Giants notes: Nunez getting close; Hernandez starts in center

Giants notes: Nunez getting close; Hernandez starts in center

CHICAGO — Eduardo Nuñez has spent the last week working out with trainers, jogging and stretching and testing his strained hamstring. On Friday afternoon he finally returned to the pre-game workout, and he did so with a big smile on his face.

“Full workout today,” Nuñez said. “I’m close.”

The Giants don’t expect to have Nuñez available to start for either of the games in Chicago, but he’ll be ready off the bench, and Bruce Bochy will use him given the lack of options. Nuñez is available to play third base tonight in an emergency. 

As for the man who has taken his spot, Conor Gillaspie was the first Giant on the field Friday evening by a good 10 minutes. He appears ready for more time in the spotlight.

Some other odds and ends from the pre-game scene at Wrigley …

--- Gorkys Hernandez will see the first pitch of the National League Division Series. Stop and think about that for a moment. It’s remarkable, given where Hernandez sat on the depth chart all spring and most of the season. 

Hernandez has never faced Jon Lester, but he didn’t seem all that bothered. 

“He has a ball, I have a bat,” Hernandez said. “We’ll see what happens.”

There’s one certainty: If Hernandez reaches base, he’s going. Lester’s issues throwing to first were a big part of the pre-game scouting report. Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson got the nod against the lefty. 

“It’s worked,” Bochy said. “You look at the L.A. series and we did it. We won two big games there against tough lefties (Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill).”

--- If you missed it this morning, here’s the NLDS roster. Bochy said he chose Gregor Blanco over Jarrett Parker because of versatility. Neither has played much the past month, but Blanco can bunt, pinch-run, and replace a lesser defensive outfielder in the late innings. It’ll be interesting to see if Bochy starts replacing Angel Pagan with a lead.

Ty Blach got the nod over other relievers because Bochy needed a long man. “We saw what happened in Washington,” Bochy said. So, Blach will be Yusmeiro Petit in this series.

--- In case you missed it, here's what David Ross had to say about Buster Posey. And here's why Jeff Samardzija gets Game 2.

--- And to get you all warmed up for this big series: Video of Madison Bumgarner taking aim at Waveland Avenue. (Thank you to the Cubs fans who corrected my tweet, and who pointed out that Jake Arrieta can do the same thing. He can't.) Bumgarner hit about a half-dozen balls out of the park. 

Bochy says he's not worried about possibility 2019 could be his last season


Bochy says he's not worried about possibility 2019 could be his last season

LAS VEGAS — A few minutes into a luncheon Wednesday afternoon, an announcement went out for National League managers to gather in one corner of a conference room for their annual group photo. As Bruce Bochy stood up, he found himself walking behind Brewers manager Craig Counsell and Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, neither of whom is far removed from playing. A few feet away stood Dave Roberts, who played for Bochy and now competes against him in a long-running rivalry. 

Managers are getting younger and younger, but Bochy, 63, remains eager to compete with the next generation. There’s a question hanging over the Giants’ season, though: How much longer will Bochy be in the big chair?

Bochy enters the new year with just one season remaining on his contract and the knowledge that almost every executive wants to eventually bring in his own manager. He gets along well with Farhan Zaidi, his new boss, but at this time next year, there’s a very real possibility that Zaidi has already hand-picked the next manager of the Giants. 

On Wednesday, Bochy said he’s not concerned about the fact that his 13th season with the Giants could be his final one. 

“I don’t think about it, I don’t,” he told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Obviously I’ve got a year left and there have been changes and I’m going to get asked the question, and it’s legit, but for me, I’m just focusing ahead and doing my thing. I’ve been blessed to have been doing this as long as I’ve been doing it. 

“Trust me, sure, I’ve done some thinking earlier, but right now I’m just blocking it out and it’s one step forward.”

Those steps are a bit quicker these days. Bochy recently had hip surgery and said he feels great physically. He has spent much of the offseason with two young grandchildren, and his family continues to celebrate milestones. 

When Bochy does return to the realities of life under contract, he finds himself with many others in the same boat. Brian Sabean, who has stayed on after the Zaidi hire, got an extension at the same time as Bochy and also is looking at the final year of his deal. Bobby Evans remains under contract through 2019, although he has been in Las Vegas this week searching for his next front office opportunity. Dozens of coaches and scouts throughout the organization were in limbo early in the offseason, but just about everybody was renewed through 2019. 

Zaidi has made some additions, but there have been few departures. The new boss will have a year to evaluate every corner of the organization before making substantial changes. For now, Zaidi is focused on changing the roster, and as he approaches what could be his final year with the Giants, Bochy has found that to be energizing.

He still believes in this group. If 2019 is to be his final year as manager of the Giants, Bochy plans to do everything he can to compete for a playoff spot. 

“It’s been a rough two years, really two-and-a-half years, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “The way we ended last year … we hung in there but to go (5-21 in September) was tough, I’m not going to lie. It beats you up. 

“I’m determined to get this ship headed in the right direction and get back to playing winning baseball in San Francisco. We still have a really good core of players. We’re not that old. We’ve just got to stay healthy, and I’ve said if we had just stayed healthy and guys had their normal years, I think we would have surprised some people.”

Bruce Bochy reveals he thought about starting Madison Bumgarner at first base


Bruce Bochy reveals he thought about starting Madison Bumgarner at first base

LAS VEGAS — Over the final month of the season, it became a daily battle for Bruce Bochy to just put a healthy lineup on the field. No position was hit harder than first base, usually one of the easiest spots for a manager to fill.

Brandon Belt’s season ended in the middle of September because of a knee injury that required surgery. Buster Posey, the other main option, went under the knife a couple of weeks earlier.

Pablo Sandoval, the backup at first, was already done for the year. Even Ryder Jones, the best option in Triple-A, went down to a fluke knee injury. Bochy ended up leaning heavily on rookie catcher Aramis Garcia, while also giving a few innings to middle infielders Joe Panik and Chase d’Arnaud. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures. But the Giants also nearly called for their ace. 

Bochy revealed Wednesday that he strongly considered using Madison Bumgarner at first base in September, but ultimately he decided the injury risk was too great. 

[RELATED: Giants 'less likely' to trade MadBum this offseason]

“We got in a situation where I needed some help there, and I was thinking about putting Bumgarner (at first) and maybe giving him a start there,” Bochy told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We were out of it, but I was concerned about his health. I just couldn’t do it because if something happened there, I’ve got to live with it. I’ve got his career to think about. 

“But he was so excited about the possibility. He was wearing me out. I really wanted to do it, but if something happens then I’m looking for work.”

The plan never got too far down the line. Bochy said Bumgarner didn’t even take grounders to prepare because there was too big a risk of him taking a bad hop and getting hurt while practicing. 

The concept still intrigues Bochy, but not because it’s something he’ll try next year, the last of Bumgarner’s contract. Bochy is a fan at times, too. He said he simply wants to know what Bumgarner could do as a full-time hitter. 

“I would be really, really curious to see — if you threw him out there every day at first base, if you got him ready to play — what his numbers would be at the end of the year,” Bochy said. “I think he would hit over 20 home runs.”

For years, Bumgarner has lurked over Bochy’s shoulder late in games, with his spikes on and a bat in his hand, ready to hit if called upon. Bochy did not take the risk of putting him out in the field for three or four at-bats, but he still did give Bumgarner an opportunity to make his mark at the plate. On Sept. 25, the lefty was sent up in the 12th inning and hit a walk-off single to beat the Padres. 

“He’s not afraid, first of all,” Bochy said. “He’s so confident and takes a lot of pride in his hitting. It’s a good swing. It works. Mechanically, he could be as sound as anybody on our team, I’m being honest. He’s slightly open, but when he gets in that launching position, the way he fires his hips and everything, that’s why he has so much power.”