Dereck Rodriguez feels at home in Denver as Giants show off versatility

Dereck Rodriguez feels at home in Denver as Giants show off versatility

DENVER -- Any time you take the mound at Coors Field, you know you're likely in for a shootout. When you do so after your team scored 19 runs in the first game of a doubleheader, you probably expect an extra layer of fireworks, too. 

Yet Dereck Rodriguez experienced none of that. In his return to the big leagues, the Giants managed just two runs. It was a normal game, the type you would find at sea level. Luckily for the Giants, they handed the ball to a pitcher who somehow finds Coors Field to be a completely normal place to pitch. 

Rodriguez made his big league debut here last year and has said repeatedly that he feels comfortable in the game's toughest park for pitchers. He likes the rubber. He likes the way he feels here. On Monday, he looked right at home while leading the Giants to a 2-1 win. 

"I like the way the mound feels and for me that's a big thing," he said. "If you feel comfortable with the mound, it doesn't matter where you pitch."

There are few pitchers who have ever felt that way in Denver, but Rodriguez was the right guy to have going in Game 2 of a doubleheader that showed off a versatile and -- dare we say it -- suddenly good baseball team. The Giants won a shootout and a nail biter to run this streak to 10 wins in 12 games and get back within four games of .500 for the first time since May 7. They continue to chase down the lead pack in the Wild Card race

When Rodriguez returned to the team previously, he found a group that was losing just about every night and headed nowhere. This time, he could feel the difference right away after spending a couple of weeks in the minors preparing for this start. 

"I feel the momentum," he said. "You can sense it, man. You can feel the energy."

Most of that came from a stunning offensive performance in the afternoon, and in the evening the Giants got another homer from Brandon Crawford and a solo shot from Stephen Vogt. The bullpen was brilliant, with Sam Dyson striking out the side in the eighth and Will Smith getting through the heart of the order in the ninth.

[RELATED: Giants, Dodgers accomplish rare feat]

Rodriguez was asked to get through just five innings, and he allowed just one run on four hits. He struck out six and did so with swagger. 

"The body language said it all," Vogt said. "Whatever you want to call it -- he was focused and locked in. He was determined. It was great."

How Giants manager Gabe Kapler plans to handle veteran core of lineup

How Giants manager Gabe Kapler plans to handle veteran core of lineup

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler spent the last month talking to Giants employees about why he would be the right fit for the job, and on Wednesday he spent nearly an hour on a podium discussing his past and future. But now Kapler plans to listen.

The new Giants manager is three months from the start of spring training and soon after that he'll have to start putting together lineups. On the Giants Insider Podcast, Kapler said he plans to talk to core players before revealing any preferences. 

"An executive in Los Angeles once said to me: 'Know where they've been, know where they are, know where they're going," Kapler said. "In order to know those three things, I need to be able to ask those questions and hear what's going on in their brains."

The arrival of Kapler -- and general manager Scott Harris -- should lead to big changes even if the Giants aren't able to trade any veterans. Bruce Bochy had too much respect for Buster Posey's past accomplishments to move him out of the heart of the order, but Kapler enters without that history.

Brandon Crawford is coming off a down year and could lose time to Mauricio Dubon or a newcomer. Brandon Belt didn't hit for much power last year, but Bochy hit him leadoff at times because of his ability to have good plate appearances, and Kapler complimented Belt during his press conference Wednesday. 

"I've thought a lot about Brandon Belt (and) how impressive it is to watch him take an at-bat, independent of the outcome of the at-bat," Kapler said. "He tends to look over pitches and make really good swing-or-don't-swing decisions."

It'll now be up to Kapler to figure out the best configuration. He said he already has started digging into his new options, and he's excited about meeting the longtime Giants. 

"In preparing for an interview like this, you start to learn the players: The areas where they've taken off since you might have seen them last, the areas where they might have regressed a little bit," he said. "Before any real lineup decisions are made or any strategic decisions are made, tactical decisions, you have conversations with the players. I think that's a really important part of the process that sometimes gets blown past.

"I don't think it makes any sense for me to come in here and say Brandon Belt is going to lead off for us and Evan Longoria will hit in this spot and Buster Posey is going to play 'X' amount of games. All of those things we have an idea and a feel for, but much more importantly, before I make any decision like that or suggest any decision like that, I'll have a conversation with Buster, have a conversation with Evan, find out where they've been."

The perception in some circles is that Kapler was brought in partly because he can have those conversations before taking lineup suggestions from Zaidi, a close friend. But Kapler said he had autonomy in Philadelphia and doesn't expect a change, although he's happy to have input from the front office.

[RELATED: Zaidi lands his guy in Kapler, who must prove he fits Giants]

"I see it as a plus and a positive that Farhan will be invested in what happens on the field," he said. "That's the way it should be. But it's also important to note that I have a fairly strong personality. I've always shared my opinions. I always will share my opinions. We'll just come to the best decisions that help the San Francisco Giants win baseball games."

For more of Kapler's thoughts on strategy, bullpen usage, developing top prospects, his reunion with Zaidi, and those ice cream urban legends, you can stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Click here to watch the full Kapler interview

MLB rumors: Yankees interested in free agent pitcher Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Yankees interested in free agent pitcher Madison Bumgarner

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but Madison Bumgarner will be a hot commodity in MLB free agency.

The Atlanta Braves reportedly are the favorites to land the three-time World Series champion, but now another title contender is hoping in adding Bumgarner's services in 2020, after his 11-year run with the Giants.

“I will definitely talk to Bumgarner’s agency,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reportedly told The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea at the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I haven’t. But I will.”

The Yankees' interest is far from a surprise. Not only does the franchise have one of baseball’s most expansive payrolls, but it could use a pitcher who sports a series of dominant playoff performances, considering the Yankees haven’t participated in the Fall Classic since 2009, despite seven postseason appearances in that span.

[RELATED: How Kapler explained 'problem solving' in 2015 blog post]

It remains to be seen how aggressive the Giants will be in trying to re-sign Bumgarner, but it’s clear they won’t be the only ones after the left-hander this winter.