Giants

Giants' Jeff Samardzija says arm craving work after injuries wrecked 2018

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USATSI

Giants' Jeff Samardzija says arm craving work after injuries wrecked 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — There was a smile plastered to Jeff Samardzija’s face Friday and Saturday, and why wouldn’t there be?

A year ago at this time, the Giants right-hander was preparing for a camp in which his shoulder never quite got there. He knew there was something wrong, but he didn’t reveal it until late March, when there was nothing else he could do on the mound to hide his condition. It was a year of starts-and-stops for the veteran, but after the most tedious offseason of his career, he’s ready to head in one direction. 

“My arm is craving more work and wants to throw long toss, wants to throw bullpens and sliders and curveballs and everything,” Samardzija said. “All I can go by is how I feel and I feel really good.”

Samardzija knows this is not the end game, or anywhere close. He spent most of last summer ramping it up in bullpen sessions, saying he felt good, only to return to a big league mound and see 91 mph on the radar gun. Doctor after doctor told Samardzija he didn’t need surgery, which was a relief, but also led to some confusion. Ultimately, the Giants decided the 34-year-old needed an offseason of rest and rehab. 

Samardzija, a former college football star, always has been such a good athlete that you could picture him rolling out of bed in mid-February and pumping 97. But he rededicated himself this offseason, starting his work the day after a disappointing season ended.

He has lived in the Scottsdale area in the past, but he stayed in San Francisco this winter, working out at the ballpark three times per week and a San Mateo rehab facility twice per week. By Thanksgiving, he was cleared to start throwing. As camp approaches, he’s already deep into bullpen session mode. 

The Giants need to make gains everywhere in order to stay in contention, and a healthy Samardzija would be a boost. A lot of fans gave up on him last season, but the Giants happily would take a repeat of his 2017, when he led the league in innings, struck out 205 batters and provided 2.5 Wins Above Replacement. 

Farhan Zaidi, now the Giants’ president of baseball operations, was in Oakland when the A’s traded a massive package to the Cubs for Samardzija in 2014. He knows what he can provide, but he also is well-versed in Samardzija’s 2018 issues at this point. He has said repeatedly this offseason that the Giants will not push Samardzija too hard. They have enough rotation depth that they can ease him in if the shoulder isn’t fully ready. Zaidi said it would be a “read and react” situation in terms of Samardzija’s innings this year. 

[RELATED: Samardzija opens up about what bugged him about football]

“(But) he’s going to be built up as a regular guy,” he said. 

Samardzija isn’t planning for an easy April. He’s eager to put 2018 behind him, and he believes his shoulder will cooperate. Samardzija said last year was a tough one. But it’s 2019, and thus far he’s all smiles. 

“I’m just excited to get back into that routine of being a pitcher, man,” he said.

Former Giant Hunter Pence makes Rangers roster after successful spring

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AP

Former Giant Hunter Pence makes Rangers roster after successful spring

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few hours after an emotional goodbye at Oracle Park last season, Hunter Pence started working on his swing.

It paid off.

Pence will make the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day roster, according to TR Sullivan of MLB.com. He was in camp with his childhood team as a non-roster invitee and had a huge spring.

Pence, 35, is batting .356 in Cactus League play with three homers and five doubles, with an OPS over 1.000. He has six stolen bases in as many attempts.

Pence looked just about done last year while batting just .226 with four homers for the Giants. But he vowed to remake his swing in the offseason by working with renowned instructor Doug Latta in Los Angeles, and he took the unusual step of playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic as an established veteran.

That all led to a tryout with the Rangers, who valued what Pence could bring to their young spring clubhouse. He ended up adding right-handed pop, too, and he beat out several, including young prospect Willie Calhoun.

[RELATED: Pence's inspiring winter ball speech

On Thursday morning, a few hours before the news became public, Pence tweeted out a short message: “It’s Thursday and I’m thankful.”

These four Giants can hit 20 home runs in 2019, Mike Krukow predicts

These four Giants can hit 20 home runs in 2019, Mike Krukow predicts

Only one team stood in the way of the Giants earning the coveted crown of least home runs in baseball last season. Thanks a lot, Marlins. 

Not one Giant finished the season with 20 home runs. Evan Longoria led the team with 16 long balls in 2018, which was a career-low for the third baseman. 

With spring training wrapping up, it's time to turn the page and move on to 2019. And broadcaster Mike Krukow is optimistic there can be a power resurgence in San Francisco. 

“Well, I think Evan Longoria is going to hit twenty plus,” Krukow said Wednesday on KNBR. “Last year he hit sixteen and missed a month. He was so out of whack the first couple of months of the season, after coming over to a new team after spending the first ten years of his career with one team. I think he’s in the comfort zone now, he’s had a great spring, he’s in great shape.”

Longoria, 33, is off to a strong start this spring. Going into Thursday's slate of games, he's batting .324 with two home runs. After getting a full season of the National League under his belt, the three-time All-Star could be a candidate for a bounce-back year.

Speaking of Belt ... Krukow believes the first baseman can finally crack the 20-homer mark, too. 

"We keep waiting for Belt, he’s always had a chance to hit twenty," Krukow said. "He’s having a great spring and swinging the bat well right now, but when he got to camp, he kept the same weight as last year but with six percent less body fat."

Belt has been limited to only 104 and 112 games the last two seasons due to injuries where he's knocked 18 and 14 home runs. The power has always been there, though his health has been a concern. 

Now that Buster Posey is presumably healthy after hip surgery, Krukow sees the catcher flirting with 20 home runs for the first time since he hit 22 in 2014. The big name to watch, however, is Mac Williamson. 

"I think those three guys can do it, but wouldn’t it be something if Mac Williamson got into that same groove as last summer? There’s a guy who can put up thirty," Krukow said.

[RELATED: Brandon Belt reveals how he accidentally cut off half of his eyebrow]

Williamson might have the most raw power on the Giants' roster. A concussion cut down what should have been the best year of his career last season. While he's still competing to win a starting job in left field, a hot Williamson can produce some big power numbers.

The Giants has struggled mightily hitting the ball over the wall for years now. Is 2019 the year it's bombs away in the year? Until proven otherwise, there's always reasons for optimism.