Giants pitching coach Andrew Bailey details meteoric rise to new position

Giants pitching coach Andrew Bailey details meteoric rise to new position

SAN FRANCISCO -- The day before Andrew Bailey announced his retirement was a big one for an organization he would later join. 

On Feb. 25, 2018, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen made their spring training debuts for the Giants, who had acquired them a month earlier. The next day, Bailey took to Instagram to announce that his playing days were over and he would transition into a role on the Los Angeles Angels' staff. 

So yes, it's been a meteoric rise for Bailey. Less than two years after he hung up his spikes, the longtime big league reliever is preparing for his first season as pitching coach for the Giants, who still have Longoria as a key piece of the lineup. Bailey is just 35 and comes to the Giants after two seasons on the Angels' staff, where he already was building a strong reputation as an instructor. The Giants believe they hired a rising star for Gabe Kapler's new-look staff. 

"To have the position I have now, I feel like it's quite the ride," Bailey said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "Yeah sure, it happens quickly, but you never really know if you're ready for something until you try it out. I feel like I'm ready. I'm excited about it. I've already connected with a lot of the players and we're really looking forward to going down this road together."

The path is one Bailey actually started traveling long before he became a coaching assistant and video replay coordinator for the Angels in 2018 or took over as bullpen coach the following season. 

Shoulder injuries derailed what had once been a career highlighted by saves and All-Star appearances, but as Bailey rehabbed with the Yankees in 2014 and 2015, he found himself taking on a new role. He spent all of 2014 rehabbing at the organization's facility in Tampa, working out with young prospects and pitchers who had just been drafted. Naturally, they had a lot of questions for a veteran who saved 75 games in his first three seasons, made two All-Star teams with the A's, and won the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year award. Bailey was happy to be a mentor. 

"I really kind of fell in love with coaching then," he said. "I looked at myself as kind of a resource for those guys, I guess ... I think that mindset just continued my last couple of years as a player, as well."

The Angels accelerated the process by letting Bailey experience all aspects of an organization. He worked on the big league staff, but also spent time with the research and development department, the analytics staff, biomechanics experts and scouts. Bailey also was part of the preparation process for the draft. 

The Giants saw a well-rounded coach who was perfect for the kind of staff Kapler wanted to build, and while Bailey and Kapler didn't really know each other before that initial interview, there were connections. Farhan Zaidi was in Oakland when the A's drafted Bailey in 2006 and watched his rise through their system, and the two have kept in touch. Bailey also knew people in Chicago who were familiar with Scott Harris.

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Bailey said that he "felt like I got a call out of the blue" from the Giants, but he beat out a wide-ranging field of candidates to become Kapler's choice. He also discussed the hierarchy on the pitching side of Kapler's staff, the players he feels will be leaders for the Giants' pitching staff, his use of analytics, and his initial thoughts on young starters Tyler Beede and Logan Webb, as well as the upcoming bullpen competition. You can download the podcast on iTunes or stream it here.

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Bailey left the Angels at a time when they appear to be set up well for the future. Shortly after the Giants announced their new staff, the Angels signed Anthony Rendon to join Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and others. The Giants are well behind in the talent department, but Bailey is excited about what's ahead. 

"I think our coaching staff is really connected and we're all striving for the same thing, and that's to win a World Series," he said. "Ultimately the run that the Giants put together a few years ago was extremely impressive and that's what we're trying to get back to. I think this year will be a lot of new faces, new names and new excitement around players, and building that culture and helping groom these young guys to be the next superstars of the Giants."

Watch Heliot Ramos hit two-run homer in Giants' spring training game

Watch Heliot Ramos hit two-run homer in Giants' spring training game

Heliot Ramos likes the prime time lights.

The heralded Giants prospect proved it by crushing a two-run homer in Friday's split-squad spring training game against the Rockies at Scottsdale Stadium in Arizona.

The 20-year-old drove a 2-1 pitch from Colorado pitcher Carlos Estevez over the left center field wall. It was his first homer of the spring.

The Giants have high hopes for Ramos, whom they selected with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.

Ramos is coming off a breakout 2019 season as he hit .306 with 13 homers in 77 games for High-A San Jose. That production earned him a late-season promotion to Double-A Richmond. He held his own with the Flying Squirrels, hitting .242 with three homers and 15 RBI in 25 games.

While Ramos wasn't a non-roster invitee to major league camp this spring, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi wouldn't put it past the native of Puerto Rico to reach the big leagues this season.

"We had guys last year work their way through two or three levels of the minors leagues so it's certainly something that he could do," Zaidi told NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic earlier in February. "I think both with him and Joey, just the injuries kind of slowed them down a little bit and maybe backed up their timetable for when they could potentially get to the big leagues this year, but we've talked about promoting guys aggressively when they kind of perform up to levels that warrant a promotion, and that'll be the case for both those guys."

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The future is looking bright for the Giants with Ramos and catcher Joey Bart on the cusp of major league stardom.

Wilmer Flores looks to add more power to Giants' lineup this season

Wilmer Flores looks to add more power to Giants' lineup this season

Wilmer Flores made history this offseason. He became the first player Farhan Zaidi signed to a multiyear contract with the Giants, when the veteran infielder inked his two-year deal earlier this month. 

Now that he's with the Giants in spring training, Flores is trying to add something to San Francisco that the team badly lacked last season: Power. It's not like that's what the 28-year-old is known for, though. 

Flores hit nine homers in 89 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, but his .848 OPS was a career-high and his .487 slugging percentage was one point off the best of his career. 

"I've always been a guy who puts the ball in play," Flores said Friday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show." "I'm trying this year to hit the ball a lot more in the air. That's what I'm trying to do a lot more this year. Ground balls are not hits anymore. You gotta hit the ball in the air." 

From 2015-2018, however, he averaged 15 long balls per season and clearly has bought into baseball's power movement with more launch angle. 

Flores should have an interesting role on the Giants this season. The keyword around Gabe Kapler's spring training is "versatility." Mauricio Dubon already has embraced it, and Flores believes he can thrive anywhere around the infield. 

"In the infield, I can play anywhere if you want me to," Flores said.

But he clearly prefers a certain spot.

"If you ask me, I'll stay at second base," Flores said. 

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That position is full of competition for the Giants this season. Along with Flores and Dubon, Yolmer Sanchez -- who won an AL Gold Glove last season -- and Donovan Solano are vying for time as well. Flores played 64 games at second base and 16 at third last year. He also has plenty of time at shortstop and first base under his belt as well. 

Whether it's more defensive versatility or adding more power, Flores figures to be a key player for the Giants this season.