Giants have eight million reasons to keep looking at Matt Moore in second half

Giants have eight million reasons to keep looking at Matt Moore in second half

SAN FRANCISCO — The numbers jump off the page, and not in a good way. 

An ERA of 6.04, last in the National League. A WHIP of 1.69, also last in the National League. A .307 batting average against. 

There is no way to sugarcoat Matt Moore’s first half, during which he has alternated being wild with being stunningly hittable. With Madison Bumgarner one rehab start from returning, the Giants soon will be pulling a starter from the rotation, and on merit Moore would be part of that discussion. 

It’s a move they can’t make, though, in part because of what this season has become. Austin Slater was getting a look in left field until an injury, Jae-Gyun Hwang is getting a chance to show what he can do at third, and Moore, a veteran in the big leagues, is all of a sudden in the same boat. 

Among other things, the Giants need to use the second half to figure out who Matt Moore really is. They have eight million reasons to do so. 

Moore came from Tampa Bay on a team-friendly deal, and when the Giants acquired him last August 1, it looked to be a lock that they would pick up the remainder of his deal. Moore was their new Bumgarner, a young lefty who would annually be underpaid. The Giants picked up the first of Moore’s options last November and it was a no-brainer given how he pitched down the stretch and in the NLDS. The second option year is for 2018 at a cost of $9 million, with a $1 million buyout. There is a $10 million option in 2019 with a buyout of $750,000.

The Giants will almost certainly still view $8 million as a worthwhile investment for 2018 given the price of free agent pitching and the talent Moore still shows in flashes, but it’s not the layup it once was because Moore has not been the pitcher he was. Moore’s inclusion in the second-half rotation might not be the layup it appeared to be, either. Asked about what the Giants might do to try and fix Moore, manager Bruce Bochy said discussions have been had. 

“We’ve talked about it. I don’t have something to give you, but we’ve talked about what we can do to help all these guys and set up our rotation,” he said. “We’ll continue that the next two days.”

The Giants likely will have Johnny Cueto and Bumgarner lined up for the first two games of the second half. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Moore said he’ll use the break to fish, play some golf, and clear his head. 

“I’ll catch my breath a little bit,” he said.

Moore said he’s looking forward to his next start. He’s also looking forward to officially being into the second half of the season. 

“With relief pitchers, they probably think about it in the sense of months. A new month is a new season. Hitters go day to day,” he said. “For me, (a new half) is something to set my sights on. You have the whole second half to figure out the things that are keeping you from getting to the seventh and eight inning. That is one of the things I’m looking forward to.”

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval took fly balls in left field during the spring. He caught a bullpen session. A year after starting at second base, he tried to keep that option open, too. 

The Giants' switch-hitter has embraced versatility over the last year, or tried to, in order to get extra time on the field, but thus far his role has been as traditional as it gets. He has made two starts at third base and one at first, and in both games of this series, he was the designated hitter. Otherwise, Sandoval has 17 appearances off the bench. 

That's the role that was expected as the Giants broke camp, but Sandoval has put his own twist on things: He has been more dangerous than any Giants hitter through a month, making a strong case that he should be more of a fixture for one of the worst lineups in the majors. 

"There's no real good way to do it except give Longo the occasional day off," manager Bruce Bochy said before Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Blue Jays. "The thing that I like about Pablo is he's able to sit and maintain his swing and go up there and give you a good at-bat, so whether it's Belt or Longo taking a day, Pablo will start occasionally. If you're talking on a daily basis, it's just hard to do."

Perhaps the Giants need to find a way, though. 

Sandoval's homer Wednesday, his second in two games in Toronto, left the bat at 112 mph (he later had an out at 111 mph). It was the hardest-hit ball of the season by a Giant, and by the end of the day Sandoval had a .333 average and 1.027 OPS. He would easily lead the team in OPS if he qualified, and he currently leads the Giants in doubles (7) despite starting just five games. 

The problem is that Sandoval can't really be anything but an emergency option at any position but first and third. First baseman Brandon Belt is the team's best hitter overall and locked into the lineup, although perhaps the Giants will give him more time in left to clear some playing time. The staff has shown no inclination to give Sandoval more time at third, where Evan Longoria has a .655 OPS and three homers. 

Sandoval enjoyed two days as a starter in Toronto, picking up four hits. But it'll be back to the pinch-hitting role when the Giants return home Friday, and it's a role nobody is doing better right now. Sandoval leads the National League with six pinch-hits, five of which have been doubles. He has scored three runs and driven in two as a pinch-hitter, repeatedly kickstarting late-game rallies. 

[RELATED: Belt not a fan of robot umpires despite frustrations]

"A lot of Pablo's hits are coming off the bench, too, so that works," Bochy said. "It's nice to have a batter sitting on the bench and when you need a big hit, he's ready to go. A lot of those at-bats come with men on base and later in the game, and I've got a pretty nice weapon there."

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Everything felt right. There wasn’t anything off with his swing, he wasn’t pressing mentally, and yet, he only had one hit in his first 17 at-bats. 

All it took was a home run on April 9 to get Heliot Ramos, the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, back on track. Since then, he's hitting .349 (15-for-43) with five home runs.

“I knew that I was doing everything right,” Ramos said on Tuesday’s Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast. “In my mind, everything was right. My confidence was good. My swing was good. I just needed the ball to get down. I just keep on swinging.” 

As he kept swinging, hits started to show up in the scorebook. What has been just as important, however, has been him not swinging. 

Ramos registered just 35 walks last season as a member of the Augusta GreenJackets and finished his first full season in the minor leagues with a lowly .313 on-base percentage. He worked all offseason tracking pitches longer and laying off breaking balls in the dirt while playing Winter Ball, and it has paid off big time. 

Through 18 games in High-A with the San Jose Giants, Ramos already has 14 walks and his on-base percentage is over 100 points higher than last season (.418).

“I can see the ball well right now,” Ramos said. “I feel good. I’ve been feeling good. I learned a lot from last year. I hope this is something that can keep going good for me.” 

Not only has Ramos shown improved patience at the plate, but the center fielder is also driving the ball all over the yard. He’s batting .262 with a .991 OPS, and 11 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases. Despite being the fifth-youngest player in the California League at 19 years old, he’s second in home runs (5), fifth in slugging percentage (.574), fifth in on-base percentage, fourth in walks, and third in OPS. 

San Jose was supposed to be a preview of what’s to come for years in San Francisco this season with the duo of Ramos and top prospect Joey Bart. A fractured hand for Bart has derailed those plans, but it hasn’t slowed down the younger of the two. 

Ramos no longer has the protection of Bart hitting right behind him. The teenager is seeing more off-speed pitches and is now the primary threat offensively to opposing teams. And yet, he’s flourished at the plate. 

[RELATED: Heliot Ramos' advancement 'really encouraging to see']

Since Bart broke his hand on April 15, Ramos has gone 8-for-26 (.308) with two home runs, two doubles, three RBI, and four runs scored. He’s growing every game as a player, both mentally and in the box score, and it could all be thanks to a disappointing season where he hit .245 with 136 strikeouts in 124 games last year. 

“Stay positive,” Ramos said when asked what he learned from last season. “That was the main thing I learned. Stay positive and never give up. Keep working hard and everything’s going to be okay.”