’s a hypothetical, it’s a good idea to have alternatives and not put all your eggs in any one basket.”

The Giants won’t reach into any other basket until Harper has made a decision. There’s no available player that would match that production, but this offseason started with more humble goals and there are plenty of options on the trade market. If the Giants don’t get Harper, they seem well positioned to quickly pivot. 

In the meantime, Zaidi is padding out the rest of the roster. All offseason, he said he wanted catching depth. Stephen Vogt and Rene Rivera signed in the span of four days. Zaidi wanted a versatile infield piece, too, and Yangervis Solarte is on his way. He wanted a couple of outfielders, and Gerardo Parra fills one hole. 

[RELATED: Cueto drops 20 pounds, prepares for big step in rehab]

Zaidi will always tinker. That’s his nature. But he doesn’t want to add too many more players on non-roster deals because he wants the recent additions and the younger players in-house already to have a real opportunity to compete this spring. That was promised to the players already here, so don’t expect too many more who fit the mold of a Parra or Solarte. 

“We want competition but don’t want this to be a reality show or tryout camp,” Zaidi said. “You try to draw the line between feeling good about the guys you have but also not going overboard.”