Giants encouraged by Jeff Samardzija's progress to begin spring training

Giants encouraged by Jeff Samardzija's progress to begin spring training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If you sent a congratulatory text to Bruce Bochy and you haven't heard back yet, don't worry. There's quite the backlog. 

A day after he announced that this will be his final season, Bochy said he couldn't believe how many people reached out in the following hours. 

"By the time I got back to my office, the phone had blown up completely," he said. "I didn't see that coming. I've heard from everybody."

Bochy got a break from the texting Tuesday morning, when the Giants took the field for the first round of live batting practice sessions. It started with Madison Bumgarner against Joey Bart, because the other members of Bart's hitting group wanted him to go first. 

"They wanted to make sure Bum wouldn't throw one way up and in on the first pitch," Bochy said, smiling. "So they put the kid up there."

Bumgarner did not throw at Bart. That's one observation from the day, here are a few more ... 

Sharp Shark

Jeff Samardzija said he has eight hurdles to hit this spring: Bullpen session, "heavy" bullpen session, live BP session, and then five Cactus League starts. He got through his live BP on Tuesday and said it felt good. Samardzija threw all his pitches while facing players on a back field. 

"No pain, no restrictions," he said. "I just need more work."

He'll get it. Samardzija, coming off a season-ending shoulder injury, will be in the rotation when the Giants kick off spring action this weekend. The Giants are encouraged by how he feels, and anticipate Samardzija being ready to start the season. 

"I thought he threw really well," Bochy said. "He had a nice day out there."

Different Look

We've gotten used to some trash talk during the first day of live BP, but there was none of that today. We didn't see a Bumgarner vs. Buster Posey matchup as we've gotten in the past. There was an interesting feel to the sessions, though. 

[RELATED: Posey appreciates Bochy's longevity, passion for the game]

The Giants set up a TrackMan machine behind the pitcher and a Rapsoda device about 40 feet in front of the mound. They're tracking spin rate, release point, etc.  on just about every pitch now, even if it's just live BP. 

For years, we would see Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner standing behind the pitcher. On Tuesday it was Yo Miyamoto, the club's manager of video systems. He had a laptop in his hand and could give the data right to the pitcher. The Giants were already using TrackMan and Rapsodo last season, but they've certainly appeared to swim even further into the deep end when it comes to all this stuff. 

Camp Versatility. 

Guys will move all over during camp, so not too much can be deciphered by early fielding work. But it was interesting to see Aramis Garcia get a lot of work in at first yesterday, and Stephen Vogt spend a chunk of the early workouts taking fly balls in left. Bochy has said the team may carry three catchers, so at least one of the backups will need to be able to move around the field. 

Sad News

Don Newcombe, the legendary Dodgers pitcher, passed away at the age of 92. I'll never forget the way Newcombe would come to visit Bochy during every Dodgers series. He was always in a suit, no matter how hot it was at Dodger Stadium, and he would walk over when Bochy was talking to the media and wait patiently with his wife, Karen. Often times they would stand there for 10-15 minutes and wait for Bochy to finish his required work before they could have a quick chat.

[RELATED: Pence calls playing for Bochy with Giants 'a real honor']

"Every time we went to L.A. they made sure they came over and said hello," Bochy said. "We talked about baseball and different things. I don't know if we ever missed a series, that's just how nice this man was, to come over and say hello to me. I just respect him so much for what he did in baseball -- this guy won a Cy Young and an MVP in a year, and served in the military. 

"He was just a real nice gentleman that was I'm sure inspiring for all the players there in L.A."

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, MLB free agency is heating up.

One of the top available pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner -- is expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves and Zack Wheeler reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract with the Phillies. For teams who scoff at Gerrit Cole's price tag, Bumgarner might be the logical compromise.

The Giants have been "in communication" with Bumgarner, but rumor has it another interested team has entered the mix.'s Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to Bumgarner, citing a source.

St. Louis already has brought back veteran Adam Wainwright on a one-year deal, and after he, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, there appears to be an opening for Bumgarner in the starting rotation. Signing with the Cardinals would not only allow Bumgarner to continue pitching in the National League, but would also allow him to continue taking his own at-bats, which we know he loves so much. He also has been linked to teams such as the Twins and White Sox, but would forfeit his at-bats to a DH in each of those situations.

[RELATED: How Wheeler's reported $118M contract could affect MadBum]

While Bumgarner is expected to receive a contract in excess of $100 million, Feinsand suggests Wheeler's reported $118 million payday might serve to increase the total.

MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority


MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.

The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.

The team that historically always has had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday, citing a source.

Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.

But if the Yankees, who always have jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.

Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.

[RELATED: Report: Giants targeted UGA's pitching coach for same role]

While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.

Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.