Down on the Farm: Morse plays left, goes hitless in first rehab game

Down on the Farm: Morse plays left, goes hitless in first rehab game

Michael Morse was back on the field in a Giants uniform for the first time in nearly a month Tuesday night. Well, that is, a San Jose Giants uniform in Advanced Single-A. 

Morse, 35, began his rehab assignment after straining his hamstring rounding first base in spring training on March 20. 

“It’s really too bad for him. He was doing all he needed to do to make the club. It’s a shame,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said at the time of the injury.

Morse went 0-for-2 with a walk, a strikeout and a run scored Tuesday in San Jose as the Giants took down the Salt Lake Bees, 3-2. Most interestingly, he played left field for seven innings and caught the only ball hit his way. 

In his first at-bat back in action, Morse drew a walk and later scored on a Dillon Dobson liner to center, which also plated catcher Aramis Garcia, scoring all the Giants’ runs for the game in the first inning alone. Morse's strikeout came on a called strike three in his next time up, but he showed promise with his final at-bat. 

At the plate in the bottom of the fifth with Giants’ 2016 first-round pick Bryan Reynolds at first, Morse rocketed a line shot to third. Unfortunately, it was snagged and resulted in a double play. 

Morse was replaced defensively in the top of the eighth inning by Daniel Carbonell. 

In spring training, Morse impressed Bochy with his bat as well as his glove and fitness.

“I think, not just the way he was swinging the bat, but he was playing a good first base and I put him in the outfield,” Bochy said. “I think he was moving around well. He came into camp in tremendous shape. That should show him he still has some baseball left. Good baseball.”

Morse played in 14 games for the Giants in spring training, spending time at both first base and left field. He hit .258 with a .343 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage while knocking out two home runs. 

“I proved to myself that I can still play,” Morse said the day after his injury. “And I proved to myself yesterday that I’m not really a fast runner.”

The last time Morse played in the majors, he went hitless suiting up in six games for the Pirates in 2016. He also has not played in left field since 2015, where he made no errors in 35 innings for the Marlins. 

Morse proved he can still play in spring training. Now he must prove he can stay healthy to be that spark he was for the Giants again, just like back in 2014. And it all starts down on the farm in San Jose. 

Around The Horn

— Morse isn’t the only veteran outfielder for the Giants in the minors looking to make it back up to the bigs. Drew Stubbs, 32, has only played in five games for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats and already has 10 strikeouts. He is improving though, going 4-for-10 in his last two games. Justin Ruggiano, 35, is also in the outfield mix for the River Cats. He has struggled so far, hitting only .214 with 10 strikeouts in eight games. 

— The Christian Arroyo hit parade continues in Sacramento. Arroyo belted his second home run of the season Tuesday night and now has an 11-game hit streak. At 21 years old, he is batting .442, which leads the Pacific Coast League. 

— Last week, Aramis Garcia was named to the MLB Pipeline Prospect Team of the Week. After missing much of the season injured in 2016, Garcia, 24, is hitting .341/.386/.610 with three home runs and 13 RBI in nine games. 

Scott Boras selling Bryce Harper to teams with LeBron James comparison

Scott Boras selling Bryce Harper to teams with LeBron James comparison

While the chances of Bryce Harper of joining the Giants seem slim and the A’s non-existent, it’s still interesting to note how the free-agent outfielder’s agent is marketing him to prospective teams.

That’s because Harper’s contract will set the market this offseason, and therefore the direction of teams that don’t even sign him.

USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale detailed how Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, is presenting his client’s worth in meetings, including in a 118-page handbook that, among other things, compares the outfielder to NBA superstar LeBron James and explains how he’s worth $1 billion to a franchise.

“My goal in this thing is to let teams know what they’re getting -- that’s why we brought in the LeBron comparisons,” Boras said. “A lot of people don’t know what he’s done by the age of 25, and how that compares to what LeBron James did at 25. You get a very clear path on how hard it is to achieve a standard of excellence in an arena where you’re both No. 1 picks, both rookies of year, both MVPs, and set a standard that no one can meet.”

Boras predicts Harper will have two, possibly three, serious suitors, according to Nightengale. Will the Giants be one of them, swayed by Boras’ research of minute details such as Harper being thrown just 41 percent of all pitches in the strike zone, and hitting .327 with a .779 slugging percentage on fastballs thrown at least 94 mph?

[RELATED: How Giants really should use Harper contract money]

According to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic, the Giants have downplayed their interest in Harper, but they might seek a meeting with him. Although Harper would be an enticing addition, the cost -- more than the $300 million he reportedly rejected from the Washington Nationals -- could be too high, especially with San Francisco's immediate roster needs.

But the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants’ NL West rivals, reportedly met with Harper last month, and they always seem to have money to burn. Still, if Harper signs with the Dodgers but is more LeBum than LeBron, it could reshape the division for years to come.

Three questions for Giants to answer as MLB Winter Meetings start


Three questions for Giants to answer as MLB Winter Meetings start

LAS VEGAS -- The MLB Winter Meetings have never been held in a spot with more distractions than the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, but for the Giants executives settling into their suite Sunday afternoon, the next week is all about how much work there is to do. 

Farhan Zaidi got a late start to the offseason, but that hasn't been an issue. Aside from a few big trades and signings, the market is intact, and the Giants remain poised to execute whatever plan Zaidi presented to Larry Baer in a long meeting that made him the man for the head of baseball operations job.

The details of that plan are one of three big questions to be answered this week:

What's the roster going to look like?

Until Zaidi makes a couple of moves, we won't have a true idea of what he's thinking the 2019 team can look like. For now, we have some information, though.

The Giants are looking for starting pitching, and they obviously have major issues in the lineup. The fan base would feel a lot better if there were some sort of outfield addition this week, although team officials continue to downplay the possibility of a run at Bryce Harper. This team does not in any way appear to be at the start of the rebuild. 

Many of Zaidi's moves will be made on the edges. Letting Hunter Strickland and Gorkys Hernandez go shows that he believes there are equal (and cheaper) alternatives on the market. The Giants haven't yet found those alternatives, or players to fill in a 40-man roster that has only 34 players, but this is the week when that should heat up. 

[RELATED: Zaidi makes Winter Meetings unpredictable]

What does a new front office actually think of the holdovers?

Zaidi has not publicly said much about the 2018 roster, only noting that it's a group he likes but one not good enough that any options should be off the table. This week, he'll meet with the media at least three times, and countless other whispers will emerge from the endless churn of information-gathering at the Mandalay Bay. 

Do the Giants actually want to trade Madison Bumgarner? We'll have much better intel in a few days. Will Brandon Belt or Evan Longoria be put on the block? What's the real plan for Buster Posey, who is coming off hip surgery? Does Zaidi like Derek Holland and Nick Hundley as much as they like the Giants?

By the end of this week, we'll know much more about the new president's thoughts on a team he repeatedly beat over the last four years. 

What's the future of the front office and staff?

Manager Bruce Bochy is not expected to address his future this week, but he is entering the last year of his contract and he has a new boss, so he'll be asked if this is his last year with the Giants. Don't expect an answer just yet. 

We do have some answers about the new staff, though. According to The Athletic, Zaidi has hired Zack Minasian as pro scouting director and Michael Holmes as amateur scouting director. Both come highly regarded, and it's possible that other newcomers will be in the suite this week, or that Zaidi will speak with potential candidates as the whole industry is gathered in one place.