Giants

Giants GM Scott Harris details meaningful trip to Wrigley Field bleachers

Giants GM Scott Harris details meaningful trip to Wrigley Field bleachers

SAN FRANCISCO -- Farhan Zaidi has been part of the group moving the bullpens to center field at Oracle Park, but once the season starts, he'll never have an up-close view of the action out there. The front office has a suite on the club level and Zaidi also has an office in the clubhouse, where he can work while watching his Giants. 

If Zaidi is able to accomplish his goal of getting the Giants back to the postseason, though, you might see him out in the bleachers by the new bullpens. His general manager might demand it

Scott Harris was an integral part of the Cubs' baseball operations department when the team won the World Series in 2016, and earlier that year, he played a leading role in a moment that went viral. Harris and other Cubs executives watched a game from the bleachers after the Cubs clinched their division, with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein sporting a fake mustache that made him stand out even more than his fame would have. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Harris explained how he got Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, and other Cubs executives to watch a game from Wrigley's wild bleachers. Harris said they generally watched games from the general manager's suite behind the plate and always noticed how much fun fans were having in the bleachers. 

"We were longing for a day when we could actually go out into the bleachers," Harris said. "I kept asking Theo and Jed, 'Hey we should do that one time' or 'Everyone should have the opportunity to go.' They finally said, 'If we win the division, the next day we can all go out to the bleachers.' Sure enough, we won the division and I reminded them via text message that night and we set it up so that we could go sit in the bleachers for that game. 

"We thought we would get away with it for a few innings -- maybe by the seventh inning people would start to catch on. In the very first inning the relievers in the bullpen started pointing at us and then our centerfielder flipped a ball to us. We thought to ourselves, 'Well, our cover is blown.'"

For Harris, hired a week ago to rebuild the organization with Zaidi and Gabe Kapler, it's more than just a funny story and memorable day. It's an example of the kind of leader he wants to be. Asked what stood out about working for Epstein and Hoyer, who finally brought a championship back to Wrigley Field, Harris mentioned their "commitment to culture."

"These are really stressful and very demanding jobs and you often work closely with people for as many as 17 hours a day, so culture is very important, working relationships are very important," Harris said. "You have to work closely together with the people on your baseball ops staff and the president and put yourself in a position to make the right decisions, to make sound baseball decisions one after another after another, to reshape an organization. 

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"They were fully committed to that in Boston (where Epstein won a title). Jed was in San Diego and then both Theo and Jed were in Chicago, and I hope to bring elements of that to San Francisco."

For more of Harris' thoughts on coming to San Francisco, learning from Epstein and Hoyer, developing top prospects, and baseball research and development, you can stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

How Sean Hjelle impressed Farhan Zaidi in Giants spring training debut

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USATSI

How Sean Hjelle impressed Farhan Zaidi in Giants spring training debut

It's easy to pick Giants prospect Sean Hjelle out of the crowd, but the 6-foot-11 pitcher stood out for other reasons over the weekend. 

Hjelle touched 96 mph on the radar gun in a perfect inning during San Francisco's first spring-training win Sunday, closing the Giants' victory over the split-squad A's. With three pitches, Hjelle caught Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi's attention.

"[He's] already an intimidating presence out there on the mound, [6-11] with a downhill plane," Zaidi said on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show" on Monday, "and I love that he just came in and threw strikes."

The 22-year-old finished the 2019 season in Double-A with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, posting a 6.04 ERA in 25 1/3 innings in five August appearances. He likely will spend a lot of time in Richmond in 2020, but Hjelle can make a strong case for an eventual call-up this spring. 

His first appearance went about as well as he could have asked for, but the Giants will monitor Hjelle -- and everyone else in camp -- in two key areas: Walks and strikeouts. Zaidi said strikeout-to-walk ratio "actually winds up being a little bit predictive" of regular-season performance, unlike most spring-training statistics. 

"If you're a pitcher and you've got a 6 or 7 ERA but you strike out 15 guys and walk one, it usually means that's a good springboard for you going into the season," Zaidi said. "And same on the hitting side: Guys that control the strike zone in spring training, that usually suggests that those guys are going to get off to a good start and have a good season."

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Hjelle will need more than just a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio in the spring to make -- and eventually stick with -- the Giants. 

But early in spring training, he has turned the right head by impressing Zaidi. 

Archie Bradley praises D-backs GM for Madison Bumgarner alter ego comments

Archie Bradley praises D-backs GM for Madison Bumgarner alter ego comments

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Nobody at the Diamondbacks' spring training facility had uttered the name "Madison Bumgarner," despite seeing him numerous times.

He goes by Mason Saunders for now. That is his alter ego after all -- the one he uses to win cash prizes at rodeo events.

The sports media world had a field day when the information on MadBum's alias surfaced, but D-backs general manager Mike Hazen had his back.

"Madison is a grown man and we know he's committed to helping us achieve our goals as a team," Hazen told media on Monday. 

Arizona pitcher Archie Bradley said that resonated with him as well.

"It's great. I personally have a lot of respect for Mike Hazen, but that was something I was actually talking to CC Sabathia yesterday," Bradley told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday. "You're seeing this new wave where guys aren't afraid to showcase the other side of their life. I think there's kind of been this build of 'You just have to be a baseball player.' LeBron started with 'More Than an Athlete,' I think guys are kind of catching on."

He also loves the fact that MadBum now is on his team instead of facing him as much as he did during their NL West matchups when Bumgarner was on the Giants. MadBum has made a huge impression on the 27-year-old.

"He just raises everyone's level of awareness and preparation," Bradley said. "When you win a World Series, that holds a lot of weight, it puts your name in bold font. You know, Madison Bumgarner is a big-time name, not only because of his talent level, but because of how he competes, but how he's won."

"When you add a guy like that who is very old school and very hard-nosed, you kind of perk up a little bit."

[RELATED: MadBum's young teammates ready to see what he's about]

Bradley said MadBum, after winning multiple World Series championships, is bringing that mentality to his new team in Phoenix. 

"This is a guy that has not only done it but is vocalizing how he wants to do it here."