Giants notes: Pence joins River Cats for rehab assignment


Giants notes: Pence joins River Cats for rehab assignment

SAN DIEGO -- Hunter Pence is no longer in San Diego.

"There's good news ... he left," manager Bruce Bochy said, smiling. 

It's very good news. Pence is on his way to Round Rock (just north of Austin) to join the River Cats and begin his rehab assignment. He'll play five innings in right field on Saturday and five more on Sunday before taking a day off. The River Cats go from the Austin area (if they're not tweeting photos from the Salt Lick BBQ in Round Rock they're living wrong) to New Orleans, so Pence certainly chose a good time to start his rehab assignment.

[PAVLOVIC: Giants notes: Pence, Panik ready for rehab assignments]

Bochy said he wants Pence to get about 30 at-bats before returning to the big leagues, although it wouldn't be a terrible bet to think he comes in just under that. The River Cats return to Sacramento on Friday and it wouldn't be a shock to see Pence -- who last year cut short a rehab assignment but texting Bochy: "Don't you want a ridiculous weapon?" -- fly from New Orleans to New York in time to play a game or three against the Yankees. We'll see.

As for the guy who is from New York, Joe Panik should be ready for a rehab game on Sunday or Monday.

--- Matt Duffy said he tried running during the break and "it didn't go as poorly as I thought it would." Still, he was running at about 50 percent, so he's not close to a return. 

"It's frustrating," he said. "As a baseball player, you want to get back out there."

The Giants are going slow on this one. There's no firm timetable for a return.

--- Cory Gearrin played catch the past two days and is doing well. He might be back before the end of this trip. What happens to the bullpen when Matt Cain and Gearrin are back on the roster? Bochy sure didn't sound like a guy ready to send Albert Suarez back down.

"We'll see where we're at when Cain comes back," he said. "He's pretty valuable. It's going to be a tough call whichever way we go."

The Giants could send an outfielder down when Cain is activated Wednesday since they'll play with a DH all week (no double-switches). At some point they'll have to make some tough calls, though. The backups have generally played well, but Cain, Gearrin, Pence and Panik will need four roster spots in the next 10 days or so.

--- If you got sucked into a Mr. Robot vortex during the break and missed any Giants action, here are our first half power rankings, and here are 10 questions for the second half.

--- Last time the Giants were here the Padres tried to mess with them by playing boy bands and Enya. The Padres got swept and Brandon Crawford thanked them for helping to pump him up. Today it was normal ballpark BP music.

Logan Webb to become youngest Giants starter since Madison Bumgarner


Logan Webb to become youngest Giants starter since Madison Bumgarner

PHOENIX -- The Giants have gone with youth in their rotation, but even by that new standard, Logan Webb's debut will be noteworthy. 

Webb will be 272 days past his 22nd birthday when he throws his first pitch Saturday night, making him the youngest Giant to start a game since Madison Bumgarner. He'll be the fourth-youngest Giants starter since 2000, trailing just Bumgarner (20 years, 38 days in 2009), Matt Cain (20 years, 332 days in 2005) and Jerome Williams (21 years, 143 days in 2003), according to Stats LLC.

It's been no secret that the Giants have leaned heavily on veteran starters over the past decade, with guys like Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy filling in during the championship years and Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto joining the top of the rotation in recent years. 

But as the game has gotten younger, the Giants truly have fallen behind. It's not just that the Giants haven't had a 22-year-old starter since Bumgarner's debut. They haven't even had a 23-year-old. Bumgarner made 105 starts before turning 24. The next youngest Giants starter during that time was Erik Surkamp, who was 24 years and 52 days old when he made his debut in 2011. 

This year the Giants have used 24-year-olds Shaun Anderson and Conner Menez, and they always thought Webb could be an option in the second half. Manager Bruce Bochy admitted the thinking changed a bit when Webb was suspended for 80 games, but back in spring training, Webb opened eyes. 

"He threw the ball well," Bochy said. "The thing you like about him is he throws strikes, and he's got good stuff. I thought he was very confident this spring in his outings and with how he handled himself. This spring he really impressed. I'm not surprised to see him."

Webb said that he thought about his future during the spring, and he was ready to take on any role to get a shot at the big leagues. He said his hopes about a timetable changed a bit after the suspension, but after just three starts back in Double-A and one in Triple-A, the Giants will use him to fill a hole. 

With an off-day Monday, Dereck Rodriguez back in the rotation, and Anderson just about 100 percent, it seems likely this will be a cameo appearance for Webb. But no matter how it goes, he'll get his name in the books as one of the youngest Giants starters of the past two decades.

[RELATED: Yaz thriving at plate after offseason tweaks]

Webb gave a reminder of just how young he was while chatting with reporters Friday. Asked about his Niners fandom, he said he doesn't remember certain players familiar to reporters. 

"I was born in 1996," he pointed out. 

Mike Yastrzemski has seen power surge in first season with Giants

Mike Yastrzemski has seen power surge in first season with Giants

PHOENIX -- Forget three homers for a second, Mike Yastrzemski had never even hit two in a big league game before. He couldn't remember ever hitting three in a minor league game, or at Vanderbilt, or in college or even Little League. 

"Not even in a video game," Yastrzemski said late Friday night. 

MLB rookies are putting up video game numbers this season, and the 28-year-old outfielder has joined the party. His three-homer game Friday helped the Giants edge the Diamondbacks 10-9 in extra innings and made him the first Giants leadoff hitter in history to hit three in a game. 

Yastrzemski never hit more than 15 in a minor league season with the Orioles. Counting his time in Triple-A with the Giants, he now has 28 homers across two levels in just 110 games this season. 

The story is a familiar one in modern baseball. Yastrzemski knew he had to change his profile after last season, so he spent time making minor tweaks while working out at Vanderbilt with former teammate and current Cub Tony Kemp. A few new drills were added, but not to increase the homer count. Yastrzemski was just trying to put the barrel on the ball more consistently and keep the bat in the strike zone longer. 

The results have been stunning. Yastrzemski should sail past the 20-homer mark, which hasn't been hit by a Giant since Brandon Crawford in 2015. He needs just one more to tie Buster Posey's total from his rookie year. 

The third homer last night showed that Yastrzemski still is learning and making adjustments. Earlier this year Yastrzemski expressed regret about letting some hittable pitches get by him early in counts. 

"Those are the pitches you can't let hit the mitt," hitting coach Alonzo Powell told him.

[RELATED: Giants equipped for evolving MLB after six-homer game]

When Yastrzemski came up in the 11th inning Friday, he was ready to be aggressive. Yoan Lopez grooved a first-pitch fastball and it left the park at 106 mph, landing 438 feet away in center field. 

"It's been fun to watch what he's been able to do," center fielder Kevin Pillar said.