Former Giants pitching prospect Clayton Blackburn announces retirement


Former Giants pitching prospect Clayton Blackburn announces retirement

SAN FRANCISCO -- When a rookie is called up for the first time, the Giants go to great lengths to make sure family members and friends are flown into town in time for his debut. The clubhouse staff is diligent about collecting scorecards and baseballs and anything else that might later get signed by 24 other guys and presented to the player. 

There's a reason for all of that. It's a huge moment, the culmination of a lifelong dream. Sometimes that dream never fully gets reached, though. 

Clayton Blackburn, a former top Giants prospect, announced his retirement through an Instagram post this week. It must have been tough news for a lot of Giants employees to hear, because while Blackburn was called up for four days in 2016, he never actually got into a game. Blackburn, 26, wrote that after repeated setbacks following Tommy John surgery, he is retiring to "work on being a great father and husband." 

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As a little boy my first memories are playing baseball in my front yard by myself all day long in the middle of the summer and dreaming of putting on a major league uniform under the lights. Fast forward 20 years later and that dream was becoming a reality with the @sfgiants and those 4 days I was there was filled with joy and pride but ultimately didn’t get a chance to get into a game. 1 year later I got the phone call again but this time with the @rangers (my childhood favorite team) I was literally living out a dream!! Unfortunately after 3 days I was sent back down and the next spring training tore my UCL and missed the rest of the season. After a year and a half of rehab and continuous set backs I have decided to move on and retire and work on being a great father and husband!!! I can’t thank all the people that have supported me from start to finish enough but from the bottom of my heart thank you!

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The Giants drafted the right-hander in 2011 and he seemed to be ready for a breakout four years later when he posted a 2.85 ERA in Triple-A. Blackburn was called up May 12 the next year with the bullpen needing a fresh arm, but the four starters in that series -- including Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, who were near the end of the line -- ended up combining for 28 innings. Blackburn was optioned out before the next series as George Kontos came off the DL. 

"You always feel bad that you couldn't bring him in, especially with all the family and friends there," manager Bruce Bochy said at the time. "But that's just the way it played out. Jake and Matt threw so well. (Blackburn) even said, 'That's a good thing.'"

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Unfortunately, the same thing happened to Blackburn a year later when he was traded to the Rangers. They called him up in July but he didn't get onto the field in three days. Blackburn signed a minor league deal with the Reds last December but never fully made it back. 

Giants regress in postseason race after wild night at Wrigley Field

Giants regress in postseason race after wild night at Wrigley Field

You're forgiven if you lost track of everything that happened at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night for the Giants. 

A 12-11 loss to the Cubs was one of the wildest games of the year, one in which both starters got rocked, both bullpens buckled, and seven balls left the yard. It was the first time since 2002 that these two teams faced off and each scored double-digit runs. 

The final blow, a two-run shot by Kris Bryant off Reyes Moronta, decided the game and put the Giants in a difficult spot. Here are three takeaways from the second night at Coors Field By The Lake:

A Tough Spot

It's pretty amazing that the Giants played well enough for a stretch to get into the Wild Card discussion, but the climb is once again really, really steep. 

Even before this game, FanGraphs gave the Giants just a 1.4 percent chance of grabbing a wild-card spot, and they're further back after dropping the first two against one of the many teams they're chasing. The problem with trailing so many teams is that on any given night at least one or two of them is going to win. It's hard to make up ground, and the Giants failed to do so Wednesday. 

The four teams at the top of the NL Wild Card race all won Wednesday. The Cubs have the second spot currently, and the Giants are 5 1/2 games back. They're 6 1/2 back of the Nationals with just 35 to play. These guys did what they had to do against the Diamondbacks, taking three of four, but this series in Chicago was the big one on the trip, and so far the Giants have dropped two games to a team they need to catch. 

A Sneaky Timeshare 

It's gone under the radar, but Buster Posey and Stephen Vogt have come pretty close to splitting time this month. Vogt made his 10th start of August on Wednesday night and has 48 at-bats in the month. Posey has started 12 games this month and has 49 at-bats. 

Vogt has provided another power bat against righties and helped spur the sixth-inning comeback, ending a long at-bat against Yu Darvish with a two-run blast to right. He tied the game in the seventh with an RBI single up the middle. There's a reason he's playing so often. 

Another Find?

The Giants put Jandel Gustave on the 40-man roster in July but didn't call him up right away. They saw something in the right-hander and wanted to keep him in the organization, and lately, the rest of us have seen why they were excited. 

Gustave came one pitch away from throwing an immaculate inning and calmed things down with a perfect seventh. He struck out two, lowering his ERA to 1.32 in 10 appearances. 

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The 26-year-old primarily relies on a fastball that sits 97-98 most nights and led to three swinging strikes out of his 14 pitches Wednesday. He has allowed just eight hits in 13 2/3 innings since a promotion and has worked his way into a bigger role. With a few more like this one, he could be a true late-innings guy for Bochy down the stretch, and given the way the bullpen looks right now, maybe the Giants should take a long look and see what Gustave can offer for 2020. 

Giants Brandon Crawford talks childhood hobbies through Topps cards

Giants Brandon Crawford talks childhood hobbies through Topps cards

Editor's note: The Giants sorted through stacks of their own Topps baseball cards as part of the "In the Cards" series with NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic. The third edition is with Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.

When it comes to collecting cards, Brandon Crawford has been involved in the hobby since he was growing up, and even before that.

His dad got him started.

"Even back when he was a kid," Crawford told Pavlovic.

Crawford's dad showed him the ropes when it came to card collecting and he even had one of those impressive binder-full treasure troves of them. 

When the two-time All-Star first saw himself on card, it was before he even got his major league call-up -- he was just a freshman at UCLA.

His collection of memorabilia doesn't stop at cards, either. Crawford kept his All-Star garb as well -- just about everything down to the arm sleeve. 

But the best part of his interview was when Pavlovic pointed out how he has noticed Crawford will always make time to sign anything that's put in front of him by fans. 

[RELATED: Posey details MLB journey through Topps baseball cards]

"That was me as a kid, I wanted to come to the field early and get autographs if I could."

 You can watch the entire Topps "In the Cards" interview with Crawford in the video player above.