Giants

Giants position battles: Examining key races before MLB Opening Day

Giants position battles: Examining key races before MLB Opening Day

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nearly six weeks ago, at the start of camp, I took a look at position battles and included this line when discussing the open outfield spots: "Bryce Harper certainly could take one of them ..."

Oh, how things could have been different. 

Instead, it was a stream of veterans on identical deals -- usually $1.75 million if they make the team -- with the idea that a trade could be made at any point. 

The Giants still have not swung that deal, and in a week they'll board a short flight to San Diego with 25 players. The Opening Day roster could look different by the end of that first series, but for now, let's take a look back at those spring battles and make some predictions ... 

Outfield

Barring a rehab setback, center field was Steven Duggar's job. It's been smooth sailing, and he'll start there on Opening Day and possibly lead off.

Mac Williamson and Gerardo Parra are currently in line to start in the other corners, with Cameron Maybin the favorite to be the fourth guy. The Giants were excited to get a long look at Drew Ferguson, but the Rule 5 pick has hit just .111 with no extra-base hits. It appears he'll be headed back to the Astros. 

Backup catcher

Signed the day before FanFest, René Rivera has emerged as the frontrunner to back up Buster Posey. There is still some gap power in the 35-year-old's bat and he quickly built a rapport with the pitching staff.

The Giants could go with a third catcher, Aramis Garcia, as Posey eases into the season, but with a 1:10 p.m. opener followed by two night games, that doesn't seem a necessity. 

Fifth starter

It turns out there was never much of a battle here. Jeff Samardzija is healthy and earned his spot. Dereck Rodriguez had the upper hand on Andrew Suarez from the start, and he'll be in the rotation.

Suarez seems destined to start in Triple-A, although there could be plenty of movement here. Rodriguez, Suarez and the resurgent Tyler Beede all have options and could be shuttled back and forth a bit as needed. 

Last spots in the bullpen

I went deep on this group yesterday and came up with this bullpen if the Giants go with eight relievers: Smith, Watson, Dyson, Moronta, Melancon, Bergen, Gott, Stratton. This is the one place, though, where Farhan Zaidi may get the most creative to store inventory.

Will someone be traded, or discover a sore muscle 48 hours before the opener? 

The infield

The original article did not touch on the infielders, because Pablo Sandoval and Alen Hanson seemed set. But then the Giants signed Yangervis Solarte, and he has passed both on the depth chart.

Would Zaidi really start his first season by releasing Sandoval, a fan favorite as well as one of Bruce Bochy's all-time favorites? Hanson brings value, too, but he is out of options and it's hard to see him getting through waivers.

[RELATED: Giants' new role players must step up for team to have successful 2019]

 The Giants could carry three backup infielders and use Solarte and Hanson as their fifth outfielder, but that would require going a man short in the bullpen. 

Tim Flannery finds inspiration after tragedies, releases new album

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USATSI

Tim Flannery finds inspiration after tragedies, releases new album

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Flannery has released 14 albums, pulling inspiration from all kinds of sources. Sometimes he would write about the music scene in a certain city, or a character he met during his decades on the road playing and coaching baseball.

But the album Flannery will release Saturday has special meaning. Flannery wrote it after dealing with two different kinds of emotions. 

“This album really started probably out of tragedy,” he said this week.

Last January, Rob Picciolo, a longtime big league coach, and Kevin Towers, the former general manager of the Padres, passed away in the span of a few weeks. Flannery, the former Giants third base coach and current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst, found himself attending the funeral of a close friend on back-to-back weekends. He wrote a song about it called “The Light.”

Later in the year, Flannery’s son, Danny, called him and told him he would be going to rehab in Oregon. That experience was turned into “Ghost Town,” the second track on the album, also called “The Light.”

“That whole episode of dealing with it and even when he got out, some of the things he was thinking and saying about not wanting to go back to his ghost town again, that’s easy for me to relate to,” Flannery said. “I’m sure everybody has their ghost town. The next thing I know I’m writing another song out of it, and something else and something else, and a year and a half later, you’re playing these songs at shows.”

Flannery said he didn’t expect to make another album after his previous one, but he never stops playing, and he found new stories to tell. He said his son was happy that the story was being told through music. 

“He said, ‘I think we can help other people deal with things.’ He’s all-in,” Flannery said. “He’s a changed man and asked me to tell the story.”

Tim Flannery & The Lunatic Fringe will debut the album on Saturday at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City. All proceeds will go to the non-profit Love Harder Project for anti-bullying and anti-violence programs across the country.

“This record is for me like a burning light in a world that has gone dark at times,” Flannery said. “It’s gone dark for different people, for different reasons, but this record is a record of hope, a record of love and light.”

Cameron Maybin, on Giants this spring, to visit Oracle Park with Yankees

Cameron Maybin, on Giants this spring, to visit Oracle Park with Yankees

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will face two Yankees lefties this weekend at Oracle Park, and for most of this spring, their plan would have called for Cameron Maybin to start those games. If Maybin is in the lineup this weekend, it'll be for the visitors. 

Maybin, a non-roster invitee in Giants camp this spring, was traded to the desperate Yankees on Thursday morning and added to their big league roster. The Yankees sent cash considerations to the Indians, who stashed Maybin at Triple-A after he was let go by the Giants. 

The Yankees turned to Maybin because of unbelievable injury issues in their outfield. Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks are on the DL, and Clint Frazier -- who hit six homers in fill-in duty -- joined them after spraining his left ankle earlier this season. Frazier became the 15th Yankee to hit the injured list (by comparison, the Giants have just one, the rehabbing Johnny Cueto).

The Giants at one point thought Maybin could form a platoon with Steven Duggar or provide depth in their corner outfield spots. But he had a poor spring on and off the field, and ultimately the front office started the year by taking a look at Michael Reed in that spot. It is now Kevin Pillar who provides the right-handed balance and plays center field.

[RELATED: What we learned from Giants' 4-4 road trip]

The Giants, it's fair to say, are happy with how this all turned out. 

Maybin played 14 games in Triple-A for the Indians, hitting .216 with three doubles and 13 walks.