Giants

Giants excited to see Yolmer Sanchez's revamped swing, fun celebration

Giants excited to see Yolmer Sanchez's revamped swing, fun celebration

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When Derek Holland was designated for assignment last July, the Giants lost their best celebration. Holland’s water jug became a staple of walk-off wins, so much so that a couple of teammates grabbed jugs to cap the walk-offs that occurred after Holland had been let go. 

This year’s team will have a new set of signals and celebrations, and the Giants have a new infielder who seems well-positioned to earn fan-favorite status. Yolmer Sanchez takes walk-off wins to a different level:

Sanchez said he started dousing himself because he simply likes to have fun, and he pointed out that you never know how long your big league career will last. You have to make the most of it. 

“I try to enjoy my time and enjoy everything that we do as a group,” he said. “I did it and the fans liked it so I continued to do it.”

The Giants are hoping Sanchez is doing more than just celebrating big hits. They are confident in his bat and the adjustments he’s making, and they’re counting on him to add production to the infield. 

Sanchez won a Gold Glove at second base last year -- he said his goal is to repeat and also win the Platinum Glove given to the league’s best defender -- and the Giants already have seen his slick feet and quick hands in action this spring. But they were more encouraged by what they saw in an early live BP session, when he pulled a homer comfortably over the wall. 

“That was kind of cool to see him square up a fastball and be on time with his swing and drive the ball to the air on the pull side,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “One thing we always know about Yolmer is his defense is always going to be there, so to the degree that some of those swing changes can take effect, we see him as being a really impactful player for us.”

Like most in camp, Sanchez is making subtle changes with a new Giants hitting coach. But his version of the story has a twist. He started working with hitting coach Justin Viele earlier this offseason when Sanchez was still with the White Sox and Viele was a minor league coach for the Dodgers. The two have reunited at Scottsdale Stadium, continuing to work on a new swing path that ideally will have Sanchez hitting more balls up the middle and to the gaps.

“I think that’s one of the things that was exciting about coming here,” Sanchez said of Viele. “He knows what I can do. If I feel good, if I feel comfortable, I believe in my talent and I believe I can do way better than last year, and I’m going to prove it.”

The 2019 numbers were low enough that the White Sox, who spent heavily over the offseason, non-tendered one of the league’s better defenders. Sanchez had a .638 OPS and just two homers, and his OPS+ was below league average for the sixth consecutive season.

But the Giants see some stretches in Sanchez’s past that could make him a good fit for their infield. He had a .738 OPS against lefties last year and was at .724 with eight homers the year before against righties. If the switch-hitter swings that way from either side, he would fit the platoon-heavy roster. 

Regardless, the glove work is so elite that Sanchez has been worth 8.2 WAR over the past three seasons. That should put him in the middle infield mix with Brandon Crawford, Mauricio Dubon, Wilmer Flores and Donovan Solano.

[RELATED: Bochy praises Bart, will have large role in minor leagues]

Sanchez turned down big league offers to come to San Francisco as a non-roster invitee. He’s hoping to win an everyday job and provide some production for the lineup, but if he’s in the dugout when the winning run is scored, Sanchez will be ready to contribute in a far funnier way. He smiled when asked if the Gatorade dumps will make a comeback. 

“We’ll see, that’s something that I don’t practice,” Sanchez said. “But I think at the right moment, I will do it, yeah.”

Ex-Giant Javier Lopez recalls vivid details about facing Barry Bonds

Ex-Giant Javier Lopez recalls vivid details about facing Barry Bonds

It took more than a decade, but in 2015, Chase Utley finally got a hit off of Javier Lopez. In their 24th matchup, Utley hit a ball off Lopez's spikes and it rolled into left field, allowing Utley to reach second.

"He asked me to sign the ball while he was staring at me at second base," Lopez said. "We had a little laugh about it."

Their first matchup came all the way back in 2004, when Utley was with the Phillies and Lopez was in his second big-league season with the Rockies. Utley hit into a double play, and it never got any easier. He finished his career with one hit in 23 at-bats against Lopez, with 13 of those outs coming on the ground.

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Lopez said Utley was his favorite matchup among contemporaries. But over his entire career, the moment that really stood out in a left-on-left matchup came against a fellow Giant. Lopez soaked up Barry Bonds highlights while coming through the minors and got to face Bonds in his second month in the big leagues. 

Former Giant Bobby Estalella -- Lopez said the massive catcher's nickname was Chestalella -- was behind the plate for the Rockies and came running out to the mound when Bonds walked up. 

"I think he could tell my heart was beating through my jersey. He was like, 'Alright, calm down, just stay with me the entire time. We're going to throw breaking balls, the slower the better, because he cannot stay back. He's a tremendous hitter but he struggles with that pitch,'" Lopez recalled. "I was like, 'Whatever you put down I'm going to throw.' I remember I threw a fastball and they called it a ball and I'm walking back to the mound, I lick my fingers, I'm rubbing the ball, and Barry Bonds has not left the box. That was his thing, standing in there and just kind of wiggling his bat. I was like, 'Oh boy, here we go.'"

Lopez threw a couple of sliders and got a strike Bonds didn't like. Then he tried a fastball up-and-in and watched as Bonds pulled a missile foul. First baseman Todd Helton looked at him with a clear signal in his eyes: Don't throw that pitch again. Lopez went back to his sweeping breaking ball and Bonds swung through it and headed back to the dugout. Lopez watched him go. 

"I'm staring at Barry Bonds not because I'm some cool stud," he said. "I'm just like, 'That's Barry Bonds and I just got him out."

They faced off nine more times before Bonds retired, with the home run king picking up a double and two singles, but no bombs. Lopez struck Bonds out three times overall, something that naturally came up years later when they were both affiliated with the Giants. He recalled telling Bonds he had punched him out three times. Bonds asked how many times he homered and was told it never happened. 

"That's because you threw that sidearm cheating stuff," he replied. 

Lopez had his own legendary Giants career and is now one of the team's broadcasters. Bonds works for the team as an advisor and spends time with players in spring training. Lopez said the two still laugh about their matchups whenever they get together. 

[RELATED: Latest MLB proposal would have big impact on Giants veterans]

"He's such a great player," Lopez said. "Just to know that he's a small chapter in my book, my strikeout book -- it's a very short book -- but it's nice that he's got a page in it."

For more from Lopez on his big league memories, the current MLB proposal to the Players Association and his excellent walk-up songs, you can download the Giants Insider Podcast here or stream it here: 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Field to Table: Garlic fries recipe for making Oracle Park treat from home

Field to Table: Garlic fries recipe for making Oracle Park treat from home

There's nothing like the smell of garlic fries that greets you when you walk into Oracle Park.

With Giants baseball on indefinite hiatus due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, what better way to pass the time than make garlic fries at home?

NBC Sports Bay Area has teamed up with Wine.com to create the "Field to Table" cooking show, where we'll attempt to cook our favorite ballpark treats from home.

Giants studio host Kelli Johnson, Giants insider Alex Pavlovic and "Shelter on Base/Triples Alley" member Anthony Garcia all attempt to make the Oracle Park delicacy from scratch in the debut show of "Field to Table."

Check out the video above for the recipe and to see their cooking skills on display.

Receive $25 off a $100-or-more order on Wine.com by using the promo code "NBCSPORTS"