Giants

Giants' Logan Webb embraces any role after offseason mechanics change

Giants' Logan Webb embraces any role after offseason mechanics change

In a game won by adjustments, the slightest change can go a long way. Giants pitcher Logan Webb already has felt the results after a correction to his mechanics.

Webb spent the offseason in Arizona, frequenting the Giants' spring training facility in Scottsdale. He stayed there after camp was shut down due to the coronavirus, throwing numerous bullpens. But then he felt stuck. His progress was at a plateau, that is until he and pitching coordinator Justin Lehr turned on the tape. 

"Me and Justin Lehr started watching some videos and I noticed something with my posture in my throwing mechanics," Webb said in a recent phone interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "I was kind of bent over more than I wanted to be. I really started working on that and having better posture, and ever since that it feels back to normal again.

"It was just a little tiny switch, and since then I’ve been feeling good."

This wasn't about adding a new pitch or changing his grip. The problem was quite common actually. In reality, it's a fix that I myself could use to avoid trips to the chiropractor while working from home.

Webb went on to talk about how he believes having better posture is incredibly important. Whether you're a pitcher, hitter or everyday worker, it can be life-changing. Literally. For the young Giants pitcher, he quickly noticed the difference. 

"Just a little more upright when I’m starting to go down the mound," Webb explained. "Honestly, you just feel stronger in general."

Buster Posey could see the difference right away, too. The veteran catcher was highly impressed by Webb's first bullpen against live hitters on the second day of Summer Camp, saying the showing was "really, really good." 

"His stuff was electric," Posey said to reporters. "I thought a tick or two up from the spring." 

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Webb dominated in the minor leagues last season, going 2-4 with a 1.85 ERA over 12 appearances (10 starts). He then made his MLB debut in August at only 22 years old and went 2-3 with a 5.22 ERA in eight starts. Before spring training came to a stop, Webb got only two starts in and was determined to prove himself once the season resumed. 

His first impression couldn't have gone much better, and Posey's words went a long way. 

"Hearing that he said that was cool, and he said he was excited when we were done," Webb said. "When you hear that from one of the best to ever do it, it’s pretty cool.”

The Rocklin native said he and Shaun Anderson joked about the number of bullpens they've thrown the past few months. Webb counted he has thrown at least 20 or 22, but was excited to finally face hitters. On Wednesday, Webb was among the group of pitchers who took the hill in the Giants' first intrasquad game and he continued to impress. 

Over two innings pitched in the simulated game, Webb struck out four batters and only allowed one hit. Among the eight Giants pitchers on the day, he easily was near the top performers.

"Logan Webb continues to impress with the shape of his breaking ball and in the fastball and a lot of confidence," manager Gabe Kapler said to reporters.

[RELATED: Giants' list of prospects in camp has many intriguing names]

Kapler has big plans for Webb this season, too. Going into the year, it was expected Webb would be on an innings limit. There even was the real possibility he started the season back in Triple-A Sacramento to monitor his workload. With the 162-game season out the door, plans have completely changed. 

The 60-game season actually could be perfect for the right-hander. He certainly was looking forward to his first full season in the big leagues and was preparing to do so. But Kapler's biggest emphasis right now is on pitchers who can adapt, pitch multiple innings and be effective as either a starter or reliever. 

That sounds perfect for Webb. There's no playbook for this sprint of a season, and he's ready for any role. 

"I’m willing to do anything," Webb said. "... That mentality that I do have, I do feel like this could be the perfect situation."

Webb spent two seasons in Short-Season Class-A with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He last did so in 2017 and had a 2.89 ERA in 15 games as a reliever. To get ready for such a, well, short season, Webb is using his experience with the Volcanoes. 

"It is a sprint and you have to take every game seriously," Webb said. "It’ll be fun because every game will feel like a playoff game. You’re going to have to win every single game. I don’t really know what to expect for it, but all I know is I’m excited for it. 

"I’m one of the most competitive people ever. That excites me. I’m excited for that."

While he has come a long from Salem-Keizer, that competitive edge always has been there for Webb. It certainly will be this year as the Giants look to shock many in the short season, and the pitcher never has felt stronger thanks to a simple fix of bettering his posture.

Giants return to Oracle Park with more than 10,000 cutouts in stands

Giants return to Oracle Park with more than 10,000 cutouts in stands

Giants closer Trevor Gott lost control of a 96 mph fastball in the ninth inning Tuesday night and watched from the mound as it sailed over catcher Tyler Heineman's glove and hit the backstop. Back in the broadcast booth at Oracle Park, Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper chuckled.

"President Bush didn't even flinch," Krukow cracked. 

The ball hit the net about five feet from cutouts of the late President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara, who were longtime Houston residents. This is what baseball looks like in 2020, a year with no fans. 

The cutout programs have become popular with MLB clubs, and at every stop on the three-city road trip, the Giants saw plenty of them. The Dodgers are filling up their lower deck and outfield bleachers, with cutouts of celebrity Dodger fans getting prime seats behind the plate. The Rockies filled the first three rows behind the plate with cutouts of former Rockies players and creepy mascot Dinger. 

The Astros took an odd and random approach, filling two sections right behind the plate but leaving the second through fifth rows open in an adjacent section that was clearly visible on TV broadcasts. They filled one section down the right-field line, a couple of rows behind the dugout, the Crawford Boxes in left field and two sections right behind the home bullpen. The rest of the park was mostly empty. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

It was all a little confusing, especially for players who have plenty of time before and during games to look around. 

"I don't really understand what they're trying to do. They have random sections in the outfield empty and then they have random sections completely full, and then they didn't fill up behind home plate," outfielder Austin Slater said. "And then the Rockies only went with ex-players and they had like 10 or 15 Todd Heltons in there, which was kind of odd. I think the way that we're doing it is probably the best, just fill up as much of the stadium as possible, starting with behind home plate and go from there."

That's what the Giants are doing at Oracle Park, with the help of a fan base that remains passionate even in what so far is another losing season. When the Giants return home tonight, they will see 5,459 additional cutouts that were installed earlier this week, bringing the total to 10,205. 

The lower deck is pretty much completely filled behind the plate and down both lines, with cutouts spilling over into other sections, too. Another round of installations is happening Monday and Tuesday, with the Giants approaching 13,000 cutouts that have been installed or requested thus far.

[RELATED: Battle of Bay takes on extra meaning this year]

It took some getting used to, but players are on board with the program, with both Slater and outfielder Hunter Pence recently saying that they do help when you're standing on the field in an otherwise empty park. 

"Psychologically it does help to have the cardboard cutouts, as many as we do," Pence said. "For whatever reason, just knowing that the fans are excited to see themselves as a foul ball goes that way or whatever is the case, you feel kind of the spirit of the people."

Battle of the Bay has extra meaning for Giants, A's in short season

Battle of the Bay has extra meaning for Giants, A's in short season

Trevor Cahill knows all about the Battle of the Bay. The right-hander was drafted by the A's in 2006, made it to the big leagues three years later, and spent three seasons in Oakland before getting dealt. In 2018 he returned to the A's for 20 more starts, including a solid one in a win over the Giants. 

This time around, Cahill is on the other side of the rivalry. It won't be the same without fans jawing at their Bay Area counterparts, and Cahill, after his Giants debut Wednesday, recalled how intense some of those matchups used to be. 

"When I came up with the A's the Giants series was a big one," he said. "You could feel that excitement because my rookie year we weren't in a playoff race, so that was the matchup every year. Oakland fans always came out. It was exciting."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

The first three of six matchups will be played at Oracle Park this weekend, with more than 10,000 cutouts in the stands instead of fans. But in an odd way, the games might be more meaningful than ever. 

Because of the shortened season, the Battle of the Bay makes up 10 percent of each side's schedule, the equivalent of 16 games in a normal year. These matchups will go a long way toward deciding each team's fate, and right now they're headed in different directions. 

The A's enter with the best record in the American League (13-6) and a four-game lead in the AL West. At 8-12, the Giants are last in the NL West after a 3-7 road trip. They need a quick turnaround to keep hope alive of grabbing a spot in the expanded playoffs. 

The Giants are at least set up well from a starting standpoint, with Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb. But they'll face Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea, getting a close-up look at what is perhaps the biggest difference for the two organizations in the coming years. 

The A's built their lineup around the Matts -- Chapman and Olson -- and as good as those two are, the Giants don't have to squint too much to picture a day when perhaps Marco Luciano, Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop can give them a similar homegrown blend. But the starting staffs are wildly different, with the A's boasting a young and super-talented group.

Montas, acquired in a trade with then-Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, is 27 and a Cy Young candidate. Luzardo, 22, is one of the game's most exciting prospects. Manaea is off to a brutal start, but the 28-year-old has a track record of big league success already. Left-hander A.J. Puk, another top prospect, will join the group if he can ever stay healthy.

[RELATED: Slater, Solano's injuries expose Giants' offense in road loss]

The Giants have Webb, 23, locked into their long-term rotation, and he's off to a good start, but Gausman will be a free agent at the end of the year and Cueto at the end of 2021. The rest of their mix consists of Cahill, Tyler Anderson, Drew Smyly and Jeff Samardzija, with the latter two currently on the injured list. There's a decent chance none of those four are around next season. 

The Giants have Sean Hjelle, Seth Corry, Tristan Beck and others on the way, and they drafted Kyle Harrison and Nick Swiney in June, with hopes that both are top-end starters. For now, though, they're piecing the rotation together, often a day at a time. 

It's the biggest difference between the two sides right now, but this weekend it might not matter. Webb has thrown well all year and Gausman and Cueto are coming off their best starts. Gabe Kapler will need all three to step up this weekend because the pitching on the other side looks tough, and the Giants can't afford to give up any more ground.