Giants Rule 5 pick Travis Bergen finally gets to pitch in Toronto


Giants Rule 5 pick Travis Bergen finally gets to pitch in Toronto

SAN FRANCISCO -- Kevin Pillar was emotional on his way out of Toronto earlier this month, and most of the attention will be on the center fielder as the Giants play two with the young Blue Jays. But the trip to the Rogers Centre will be just as meaningful for another Giant, albeit in a much different way.

From the moment the Blue Jays took him in the seventh round in 2015, lefty Travis Bergen dreamed of playing in Toronto. He never even visited the city while with the organization, always stuck rehabbing or working his way through the low minors. But he'll be in the bullpen tonight, having won a job this spring and shown enough promise through his first month that the Giants have kept the Rule 5 pick around. 

"It's going to be pretty cool," Bergen said. "I guess I envisioned myself playing in the big leagues with them when I was drafted, and the opportunity that I got here (with the Giants) has been something that I never would have dreamed of."

That opportunity never came in Toronto because of injuries. Bergen pitched just 59 times in the minors before the Giants scooped him up in the December Rule 5 Draft, impressed by his eye-popping numbers and a fastball that's deceptive despite sitting around 90 mph. 

So far it looks like a solid evaluation. Bergen made the club with a big spring, and although he returns to Toronto with a 7.11 ERA, he mostly has pitched well. Bergen allowed two homers and four runs in one outing against the Nationals but otherwise has allowed just one run since making the leap from Double-A. 

Pitching coach Curt Young said Bergen is working on a changeup in bullpen sessions, but so far he has been a two-pitch guy. He throws a good curveball 30 percent of the time and his fastball 70 percent. It's not overpowering by any means, but hitters have always had a hard time squaring it up.

"He has good arm speed and sells it well, and he gets good spin on the baseball," Young said of the fastball. "It's the true perfect elevation of a fastball. He throws it up in the zone really well."

Bergen said he hasn't gotten too deep into the analytics of why his two pitches work, preferring to focus on how to prepare as a big leaguer. He spends plenty of time learning from the veterans in the bullpen, and he singled out Mark Melancon as one player who has helped him learn how to set up hitters. 

This Giants bullpen, with veteran lefties like Will Smith and Tony Watson alongside Melancon, Sam Dyson and others, is a hell of a place for a young pitcher to learn. But that could change this summer. Smith and Watson will be trade chips, and Bergen could soon find himself in high-pressure spots with a lefty at the plate. 

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For now, manager Bruce Bochy is easing him in, but he said he doesn't see Bergen as a specialist. He has the equipment to get lefties and righties out, and the Giants are more than pleased with their pick. 

"You look at what he had to go through this spring, the pressure on these guys as a Rule 5 pick," Bochy said. "You have to make the club or go back, and he performed really well. I think it says a lot about the kid and his makeup."

Bruce Bochy mixes up Giants pregame routine looking for quicker starts


Bruce Bochy mixes up Giants pregame routine looking for quicker starts

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants filed out of the clubhouse after Tuesday night's boisterous comeback win over the Braves, players saw a clear message on the digital board near the wall.


This is something manager Bruce Bochy talked about in spring training, and he felt it was time for some of his players to take a breather. Too many had been showing up seven hours before a game to get work done, and Bochy wanted guys to clear their heads and get their bodies a couple more hours of rest. 

"It's amazing how much earlier players are getting to the ballpark," Bochy said. "Sometimes you've got to do this to say, hey, it's okay to relax and spend some time with your family and you still have time to get everything done when you get here."

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Bochy was hoping the change would lead to a change in the first inning. The Giants have been outscored 48-8 in the first, and the lineup is batting just .195. Most of the team generally arrives about five hours before first pitch, but most got to the park around 4 p.m. for the 6:45 start Wednesday. 

"Sometimes less is more, you back them off a little bit," Bochy said. "We've been stagnant at the start of games. You try to change it up sometimes and see if that will help."

Giants vs. Braves lineups: Red-hot Max Fried will see seven righties


Giants vs. Braves lineups: Red-hot Max Fried will see seven righties

The Giants can pick up their second straight series win if they take care of one of the better teams in baseball Wednesday night.

After a walk-off win Tuesday night at Oracle Park, San Francisco hosts the Atlanta Braves once again. Jeff Samardzija will square off against Braves southpaw Max Fried. Fried is in the middle of a breakout season, owning a 1.13 WHIP through nine starts in 2019, and the Giants will counter the 25-year-old with seven right-handed hitters.

The Giants, meanwhile, continue to employ a revolving door in left field and will start Mac Williamson there. Since homering in his first game on May 7, Williamson has slashed .114/.205/.143 in 39 plate appearances. 

[RELATED: What we learned in Anderson's second start with Giants]

First pitch is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming on the MyTeams app.

Here are the lineups for both teams Wednesday night:

San Francisco Giants (21-26)
Donovan Solano, 2B
Tyler Austin, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Buster Posey, C
Kevin Pillar, RF
Brandon Crawford, SS
Mac Williamson, LF
Steven Duggar, CF
Jeff Samardzija, RHP (2-2, 3.69 ERA)

Atlanta Braves (26-23)
Ronald Acuña Jr., CF
Dansby Swanson, SS
Freddie Freeman, 1B
Nick Markakis, RF
Austin Riley, 3B
Brian McCann, C
Ozzie Albies, 2B
Matt Joyce, LF
Max Fried, LHP (6-2, 2.86 ERA)