Giants

Giants Notes: Marrero gets big chance; Rollins goes home

Giants Notes: Marrero gets big chance; Rollins goes home

SAN FRANCISCO -- After more than six weeks in the desert the Giants returned to their chilly home park on Thursday, and manager Bruce Bochy wasn't ready to take some of the mystery out of heated spring races. 

Bochy said he knows who his fifth starter is, but he won't publicly announce it until Friday. Asked about the situation, general manager Bobby Evans offered only that "we're in the same camp" on who that player is. 

In the outfield, it appears Chris Marrero is a near-lock to make the roster after an eight-homer spring, but again, the Giants aren't ready to announce anything. Marrero gets another chance to prove himself Thursday. He's facing a lefty starter, which would be his role, and he's playing left field at AT&T Park for the first time. Is Bochy more interested in the defense or the at-bats against a lefty?

"Both," he said. "I want to take a look at Marrero in left field and see his at-bats. It's not so much the results, but just to see him here on this stage and in this ballpark."

Bochy was behind the cage when Marrero took BP, and while it is only BP, he put on a Madison Bumgarner-like show. 

Bochy also hopes to get Jae-Gyun Hwang into left field one of the next two nights. Hwang is headed for Triple-A when this series is over, where he'll play first, third and left. "If he continues (hitting like this) down in Sacramento, with that bat, you've got to find a spot for him," Bochy said. 

Sense a theme here? Somebody who hits from the right side is going to get a lot of time this year, and while Mac Williamson and Michael Morse are hurt, the two newcomers have a chance to make a statement. Justin Ruggiano is still in the mix, too, although it sounds like he's headed for Triple-A to get 50 or so at-bats to strengthen his shoulder. 

--- Will Smith had Tommy John surgery in Los Angeles yesterday. The procedure went without surprises, and the initial read from doctors is that Smith should be back in the big leagues next May. This far out, it's hard to be exact, though. 

--- Eduardo Nuñez said his shoulder feels great after a couple of late-camp cortisone shots and he'll start at third the next two nights. Nuñez will play four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. If Kelby Tomlinson is optioned, Nuñez would be the backup to Brandon Crawford, along with starting at third. 

--- Jimmy Rollins was given the option of coming up here for this series and finishing his spring in Oakland, near his home. Rollins was told he would not make the team. He went back to the Tampa area, however, and he won't play in this series. 

--- Tyler Beede was out on the field early taking photos and soaking it in. Beede hasn't been to AT&T Park since shooting a cameo for "Silicon Valley." The Giants will start him Saturday, with the idea that it should knock some nerves off for his eventual debut. Beede will be joined by a bunch of minor leaguers, including Christian Arroyo, Ryder Jones, Reyes Moronta, Kyle Crick and Austin Slater. Steven Duggar would have been here, but he has a flexor injury and will miss the start of the season. 

--- Brandon Belt will hit second at the start of the year, Bochy said. Belt walked into the park with Santiago Casilla, which threw everyone off in the hallway leading up to the clubhouse. Casilla eventually kept going, all the way to the visitor's clubhouse. I talked to him briefly, and he said that it'll be a weird series for him. Casilla will pitch an inning Friday night. He deserves a big ovation.

--- Javier Lopez was my latest podcast guest. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. If you like the podcast, please consider leaving a rating! 

--- Finally, as part of our rebranding, my Twitter account has changed. It's still the same account, just a new name. The tweets about reliever at-bats are not going anywhere. 

Giants notes: Chris Shaw shakes off confusing call, drives in game-winner

Giants notes: Chris Shaw shakes off confusing call, drives in game-winner

SAN DIEGO — The Giants have had one of the better replay records in baseball since the system was installed, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy with the process. Several calls have baffled manager Bruce Bochy this season, and on Tuesday he couldn’t understand how a fan wasn’t called for interference for getting in the way of left fielder Chris Shaw’s glove.

Shaw went back to the wall and leapt for a Franmil Reyes fly ball. He thought he was about to rob a homer for the first time in his career. Instead, a man in an aqua t-shirt got his hands in the way and pulled the ball into the seats. 

“I just don't understand it. If that’s not interference, I don’t know what is,” Bochy said. “The only thing they tell us is that it came from (the office) in New York. It looked like definite interference to me. I don’t get it.”

Luckily for the Giants, the call didn’t cost them a win. Shaw made sure of that. The homer gave the Padres a one-run lead, but Shaw came up in the eighth with the bases loaded and poked a two-run bloop single into left. He thought he got enough of it for a sacrifice fly. It ended up being a positive that he didn’t hit the ball as hard as he thought, though. Padres left fielder Hunter Renfroe’s dive came up short and the Giants took a 5-4 lead that held up. 

“I was pretty pissed off right there,” Shaw said of the sequence that started with the fan robbing him. “I thought I had a chance to take two runs off the board. Coming up in that position, that’s where you want to be.”

Shaw got his first start against a lefty, but it was right-hander Craig Stammen on the mound in his biggest at-bat. Bochy liked that he put the ball in play.

“Good things happen when you put it in play,” he said. “He didn’t hit it good, but he put it in play.”

For a player plagued by strikeouts his first two weeks in the majors, that was a big moment. Nick Hundley scored easily and Brandon Crawford got an incredible read, nearly running up Hundley’s back as he tagged at third. Third base coach Ron Wotus said he never even had a decision to make. Crawford saw that the ball was going to drop and he was headed home regardless. It gave Shaw a game-winning hit. 

“That’s incredible baserunning,” Shaw said. “Obviously he’s got great instincts.”

--- The main story tonight is on Hunter Pence and his future. 

--- Aramis Garcia has a hit in eight of his nine career games. Before this one, Bochy said Garcia will get a lot of starts at first over the next 10 games with Brandon Belt’s knee ailing. 

--- Will Smith recorded his 14th save, tying Hunter Strickland for the team lead. Smith gave up a double, but this one never seemed in much doubt. That’s what he does, and there seems no doubt he’ll enter next spring as the club’s closer.

After fueling Giants win, Hunter Pence unsure if he'll play in 2019

After fueling Giants win, Hunter Pence unsure if he'll play in 2019

SAN DIEGO — A decade from now, when former Giants gather at AT&T Park to celebrate a dynasty, Hunter Pence may be remembered more for his words off the field than his play on it. As good as he was, as powerful as he was at the plate in his prime, Pence’s enduring legacy will be the speeches he gave in 2012, the motivation he provided over the following years, the ability to grab a microphone and speak from the heart, representing an entire organization in good times and bad. 

Buster Posey was the face of the dynasty. Madison Bumgarner was the best player on the field most of the time. But Pence was the one who would be given the stage when a message needed to be sent to fans. He has rarely been at a loss for words, but on Tuesday night, his voice was quiet when he was presented with a question he seems to have been dreading in recent weeks. 

Will you play next year?

“We’ll see,” Pence said, not offering anything further. 

He has stuck to that message over the final month of a five-year contract signed at the end of the 2013 season. Pence has politely declined requests to talk about his future in baseball, but late in a disappointing year, he has left some in the organization with the belief that he will try to continue his career next season at the age of 36. If he does, he will not get the opportunity to do so in San Francisco. 

The Giants know they need to move on. Get younger, more flexible, more dynamic. Pence, traded from Philadelphia at the deadline in 2012, has 10 games left in orange and black. He made the most of a night in San Diego on Tuesday, driving in three runs and hitting a mammoth homer in a 5-4 win over the Padres. While he did not give any hints about his future afterward, he did seem to acknowledge the nature of his future with the Giants. 

“I’m trying to enjoy and give everything I have every day, but it is pretty special,” he said. “It’s been an incredible time for me being part of the Giants organization for this long and I’ve loved every bit of it. I’m going to continue to do so until it’s officially over.”

The end will come at home, and while the Giants have not made any official plans, you can bet Pence will run out to right field at least once next weekend, trying to make the most of any at-bats he’s given. He talked Tuesday about making adjustments and working to get better. He has had no trouble finding motivation to do so, even if the scoreboard says he’s hitting .215, and even if the two-run shot Tuesday was just his third in 200 at-bats. 

“I’m always motivated,” he said. “I love to play. I love the game. It matters. It matters to all of us.”

This performance certainly mattered to Pence’s teammates. Starter Derek Holland said it was great to see, calling Pence “the perfect teammate.” 

“He definitely deserves a lot more praise than he’s been getting,” Holland said. 

Let’s offer it, then. Pence has still maintained some tremendous physical gifts. At times, his batting practice displays have put him in the lineup. Members of the staff stand behind the cage and watch him go moonshot-for-moonshot with Madison Bumgarner. They wonder if he can run into one in a game. They lean on hope. 

On Tuesday, those hopes were rewarded. Pence’s 437-foot homer gave him two of the five longest bombs of the season for the Giants. It was the second-longest homer of the night in Major League Baseball, and when he smacked a pitch down the right field line two innings later and hustled into second for a double, he had the second-fastest home-to-second time of the night. At 8.08 seconds, Pence nestled in right between speedy Astros outfielder Tony Kemp (8.05) and Rays rookie Joey Wendle (8.08).

Perhaps those are the snapshots that Pence will hold onto this offseason if he goes through grueling workouts. The Giants will remember him for so many other highlights, many in the biggest spots this game has to offer. There’s a reason he still gets standing ovations every time he digs into the batter’s box. There’s a reason his manager smiled when he thought about his right fielder’s big night. 

“Good for him,” Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got a different role and he just keeps working and keeping himself ready. It’s good to see him have some success.”