Down on the Farm: Joe Panik starts rehab assignment, Mac Williamson hits moon shot


Down on the Farm: Joe Panik starts rehab assignment, Mac Williamson hits moon shot

The Giants’ infield gained Evan Longoria on Thursday just as they lost Brandon Belt to the DL. In Sacramento, the big league club’s infield got even closer to full strength with who was playing second base down in Triple-A. 

For the first time since July 6, Joe Panik was back on the field to begin his rehab assignment from a groin injury. Panik started at second base for the Sacramento River Cats and batted second in the lineup, one spot ahead of familiar face Mac Williamson. 

In his first at-bat back, Panik shed off any rust he might have had. After working the count to three balls and two strikes with three foul balls, Panik finished an eight-pitch at-bat with a fly ball single to right field. One batter later, Williamson followed with a towering 457-foot home run to straightaway center field. 

Williamson is doing everything he can to make it back to San Francisco in what is now a crowded outfield. In his last 10 games, Williamson is batting .325 (13-for-40) and now has three home runs in his last seven games. How to get him back on the 25-man roster will be a puzzle in itself, but there’s no denying the power when healthy. 

Overall, Panik played five innings before being replaced by Miguel Gomez at second base in the sixth inning. He finished the night 1-for-3 with his single and two fly outs, one to center field and one to left field. 

Before Panik went on the DL, he struggled at the plate for June and the six games he’s played in July. Between the two months, Panik hit just .218 (24-for-110). The lefty isn’t striking out — taking a seat just seven times with no strikeouts in July — instead he simply hasn’t found any holes this season. 

Last year, Panik had a BABIP of .301, meaning his batting average of balls in play was .301. This season, that number is down .238 which is the lowest in his major league career. Panik is not finding hits when he puts the ball in play despite his hard-contact rate of 30 percent tying his career high. 

Anderson takes the loss

Shaun Anderson, making his second Triple-A start, saw firsthand how tough the Pacific Coast League can be for pitchers. And Raley Field isn’t nearly close to one of the worst pitchers parks in the league. 

The Omaha Storm Chasers totaled 14 hits on the night, eight coming off Anderson. When it was all said and done, he left the game allowing nine runs, but only six earned as the River Cats made three errors including one by Anderson himself in the first inning. 

On a positive note here, despite giving up a season high in runs and allowing the second-most hits in a start this year, the 23-year-old Anderson still got through six innings and has not gone under five innings in any of his starts this season.

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

One team reportedly might be making their final push to sign Bryce Harper, and it's not the Giants. 

Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton's private jet was in Las Vegas -- hometown of the free-agent outfielder -- on Friday, a "person in that city" told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury. 

This does not, however, mean the Phillies and Harper are quite ready to complete a deal, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Friday night.

Hours earlier, the Washington Nationals ruled themselves out of signing Harper. The Nationals drafted Harper No. 1 overall in 2010, and he has played all 927 games of his major league career in a Nats uniform to this point.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported Friday night that the Nationals want Harper to sign anywhere but with their NL East rivals. 

Although the Giants are one of the last remaining teams in the mix, NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Friday that San Francisco doesn't "intend to do dollar-to-dollar" with Philadelphia. 

[RELATED: When Giants' spring training competitions will start]

Yet, that doesn't mean this all comes as a surprise to the Giants. They already saw the Phillies as the favorites to land Harper. 

If Middleton's presence in Las Vegas leads to something larger, the Giants might not have to wait for Harper's official decision all that much longer. 

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Real baseball gets closer by the day, and on Friday morning, we finally got a 2019 Giants lineup. 

Well, kind of. 

The group that will take the field Saturday against the Angels includes potentially just one starter, depending on who you think will win the jobs in left and right. But there still will be plenty to watch. 

Cameron Maybin and Yangervis Solarte will make their Giants debuts, hitting first and third, respectively. Mac Williamson, Austin Slater and Henry Ramos, all fighting for outfield jobs, will start. Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick, is starting in center. Aramis Garcia, who hopes to win a backup job, will catch Chris Stratton. 

Stratton may be in the toughest spot. He is out of options and seventh on the starting depth chart. 

"He's a guy we look at as a starter and a long man," manager Bruce Bochy said. "The guys that are out of options, we've got to make a call there for sure."

Stratton has had some dominant stretches at the big league level but hasn't shown consistency. Ditto for Ty Blach, who will be stretched out this spring but profiles as a reliever moving forward. Although you never know ...

"You saw what happened last year," Bochy said, smiling. "He ended up being our Opening Day starter."

Bochy plans to have Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik in the lineup Sunday for the home Cactus League opener. He had previously said that Buster Posey, coming off hip surgery, will not play until March 1. On Friday, Bochy said Steven Duggar (shoulder surgery) and Ryder Jones (knee surgery) will also be held out until March 1. 

Duggar still should have plenty of time to try to win the job in center. 

"This was the plan," Bochy said. "But he's doing well. He's doing just about everything. We just don't want him diving for a ball."

--- The main story today is on Mac Williamson, who battled a concussion last season. He opened up about how difficult the summer was. 

--- Nick Vincent passed his physical last night and is officially a Giant. 

"A good arm, a good pitcher," Bochy said. "He increases our depth on the bullpen side."

[RELATED: Is Bryce Harper bidding now two-team race between Giants, Phillies?]

The Giants will have some pretty good arms headed for Sacramento no matter how this all plays out. On a related note, the River Cats announced that they're lowering some of their ticket prices. Even before this, that was a place I have always recommended to Giants fans. It's a really fun place to watch a game.