In first shot at former team, George Kontos plunked a longtime friend


In first shot at former team, George Kontos plunked a longtime friend

PITTSBURGH — George Kontos still speaks regularly to many of the Giants who became close friends during his six seasons in San Francisco, and after his Pirates won the opener of this series, the right-hander stopped by the visiting team’s hotel to catch up. One of the first people he saw was Brandon Crawford. 

A couple hours earlier, Crawford took Kontos’ second pitch off his front foot, turned and sent a joking glare back at the mound, and then jogged to first. It wasn’t exactly how Kontos drew it up when he thought about facing his former team. 

“I was like, ‘You really couldn’t have just gotten out of the way so we could have had an actual at-bat against each other?’” Kontos said a day later. “He goes, ‘I did move a foot. I just moved the wrong one.’”

Crawford joked that he should have rushed the mound. He also suggested a different pitch choice. 

“Throw a fastball, you have a six-run lead,” he said, laughing. “Don’t throw cutter-cutter.”

Kontos pitched the eighth inning of Pittsburgh’s 11-2 win in the opener. After hitting Crawford, he got a ground ball to first that Josh Bell threw away. Kontos struck out Austin Jackson and Nick Hundley before Gregor Blanco’s single loaded the bases for Andrew McCutchen, the story of the night. McCutchen grounded out to third. 

“There was a lot of adrenaline. My heart was pumping fast,” Kontos said. “I’ve made a lot of major league appearances but that was my first one against the Giants and against the guys that I’ve seen hit thousands of times and gone through a lot of stuff with throughout the years. It was definitely a lot of fun. It was exciting. 

“I wish the second pitch didn’t hit Crawford and it could have gone a little different. But it was fun, it was a lot of fun. To get Cutch with the bases loaded, a guy I was teammates with and we have some history in the past, it was definitely an eventful inning but it ended up being alright.” 

Kontos was sent to the Pirates last August after they claimed him to keep him away from the rival Cubs. He has thrived, finding a home in the eighth, between hard-throwers Michael Feliz and Felipe Vasquez. After years of being Bruce Bochy’s fireman in the middle innings, he has been a fixture late in games for a surprising Pirates team. All 18 of his appearances have come in the eighth inning or later, and he has five holds and a save for a club making noise in the NL Central. 

If the Pirates have another late lead in this series, there's a good chance Kontos will once again be called upon. It's something he's looking forward to, but Crawford said he doesn't necessarily feel the same way. He doesn't like facing Gerrit Cole, his brother in law, either. 

"I personally don't like facing guys I know that well," he said. "It's a little bit weird at first."

MLB free agency debate: Where will Nathan Eovaldi sign this offseason?

MLB free agency debate: Where will Nathan Eovaldi sign this offseason?

Editor's note: Each day this week, Giants insider Alex Pavlovic and A's reporter Ben Ross will debate where one of the top five free agents might land this offseason. Thursday's free agent to discuss is Nathan Eovaldi, a veteran right-hander with World Series heroics but just decent regular-season numbers.

ALEX: Ben, I'm fascinated by Nathan Eovaldi. He pulled a Yusmeiro Petit, except he did it while throwing 100 mph during a World Series game.

The Madison Bumgarner comparisons -- in terms of doing whatever it takes to help your team get to that final World Series win -- are there, too. In an age of guys babying their arms, it was so impressive to see a starter go out there and just let it all hang out even though he knew he'd hit free agency just a few days later. You hope that his arm is OK, and that someone will reward him for that effort.

BEN: I don’t think any free agent earned himself more money during the playoffs than Eovaldi did. He had a decent regular season (3.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP), but his postseason was legendary. He earned $2 million in each of the last two seasons but now is looking at around $15 million per year.

I thought the A’s would have interest, but his postseason probably priced them out of contention. I have to think Boston is the front-runner to re-sign him. Where else could he land?

ALEX: I've got some thoughts, but first I want to go back to your team. Have they indicated what their price range is? I agree that Eovaldi probably is out at this point, but was he in range before the postseason? It's amazing what they did with castoffs last year, but they have to get a couple more dependable arms in that rotation at some point.

BEN: Agreed. Even Billy Beane acknowledged that last month. The A’s haven’t indicated a specific price range, but it's not their MO to spend big money on free agents, especially when a lot of their current roster will be getting pay raises next year. To me, Eovaldi would’ve been a realistic target at around $8 million per year, but he's not at $15 million.

ALEX: He could be a fit for the Giants, and he's certainly the type that Farhan Zaidi might have targeted in Los Angeles. But I think others will be more aggressive after Eovaldi's postseason. MLB Trade Rumors listed half the league, practically, as potential fits: Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, Rangers, Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Dodgers, Angels, Giants.

BEN: He has certainly become a hot commodity. I think the Yankees and Astros make a lot of sense, as do the Giants. But ultimately, I think he'll stay in Boston. The Red Sox know how valuable he was to their World Series. What’s your pick?

ALEX: I'm going off the board a bit, to a team that really needs some frontline starting pitching. The Angels -- for four years and $64 million -- are my pick for one of the stars of the postseason.

BEN: Interesting. The Angels definitely make sense with their lack of starting pitching. But I’ll say Eovaldi gets four years, $60 million from the Red Sox.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Thursday is dedicated to free agent pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.
Will the Phillies be in the Eovaldi mix?
How Eovaldi set himself up for big payday
How does Eovaldi fit the White Sox?

Farhan Zaidi says it's 'not absolutely necessary' for Giants to hire GM

Farhan Zaidi says it's 'not absolutely necessary' for Giants to hire GM

Farhan Zaidi knows what makes a great GM in Major League Baseball. He might not be looking at a mirror and asking, "Who in this land is fairest of all?" but it could be close. 

The Giants have their new man in charge with Zaidi as the president of baseball operations, yet as the hot stove heats up, the team still is without a GM. It doesn't sound like they're in a rush, either. 

"That process is on-going," Zaidi said Thursday morning on KNBR. "Obviously, it's tricky getting permission for top front-office talent. We're working on a number of fronts on that. And we want to make sure we find the right person. ... We're taking our time, we're vetting candidates, and again, the permission process isn't always straightforward." 

[PAVLOVIC: Will Giants take shot at Nathan Eovaldi, another risky starting pitcher?]

As the Giants take their time searching for the right candidate, the team might be without a GM for the near future and beyond. Though he's new to the organization, Zaidi is putting his trust in the structure of San Francisco's front office. 

"At the end of the day, it's a position obviously we'd really like fill," Zaidi said. "But there's a very competent, skilled front office in place. So, it's not absolutely necessary if we don't feel like have the right person."

[PAVLOVIC: Manny Machado doesn't fit with Giants even if they clear infield space]

Zaidi spent the past four seasons as Dodgers GM. The team won the NL West all four years and made the World Series twice. While it would be ideal having a pairing of Zaidi in the higher position with a GM working with him, he's the right man to handle duel duties for now.