Giants

Dallas Braden, Joba Chamberlain, others share unique mound-visit tales

Dallas Braden, Joba Chamberlain, others share unique mound-visit tales

The pitcher covers his mouth as he and the catcher exchange words during a mound visit.

What are they talking about? 

Maybe the pitching coach or the manager has a word to say as well. He too, probably is covering his mouth with his bare hand. Maybe the ball gets handed off after the guy in the bullpen gets hot.

Who knows?

The mound meeting has always been something that has intrigued me. I haven't experienced one personally in a while, but sometimes, baseball or softball wasn't the only thing we discussed.

I wanted to round up current/former MLB players and managers to see if they wanted to share any memorable mound meeting stories.

I was not disappointed. 

Dallas Braden, A's pitcher (2007-11)

“My first start in Double-A -- I had given up a hit and I go to pick the guy off, and they call a balk,” Braden said. “Well, this is my first start in Double-A OK, and I’ve been with this team for less than 24 hours -- I’ve known my pitching coach (Jim Coffman) aside from meeting him in spring training -- I’ve known him for ya know -- 45 minutes, an hour -- and he comes out there and he was like ‘Hey, you’re doing fine, we’re so glad to have you, congratulations, everything’s been great. I’m just going to have a word with this guy [the umpire] once he comes over here.’”

“Then obviously by that time, the umpire had made his way over to us and [Coffman] lost his s--t on him about the balk call and just lost it -- and then got kicked out of the game, was gone and there I was just on my own -- just like all right,” he laughed. “He was just like ‘Hey, go get ‘em,’ and that was that -- that was it.”

Joba Chamberlain: Pitcher (2007-16)

"When Lance Berkman came over [to the Yankees], he was really good friends with Andy Pettite so we hung out, I got to know him pretty good and he was playing first base and I come in the game and -- I don't even know who we're playing or whatever -- but, things got going kind of fast, they got to bat. The dude hits a double right? I blatantly know he hits a double. So I get on the mound, don't even check second, I look over to check first and see somebody standing there, and I step off and throw it to first ... and I lawn-dart it straight into the ground."

"Cuz as I turn I realize there's nobody over there," Chamberlain laughed. "So then I try to play it off I'm like 'Oh man, what happened?'"

"I get back on the mound and Lance comes over, put on his hands on his hips and he goes, 'Dude, are you OK?'"

"I was like 'I thought there was somebody on first,' He goes, 'No, that was me, idiot. Are you sure you're OK?'"

"I was like 'Yeah, I'm good, I'm good -- We'll get through this.'"

Clint Hurdle: Manager, 17 seasons

"I won't tell you the pitcher's name -- I just, I can't, but it's one of the best ones ever."

"It would have been in September -- it would have been earlier in my managerial career with Colorado, we were shedding payroll, we were going through a rebuild, so we were a little light on the roster, and our September call-ups were not really in a position to fortify us much based on where we were in the standings."

"We got to a point where we actually go get some more pitching, well we actually had to make another call."

During a game at Coors Field, the Rockies were down early.

"Ten runs of separation," Hurdle said. "We're fighting our way back and it's one of those games where you have to use pitchers and so eventually you get to the point where someone just has to pitch some innings."

"I know you've heard the term: Someone's gotta eat up some innings when the games out of hand. So, one of these guys we had called up, bless his heart, good kid, was looking for an opportunity ... we're down a bunch now, we call down to the bullpen and I tell the bullpen coach 'Hey, get so-and-so up, we're going to get him in, we're going to need some length out of him, he's got to give us some innings."

Understandable. The pitcher goes into the game.

"The first inning he pitches, they hit for the cycle -- and this was like within the first five of six batters -- it's not even a separation of score, we're getting slaughtered, we're getting beat up. The poor kid's getting beat up, however, he gets threw the inning, he gives up -- gosh I want to say six, seven runs."

They send him back out in the next inning.

"You know, we got to fight another day, maybe tomorrow will be a better place."

... and almost the same thing happened.

"He gets to the point where I have to get somebody else up, not a position player yet, but it's another guy that we really didn't want to use."

"I come walking out and I can see him -- he felt bad, he was supposed to give us three innings -- wanted to give us three and he's got like 1 1/3 innings in -- and there's close to multiple runs score on him, and he's already thrown 35 - 40 pitches, it's been a really rough outing."

Hurdle told him it was time to make a move, he needed to get him out of there. But he was relentless.

"He goes 'Clint, I know, I know -- I just need to get them in, I don't care about my numbers,' I mean -- it was an awesome conversation," Hurdle added.

The pitcher made it clear he just wanted to be there for the team. He wanted to keep pitching, he didn't care what his Baseball-Reference page would say.

"Don't worry about me," the pitcher kept saying.

"I said, 'Hey buddy, c'mon we're going to have a laugh,' I said, 'I'm not worried about you, I said, 'Turn around.'"

He did just that.

"All three outfielders were bent over with their hands on their knees breathing like they had just run 50 wind sprints. I said it's either take you out or put in three new outfielders -- which one do you think I should do?'"

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Geoff Blum: Infielder, (1999 - 2012)

Story No. 1:

"Usually when I'm on a broadcast I try not to name names, but usually a lot of fans that know my career and know this particular individual know I'm always talking about Doug Brocail because he was one of the more eccentric, more vocal pitchers I was ever around and we played together in San Diego and Houston, so we're around each other quite a bit." 

"I got along with him greatly, but I just remember there was a particular spring training when we got done with our time in San Diego and we signed with Houston, 2008 and we're in spring training in Kissimmee, Fla., and usually the wind there would just be howling out from home plate towards center field, and Doug comes in from the bullpen to get his work in, you know -- guaranteed contract, going to be on the team, nothing to worry about, and I think the second pitch he throws goes over the batting eye -- it's not even close, he kind of looks up like, 'Wow, ball's carrying today.'"

"He proceeds to give up a double, triple, double and another double and finally, I'm throwing the ball back to him, as I walk to the mound I'm like, 'Doug, just not your day, just kind of casually saying 'It's spring training, don't worry about it kind of thing ... '"

"He goes, 'Are you kidding me? Are you seeing what's going on here?' And he gets to the top of the mound, turns around and screams at the outfield at the top of his lungs: 'Back the eff up!'"

"I'm like Doug, Doug you can't do that," Blum added. "He goes, 'You don't know what's happening.' He just starts screaming 'Back the eff up!'"

Brocail then proceeds to give up a home run.

"I go, 'They're not playing deep enough,' and he just kind of yells at me and walks off the mound."

Story No. 2:

"I'm not sure if he was on the mound for this, but there was a veteran pitcher during that season also and J.R. Towles was our catcher and J.R. wasn't one of the more brilliant catchers that I ever got to play with, we got spoiled working with Brad Ausmus for so long."

"And then we had J.R. [who] had a tough time with signs and there was a veteran pitcher on the mound and we had a runner on second base and J.R. comes out to reassure the pitcher about the signs. I was playing I think shortstop at the time, so I come in to make sure we're all on the same page. J.R. gives the first sign after two, everyone shakes their head and goes, 'Yep -- that's it!'"

"He proceeds to go back behind home plate and sit there for about 30 seconds staring at the pitcher and we're all kind of like, 'What's going on?' Then finally J.R. raises his hand to the home plate umpire and runs back out to the mound and goes, 'Hey man, what are the signs again?' And this veteran pitcher to just absolutely verbally undress him in the middle of the game. The entire stadium could hear what he was saying goes, 'ONE IS FASTBALL, TWO IS CURVEBALL, THREE IS SPLIT, GET THE EFF BEHIND THE PLATE!' and J.R. proceeds to go back there with a runner at second base. We literally went one sign -- we didn't disguise it at all, we were just trying to make sure J.R. knew which pitch was coming so he wouldn't get hurt."

Story No. 3 (the best one): 

"When I was in San Diego playing with Greg Maddux -- and he did this to me several times when I was playing third base. We'd throw the ball around and give the ball back to him and he would kind of give me the finger wave to 'come here, I got something to say,' and he'd go, 'Be ready, this hitter's going to hit you a ground ball,' I said, 'Damn, all right,' I got back over there, sure enough, 2-1 count, fourth pitch of the at-bat, it's a nice, easy two-hopper and I throw it over to first for the out."

Blum was impressed.

"[Maddux] goes, 'Yeah, we'll be doing that a lot this year.'"

"Later on, I go back out to the mound to give him the ball, and he goes, 'Hey, come here -- he literally said, 'Third pitch is going to be a line drive right at you,' and I remember Carlos Lee was hitting for the Milwaukee Brewers and third pitch, he kind of gives me a wink and a nod after he throws the second pitch and sure enough, that third pitch comes in and I think Carlos Lee hit the hardest line drive I've ever caught in my life, right at me, right at my chest and I caught it, just kind of gave that Hall of Fame head nod right back at him."

Jered Weaver: Pitcher (2006-17)

"The only one that sticks out was when I finally talked Mike [Scioscia] into staying in. He was known for not letting his pitchers talk him into staying in, but when I finally did, I knew I finally got his trust. It was like a 2-0 game with a runner on first and second I think ... was able to get a strikeout and a pop-out to get out of it."

Peter Moylan: Pitcher (2006-13, 2015-18)

“I hugged my manager once.”

Evan Marshall: Pitcher, Chicago White Sox

"This was last year. The last series of the year against the Tigers. I'm pitching in like a one-run ballgame, maybe a two-run ballgame. I gave up a double with two outs and in order to that point, it had taken me like 11 pitches to get each hitter out, so my pitch count was climbing and I know Aaron Bummer was in the pen getting hot, and he's like the best left-hand reliever in the game, so you know I get into hot water, I know what's going to happen ..." 

"I gave up a double, and there's a base opened and I got a lefty on deck and I've got a guy up and it's strike one, foul ball, something ... then I end up in a 3-2 count and thrown like 34 pitches and I throw this guy everything that I possibly have that should get a switch hitter out -- he's a left-hander. And changeups, and fastballs in, and two-seamers down and away. He's just foul ball, foul ball, foul ball ... I'm getting tired out there and [James] McCann -- runs out, well -- trots out, if you will, and we have a convo and he's just like, 'Look, man, we've kind of just tried it all, he's kind of seen all your s--t and what do you think? I think this is probably the last pitch, you got a lefty on deck, you got a great lefty that's been throwing in the bullpen out there so this is your last guy -- how do you want to get him?'"

"I was like, 'I don't know, I've kind of tried everything and he doesn't seem to be fooled by it.' And he was like, 'Well, the only thing he hasn't seen is the pitch that you only throw, ya know -- 10 percent of the time, let's try the backdoor curveball, let's see what happens.'"

"And I threw it, and it was perfect, and he stuck it and I fist-pumped bigger than I have the whole year for backdoor strike three."

Brad Ziegler: Pitcher (2008-18)

Speaking of Evan Marshall ... 

"Weirdest thing for me was a non-meeting. Let me explain ... "

"Evan Marshall hit Ryan Braun with a pitch to load the bases. Umpire ruled it intentional and immediately through Marsh out of the game. This is the one that Kirk Gibson “famously” high-fived Marsh as he was leaving the field.

Well, they called down to the bullpen and told me I was coming in the game. Usually, when you get to the mound, the manager hands you the ball and makes sure you are aware of the game situation (runners on, number of outs, etc). 

I went to the mound, and there was no manager there to hand me the ball. Instead, it was the catcher, so immediately it felt weird. Then Ted Barrett (plate ump that night) walks out to tell me 'that both benches had been warned. I said “Teddy, the bases are loaded and I throw 85 underhand. I don’t think they’re gonna have me hit anyone on purpose here.”

So I had to do my full warmup on the game mound (about the worst thing a reliever ever has to do in a game), since I hadn’t been throwing in the pen and Marsh had been ejected. Well, first pitch I throw, Jonathan Lucroy hits it out to CF for a grand slam. We lose the game. I should’ve just hit him and taken my ejection."

[RELATED: Why A's play "Celebration" after home wins]

Cameron Rupp: Catcher, Cleveland Indians

"One of my favorite ones was back in 2014 (with the Phillies). It was my first real season in the big leagues, and we were in Milwaukee -- Cole Hamels was pitching and Ryne Sandberg is our manager at the time and he puts a pickoff on, it's 3-2, and there's a man on first base and he's left-handed. So I give Cole the pickoff and he shakes right? I put it down again and steps off so I look back into the dugout and they give me the pickoff again and I kind of put my hands up and I'm like, 'He said no.'"

"They put on again, so I put it down and ya know, this is Cole Hamels, World Series MVP like I'm just the rookie giving the sign and so they were like, 'Well hey, go talk to him,' and I shook my head and I was like 'YOU go talk to him --  I don't know what to tell him other you're putting the sign down.'" 

"Chase Utley had come in to be like 'Hey, what's going on guys?' And I said 'They're giving me the pickoff sign and he doesn't want to do it, but they keep giving it to me, and finally they came out and Cole just told the pitching coach like, 'I'm not picking over,' and that was the end of it, and the guy didn't even end up running, but we wasted five minutes of the game."

Bonus: Giants broadcasters Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper

Kruk and Kuip had a "special" form of communication when Kruk would get heated on the mound, as they revealed to NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy Gutierrez.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Giants scrimmage notes: Johnny Cueto named Opening Day starter again

Giants scrimmage notes: Johnny Cueto named Opening Day starter again

The last thing Giants manager Gabe Kapler did before the coronavirus shut down the sport was name Johnny Cueto his Opening Day starter. Four months later, that remains the case. 

After Cueto got past 60 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday, Kapler said he had a long conversation with the right-hander and Cueto will start against the Dodgers next Thursday in a nationally-televised game. 

Cueto, of course, had already made this official:

That was some of the news of the day. Here's more from the five-inning game at Oracle Park between Team Black and Team Orange, along with some updates from Kapler: 

--- The highlight of the game was Alex Dickerson's bomb to right off Shaun Anderson:

--- Tyler Heineman put a bunt down and also stole third for the second time in a week. He continues to make an impression in the battle for the starting catcher job, and Kapler has spent a fair amount of time after workouts talking about the little things Heineman does well. 

--- Triples Alley is six feet shorter, but it's still an easy triple for Steven Duggar. He lined one out there with two runners on and cruised into third standing up even though Joe McCarthy got to the ball pretty quickly. Two runs scored. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

--- Joey Bart had a hard single to right in his first at-bat, but his most impressive feat came two pitches earlier. On the first pitch he saw from hard-throwing righty Rico Garcia, Bart smacked a liner to right that bounced off the bricks where the Alaska Airlines suite is located in foul territory down the line. He was about 10 feet away from an opposite-field double off the archway, which is a pretty solid feat for a right-hander at Oracle Park. 

Bart has as strong an opposite-field approach as you'll see from a young hitter, and he's not afraid of the ballpark, which generally favors right-handers who pull the ball. When he's up here, you're going to see a few of those rare right-handed-homers into the arcade. 

That's the future. Here's the present, and his single:

--- The news is all good on the health front. Brandon Belt was out of his walking boot and took some swings. Tony Watson threw a second live BP session and Kapler said he's "progressing towards being ready for us" next week against the Dodgers. Jarlin Garcia, who has been on the IL for undisclosed reasons, should be back in camp tomorrow. Garcia was having a huge spring and would be a key lefty in the bullpen if ready. There is nothing new on Billy Hamilton, though. 

--- The Giants added outfielder Jose Siri to their player pool. The 24-year-old is a former Reds prospect the Giants picked up earlier this year, in part because hitting coach Donnie Ecker -- formerly with the Reds -- liked his potential. "He was a guy with a high ceiling for the Reds and a prospect there with tools and athleticism and power," Kapler said. 

[RELATED: As Puig signs with Braves, Giants stay focused on next wave]

--- Every day there's a new thing you notice about a park with no fans. Today the media could clearly make out the conversations on the infield, which were all happening in Spanish for Team Orange. Wilmer Flores (Venezuela), Donovan Solano (Colombia) and Mauricio Dubon (Honduras) were at first, second and third, with Cueto (Dominican Republic) pitching to Chad Tromp (Aruba). Evan Longoria was at third, but seemed to be following along. It was pretty cool to watch.

Kapler mentioned earlier this week that one advantage Tromp has over the other catchers is his ability to more easily communicate with the team's Spanish-speaking pitchers. Cueto was followed on the mound by Wandy Peralta, who is also from the Dominican Republic. 

Giants forgoing Yasiel Puig sweepstakes has team focusing on next wave

Giants forgoing Yasiel Puig sweepstakes has team focusing on next wave

A few minutes after word leaked that Yasiel Puig will sign with the Braves, a hitting group took the field at Oracle Park that showed exactly why he wasn't necessary in San Francisco this year. 

Mike Yastrzemski took his swings with Darin Ruf, who has been a camp revelation and is being counted on to fill the role of right-handed masher in the lineup this season. Yastrzemski, though, is the one who really is indicative of why the Giants are keeping it in-house as the season approaches. 

The Giants did something simple with Yastrzemski last year. They gave him a chance. 

Yastrzemski, 107 games and 21 homers later, might now be Farhan Zaidi's best big leaguer, and the hope with the front office is that the 2019 discovery is just the start. 

Yastrzemski is likely to be an everyday player for Gabe Kapler, and the Giants are hopeful that Jaylin Davis, 26, joins him. Mauricio Dubon, 25, looks headed for a meaty role in the outfield, too, and 27-year-old Austin Slater is going to get another look. The staff also likes Joe McCarthy, a 26-year-old who was acquired at the deadline last year and boasts a .376 OBP in the minors. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Much of the attention over the last two weeks has been on the younger kids, the Lucianos, Toribios and Canarios of the organization. But the Giants have a slightly older class of hitters, primarily outfielders, who are looking to prove they're part of the future, too, and they don't have a Triple-A season to get them ready. Every at-bat given to a free-agent outfielder is one taken away from Davis or Slater or maybe Dubon. 

Of course, the Giants aren't just here to develop players. They hope to compete this season, and Puig -- for all the headaches he brings -- is a proven right fielder. He is no longer, however, a proven star. Puig's OPS+ last year was a league-average 100 and he has just one three-WAR season since 2014. He was not going to be a game-changer for the Giants, and realistically, there's nobody out there who can change their fate too much now that Buster Posey has opted out. 

[RELATED: Fantasy baseball rankings for Giants, A's]

This season is what it is, but the Giants do honestly look headed for a much brighter future. The teenagers are coming fast, and Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop should arrive in the outfield in the next year or two. The hope is that when they do, Yastrzemski has company in the lineup, that a Davis or Dubon or Slater has locked down a permanent role. 

As the Giants proved last year, the only way to find those guys is to give them a shot, give them some "runway" to succeed or fail, as Zaidi has said many times in his two years here. That wasn't going to happen with another veteran joining the group nine days before the opener.