Giants acquire veteran catcher Erik Kratz in trade with Brewers


Giants acquire veteran catcher Erik Kratz in trade with Brewers

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after they made a seemingly endless series of transactions, the Giants got going with an early morning trade. 

Catcher Erik Kratz was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers, with minor league infielder C.J. Hinojosa headed the other way. The deal was made a day after the Giants released Rene Rivera, a similar veteran who appeared in line for an Opening Day job. 

When Rivera was let go, Aramis Garcia looked to be in line for the backup job. But Kratz is a right-handed-hitting veteran who is out of options, so the Giants may keep him instead. Kratz, 38, will be playing for his eighth big league team. He hit .236 for the Brewers last year with six homers and six doubles in 203 at-bats. 

Kratz was a surprise contributor in the postseason, hitting .292 in 26 plate appearances. He is known for doing good work defensively and is a strong clubhouse presence. 

It's unclear why the Giants elected to go with Kratz over Rivera, who worked with their pitchers all camp. Or why they may be shying away from sticking with Garcia, who had a good spring and also knows the pitching staff well. Those questions will be answered in the next four days, and the Giants figure to make many more moves before the dust settles. 

[RELATED: Giants trade Matt Joyce after three days with team]

Hinojosa was once viewed as a future utility man at the big league level, but he was suspended 50 games last season for a positive test for a drug of abuse. When he returned, he posted a .689 OPS. 

To clear a 40-man spot for Kratz, the Giants DFA'd pitcher Jose Lopez, acquired at the start of the spring from the Reds. 

What we learned from Shaun Anderson's second big league start


What we learned from Shaun Anderson's second big league start

SAN FRANCISCO -- Shaun Anderson, the rookie right-hander, didn't hesitate when asked late Tuesday night if there's anything he has learned through his first two starts. 

"Trust the defense," he said.

Anderson had a couple of highlight plays behind him in a 4-3 Giants win, but those eight fielders also are quickly learning that they can trust the new guy. For a second straight start, Anderson went out there and put up a solid performance. He kept the Giants within striking distance on a night when the offense completely disappeared for about two hours, allowing Joe Panik to walk it off in the ninth. 

"Wins like that are awesome," Anderson said. "I tried to keep the game close. If we would have lost by one run there, I would have maybe had a salty taste in my mouth after giving up a run in the sixth." 

Much of this season is now about evaluation, so here are three new things we learned about Anderson on Tuesday: 

--- He mixed it up instead of just leaning on his good fastball (which he talked about on this week's Giants Insider Podcast), and the changeup was particularly effective. Anderson threw 12 of them, getting two called strikes, two swinging strikes, and a foul ball. The Braves didn't put a changeup in play, and it was the finisher for two of Anderson's three strikeouts. 

Ronald Acuña Jr., who led off Monday's game with a homer, waved over the top of a two-strike 86 mph changeup while leading off Tuesday. Austin Riley's massive swing didn't come close to connected to an 84 mph change in the fourth, and he looked up at the replay as he walked back to the dugout. 

"That's always been a pitch I feel good with," Anderson said. "I usually go to the slider (with two strikes) because I feel confident with that, but we were mixing everything with Buster. We gave them a different look."

The concern when Anderson was in the minors was that he might end up a reliever. But if the changeup becomes a weapon along with the fastball and slider, he'll have more than enough to turn lineups over. 

--- Anderson has been talking to Madison Bumgarner a lot, and the staff's ace surely smiled while watching three specific pitches Tuesday. Anderson kept moving the Braves off the plate, partly because he was wild at times, and it was effective. He came up-and-in three times.

With two on in the first, Dansby Swanson got one in around the hands. He leaned way back and hopped away from the plate. Later in the at-bat, he flew out on a slider down and away. Riley was buzzed while leading off the fourth during the at-bat that ended with the strikeout. Acuña had one up near his head in the fifth and then flew out on a slider.

"He goes in and out well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He attacked inside. He had a couple of wild pitches there going in, but he's got an edge to him. He competes so well, that's what you like about him."

[RELATED: Anderson receives support from unique cheering section]

Anderson won't get away with too many like the ones that were near Riley and Acuña's heads, but the pitch to Swanson was effective, and the collection of pitches showed he has no fear about pitching inside. That's important at this level. 

--- A week after he became the first Giants pitcher with two hits in his debut, Anderson was 0-for-1. But he successfully put down a sacrifice bunt, which is something Giants pitchers haven't done much of in the past two seasons. And his strikeout took 10 pitches out of Julio Teheran's arm. Anderson fouled off four before going down. 

He's not going to be Bumgarner -- nobody is -- but doing the little things like getting bunts down and having good at-bats is going to help out quite a bit over the course of a season. 

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have the slowest roster in the big leagues, but they won a game Tuesday night with some speed. Or rather, by mixing some smarts with some speed. 

Braves closer Luke Jackson showed zero interest in checking on runners in the ninth and Kevin Pillar and Mac Williamson took advantage, twice stealing second before Joe Panik’s single brought them both home in a 4-3 win. The late rally came in drips, but it led to a thrilling win on a night when the Giants were absolutely flat for eight innings. 

Jackson seemed to be having issues with the signs, repeatedly asking catcher Brian McCann to run through them again. He was deliberate, and Pillar took advantage first, a few moments after his RBI single with two outs brought Brandon Crawford screaming home and cut the deficit to one. Jackson never checked on Pillar with Pablo Sandoval at the plate and he took off, sliding in just ahead of McCann's throw. 

Sandoval ended up with his 10th pinch-hit of the year, but with Pillar at first, Josh Donaldson's diving stop at third would have led to a game-ending force. Instead, Pillar eased into third as Sandoval raced to first with no throw, reaching on an infield single. Sandoval was replaced by Williamson, who also received no interest from Jackson. On an 0-2 pitch to Panik, he stole second without a throw. 

"That was huge," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Kevin, he's a basestealer and that was a huge base. Once Mac got it, now you realize it just takes a hit to win the game. That's a big base."

Panik's eyes got wide once Williamson touched second. 

"I don't have to hit a double to win the game," Panik said. "I can stay within myself, stay in the middle of the field, and you can win the game with a single."

Panik did, ending a great at-bat by pulling a curveball into right, a few feet past a diving Ozzie Albies. The only speed Panik needed was to get away from a rush of teammates waiting with kidney punches and turkey taps. But before that, he took advantage of tendencies, too. 

Panik has been as locked-in as an Giants hitter the last three weeks, and he fouled off three pitches while getting to 2-2. When Jackson threw a fastball that never threatened the plate, Panik thought back to the scouting report. 

"I thought it was a setup pitch for his breaking ball," he said.

[RELATED: Anderson feels support from rivals]

It was. Jackson went to his curve on 3-2 and the game was over a few seconds later. 

"That's a great comeback," Bochy said. "We looked pretty flat. We just couldn't get going offensively. Their guy (starter Julio Teheran) did a great job on us. That's a huge win.