Connor Joe, Michael Reed to get 'runway' establishing themselves on Giants

Connor Joe, Michael Reed to get 'runway' establishing themselves on Giants

SAN DIEGO -- On his final Opening Day as a manager, Bruce Bochy penciled in a left fielder he met a week ago and a right fielder he met a couple of days after that. 

"It's a unique position, no question," Bochy said before Thursday's Giants-Padres game. "I haven't done this before."

That's in large part because the future Hall of Famer has never spent a full season working with Farhan Zaidi, the Giants' new president of baseball operations. Zaidi likes to use the word "runway" to describe opportunities, as in the Giants will give guys such as Connor Joe and Michael Reed a legitimate opportunity to prove they're big leaguers.

There will be others, but Joe and Reed were the first to take the runway for two reasons. Zaidi was not enamored with the outfield group he inherited, including Mac Williamson, who was designated for assignment Thursday. But more importantly, Zaidi does believe both Joe and Reed have what it takes to break through.

"I'm excited to see what these guys can do," said Zaidi, who helped discover Max Muncy and Chris Taylor in Los Angeles. "I think Connor Joe and Michael Reed have both earned this opportunity with the springs that they've had and with what they did last year in Double-A and Triple-A. We've said all along that with where we are as a franchise and organization, to have a successful season, we're going to need some contributions from guys that maybe our fans aren't familiar with yet.

"But it'll be up to them now to make the fans familiar with them, with what they do on the field."

Both had shortened debuts Thursday, being lifted for veteran pinch-hitters in the seventh inning of a 2-0 loss to the Padres. There wasn't much to be gleaned other than that, but Joe did have an impressive first big league plate appearance, taking four pitches just off the edge of the zone to draw a walk. Expect more of that.

The Giants had a .300 OBP last year, their lowest mark in 33 years, and one of Zaidi's first goals was fixing that issue. Joe had a .363 OBP in the minors and was at .408 last season between Double-A and Triple-A. Reed had a .383 OBP in eight minor league seasons and posted an eye-popping .453 mark at the same two levels at which Joe played.

Sure, the Giants could use right-handed thump, but Zaidi went for versatility and strong plate appearances.

"They have some pop, but they also bring a lot of other things to the table in terms of their versatility and baserunning and their plate discipline," he said. "We really are just going to look for the best all-around players and not get too fixated on any one aspect."

That mindset has provided a hell of an opportunity for two players who were elsewhere most of the spring.

"They were in need of outfielders, and I plan to step up and be the best that I can be," said Reed, who can play all three spots.

Reed's parents flew in from Texas for the moment. Joe is from nearby Poway and had too many fans in attendance to count. A lot of people he grew up with are Padres season-ticket holders, anyway. 

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Joe said the nerves didn't get to him. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, but he was more anxious while trying to earn a job with the Reds all spring. Joe called the last two months a "grind" and said he finally got a good night of sleep Wednesday.

"It's been crazy," he said, "But a great crazy."

Giants' Gabe Kapler explains philosophy behind youthful coaching staff


Giants' Gabe Kapler explains philosophy behind youthful coaching staff

SAN DIEGO -- For years, putting together a big-league coaching staff has almost been like checking items off a well-worn list. There's the bench coach, pitching coach and hitting coach, with coaches also at first base and third. There's a bullpen coach and an assistant hitting coach, in most cases.

The Giants appear poised to throw much of that out, joining other organizations that have taken a more collaborative approach. They could have three different variations of a hitting coach, with sources telling NBC Sports Bay Area that Seattle Mariners Director of Hitting Dustin Lind is expected to join Donnie Ecker and Justin Viele. 

Gabe Kapler said Monday that the Giants are almost done putting together the hitting side, but the pitching side of the staff is still a work in progress and could "go in a couple different directions." Brian Bannister will be the Director of Pitching but the Giants still are talking to other candidates, many of whom are from the college ranks, and could have a non-traditional setup in terms of pitching coaches, as well. 

Giants executives did a thorough examination of the clubhouse and dugout after the season, talking to some core players, and determined that they needed more energy in the dugout. All of the leaked hires thus far are on the young end, with little to no big-league experience. Viele, for instance, was coaching hitting in A-ball last season. Ecker isn't far removed from Los Altos High and Lind was with the Mariners for just two seasons. In addition to energy and new techniques, Kapler expects something else. 

"The philosophy would be collaboration and working together as a team rather than working in individual silos," Kapler said. "Sometimes you can have a hitting coach that doesn't want to bring people in and work as a group to make really good decisions for the hitters or give hitters really good feedback. What we're trying to design is a team of coaches where we're inviting each other into our spaces to have meaningful conversations about how to get players better. We're encouraging debate and back-and-forth conversations to get the best possible outcome for the players."

There are two more known hires. Ron Wotus will be the third base coach and sources told NBC Sports Bay Area that Kai Correa, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, will coach first and work with the infielders. Correa, like the other new hires, has a strong reputation within the industry. 

[RELATED: Giants expect to add starting pitcher at Winter Meetings]

Kapler said he also will have a bench coach -- the exact title may be different -- to lean on during games. 

"There's going to be somebody, without question, who is on the bench as part of our staff that is kind of a partner to me from a game strategy perspective," Kapler said. "I'll always lean on a bench coach and pitching coach to make in-game decisions."

Giants expect to add starting pitching, possibly at Winter Meetings

Giants expect to add starting pitching, possibly at Winter Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- The Giants will meet with Madison Bumgarner's representatives this week, but there isn't a lot of optimism within the organization that the longtime ace will be back at Oracle Park next season. Regardless of what Bumgarner decides, the Giants expect to soon add to their rotation, possibly even doing so before the end of the Winter Meetings. 

The Giants didn't make a significant move at the Winter Meetings last year, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he expects that to change this year, noting that there's additional payroll flexibility and that the free-agent market is moving at a much faster pace. 

"I would expect us to add at least one starting pitcher here. And by here I don't mean necessarily in San Diego, but there's a good chance we do that," Zaidi said. "We're having multiple conversations on that front. Pitching is a big priority here for us, as it is for a lot of teams. That's been a major focus for us leading up to this and we expect it to be busy this week."

The Giants came to the Manchester Grand Hyatt with a rotation containing question marks, even if you put Bumgarner's situation to the side. Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto are the veterans, but both also could be trade chips, either this winter or next July. Tyler Beede showed flashes of brilliance last season but is still relatively unproven. Logan Webb is highly thought of but will be under an innings limit in 2020. Shaun Anderson and Andrew Suarez were moved to the bullpen in the second half and Dereck Rodriguez bounced back and forth. 

The market is flush with veteran pitchers, and Zaidi could try to replicate what he did last year, signing multiple options to one-year deals. The Giants didn't get much out of Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz, both of whom signed in January, but were able to deal both left-handers. The Pomeranz deal brought back Mauricio Dubon. 

The lower tier this season includes Wade Miley, Tanner Roark, Julio Teheran, Dallas Keuchel and others. Lefties like Miley, Gio Gonzalez or Alex Wood might be particularly attractive given how right-handed the current rotation is. 

Any of those players would come at a price point significantly lower than Bumgarner's. The longtime Giants star is expected to earn in excess of $100 million over the course of his new deal, but the Giants have not yet backed away from the table. 

[RELATED: Zaidi says Giants plan to meet with MadBum's reps this week]

"We're one of the suitors," Zaidi told NBC Sports Bay Area. "We're just going to put our best foot forward and see what happens, but he's earned this opportunity to be a free agent and, as we expected, there's no shortage of interest in a guy with his pedigree."