Giants

Down on the Farm: Giants top C prospect opens up on concussion

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USATSI

Down on the Farm: Giants top C prospect opens up on concussion

The Giants' top catching prospect, Aramis Garcia, is taking the field at a different position than behind the dish for the first time in his pro career. If it was up to him, that wouldn't be the case. If it was up to the Giants, that wouldn't be the case either. 

But, health always comes first. 

Garcia, 24, sustained his second concussion in the last two years on April 20 as the San Jose Giants took on the Visalia Rawhide. A foul tip rocketed straight back and nailed him in the mask, where metal meets plastic, right on top of his forehead. 

"I mean, it squared me up straight on," Garcia said over the phone to NBCSportsBayArea.com. "Pretty much the worst part of the mask you can get hit on and just kind of lost my balance for a second. I tried to stay in the game. 

"Initially I just thought it was because I got hit in that part of the mask that maybe my head just hurt, but after a couple innings I started to feel different and started to realize it was probably a headache because it started to get worse." 

Garcia came out of the game and was later diagnosed with a concussion. San Jose placed him on the seven-day disabled list and he was kept out of baseball activities for four or five days. Symptoms wise though, he describes the incident as a little more than mild. Once they settled down, Garcia progressed off the field enough to get him back on the field May 3.

Last season, the Giants' second-round pick from the 2014 MLB Draft missed a large chunk due to a freak injury. Hustling to second base to break up a double play, Garcia took a knee to the face resulting in several facial fractures that necessitated surgery and kept him out for two months. 

After he returned to the field last season, he had to make an equipment change.

"I kind of have to wear a hockey-style mask because of my surgery last year," Garcia explained. "I can't wear a two-piece anymore because the pad on the two-piece mask, it kind of goes over the cheek bones and that's one of the areas I had surgery on last year." 

This actually isn't Garcia's first time wearing a hockey-style mask. He wore one in high school, but once he reached college ball at Florida International he switched to a two-piece mask. And he actually prefers the hockey-style mask for two different reasons — vision and comfort. 

The bars on a hockey-style mask are much closer to your face, making your line of vision clearer. Plus, there's padding all along the larger catcher's mask compared to an old-school two-piece. The real question though, does a hockey-mask give you more protection than the minimalist two-piece? 

"There's different opinions on it,” Garcia says. “Some people believe with the two-piece you're able to, because the mask falls off when you're hit, that limits impact. Other people say that the hockey-style is better, so I honestly couldn't tell you.” 

For the time being, Garcia's mask is being put to rest. Since San Jose activated him off the DL, he has strictly played first base and DH. As someone who is usually part of so much of the action and takes pride in his defense, it's frustrating to not catch right now, but Garcia understands the Giants' thought process. 

"Mentally, I'm just trying to stay positive. They're doing this because they want me in the lineup, they want me to get my at-bats," Garcia said on the move away from catching for now. "I feel the same exact way. I don't want to be on the DL anymore after last year and then the short stint this year. I want to play as many games as possible.”

The Giants are finding ways to get Garcia in the lineup for good reason. Before his concussion, Garcia was batting .348 with four home runs and 15 RBI in 11 games played. Since the injury, his offensive numbers have taken a tumble. In 13 games off the DL, Garcia has hit .188 with two home runs, but has drove in another 10 runs.

Even after missing time due to his injury and falling in a slump since returning, Garcia still leads San Jose in RBI (25), already passing his total of 24 in 47 games last year. For him, it's all about keeping it simple and sending credit to his teammates where credit is due. 

"You gotta credit the guys in front of me too and even in the bottom of the order when we have a big inning going. I mean, those guys are getting on base and giving me the opportunity to drive guys in.

"It's just all about having an approach, trying to keep things simple, having an idea of how the pitcher's gonna attack you."

As he mans first base, Garcia feels much more comfortable there than as a DH. He has prior experience playing some first at FIU, but keeping his body loose hasn't exactly been easy at DH.

"You try to do things, like my last start at DH I would do it like Little League style," Garcia said while laughing. "I would run out and go warm up the right fielder just to get a sprint in and keep my arm loose. If that's gonna help me feel like I'm warm for my next at-bat as opposed to sitting in the dugout for 20 or 30 minutes, I'd rather do that." 

The Giants have seen this before. Buster Posey spent time on the seven-day concussion DL this season after taking one off the head at the plate against the D’backs. San Francisco has also gone through a similar situation with a former top catching prospect.

Tommy Joseph, the Giants’ second-round pick in 2009, eventually moved off the position after sustaining multiple concussions. Joseph, now with the Phillies as part of the Hunter Pence trade, hit 21 home runs last season in 107 games.

Garcia is fully committed to catching again when the Giants decide to put him back there and from what he's been told, the move is only temporary. For now, he's taking a leadership mentality no matter where the Giants put him in the field. 

"You just try to do what you can to help your team win and you keep moving forward." Spoken like a true catcher.

MLB rumors: Dodgers interested in outfielders Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock

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AP

MLB rumors: Dodgers interested in outfielders Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock

The MLB Winter Meetings came and went. And we're still waiting to find out which team Bryce Harper will call his home. 

We know the rumors Harper would end up in a Giants jersey quickly circulated, but those flames were fanned out quickly once the pattern of Farhan Zaidi came to surface.

The Giants' new president of baseball operations is not in a position to hand out lucrative contracts -- especially ones of such tremendous nature. 

[RELATED: Zaidi making modern approaches to Giants]

That being said, the Dodgers, the Giants' NL West rivals, has been interested in acquiring not only the top free agent outfielder, but A.J. Pollock as well. He's also a wanted free agent. And the guy can straight up play when he's healthy.

Pollock is a career .281 hitter with an All-Star selection and a Gold Glove Award, and he even was in MVP talks in 2015. Yeah -- 2015 A.J. Pollock was such a good A.J. Pollock.

And with his abilities to play in different outfield spots, as Ken Rosenthal writes, and obviously at a cheaper price tag, Pollock actually is a more tantalizing free agent than Harper in that case. 

The latest rumors circulating around L.A. sings the normal tune of we need to clear some space and some salary. That goes without saying, but it also has a lot to do with possibly letting go of Yasiel Puig.

That's another article.

For now, it's strange to see the Giants starving for outfielders and not making any drastic moves. The current outfield situation is filled with young names, which means not a ton of experience.

The team's latest signing in Mike Gerber has most Giants fans praying that he turns out to be the next Max Muncy.

We have to wait to see if that'll happen, but the team, along with the 29 others, just want Harper, and Manny Machado, to make a decision already. 

If you're impatient, like me, some odds have been made in order to make the waiting game a little more fun:

San Francisco is listed in there, of course, but don't get your hopes up -- it's not in the characteristics of Zaidi, who appears to be on the path of cheaper players and short-term contracts.

But ...

That means he has his eyes open for some diamonds in the rough -- hopefully. 

Bruce Bochy ready to embrace platoons with more versatile Giants roster

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USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Bochy ready to embrace platoons with more versatile Giants roster

SAN FRANCISCO -- The first question to Bruce Bochy during his media session at last week's MLB Winter Meetings was about the use of openers.

It's a question Bochy likely will be asked quite a bit in 2019, because his new boss has made it clear the Giants will be creative with their pitching staff, but another theme from president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi's own sessions with the media will be much more important to the manager. 

Zaidi repeatedly talked about his desire to use platoons -- even noting that the Dodgers essentially had different full lineups for lefties and righties -- and Bochy is fully on board.

Bochy was on the other side of the equation last year when the Dodgers mixed-and-matched their way to another NL West title, and he's ready to have a few more options with the Giants in 2019. 

"I really believe in platooning when it's the right situation, I do," Bochy said on the latest episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. "Why not? It makes sense when the splits are that significant on a certain hitter. If you can get the right player (off) the bench, now you're getting everybody involved, you're resting guys, you're getting a better matchup. All these things make it easier for me."

Bochy always has used platoons with his own teams, especially with young players. On the current roster, it took Brandon Belt in particular a long time to gain his manager's trust against left-handed pitchers. But the last couple of seasons, the Giants simply haven't had the depth to truly embrace platoon life.

Zaidi's main focus early in the offseason has been adding depth and talent to the 40-man roster, giving his manager the ability to mix it up and give guys a break against tough matchups. 

Zaidi already has said he would like a platoon partner for outfielder Steven Duggar, and second baseman Joe Panik could find himself splitting time with a right-handed hitter. Others on the roster have splits that lend themselves to scheduled off days. Belt's OPS was about 200 points lower against lefties than righties last year, which could lead to Buster Posey getting more starts at first base against lefties. Even Posey's OPS dropped over 100 points against righties, and Evan Longoria had a notable drop-off. 

Switch-hitters Pablo Sandoval and Alen Hanson were virtually unplayable against left-handed pitchers, but both mashed right-handers, and that could lead to increased time for them next season. Sandoval had a .816 OPS against righties and Hanson was at .781 with all eight of his homers. 

Could you see Sandoval at third base more often against tough right-handed starters? Hanson in left field on those days? Zaidi hopes to give Bochy additional options. 

"We didn't quite have the depth sometimes to give a guy a break, but I know that's something he likes," Bochy said of Zaidi. "He likes versatility, and I agree. You've seen us move guys around, but to have a guy that's a good athlete -- to the point where he can play second and short and play the outfield -- those guys are invaluable for a team during the course of a season."

You can download The Giants Insider Podcast on iTunes. Bochy discussed openers, platoons, Posey's injury issues, Madison Bumgarner playing first base (seriously), his own future and more.