Giants searching for right-handed hitters to balance lefty-heavy lineup

Giants searching for right-handed hitters to balance lefty-heavy lineup

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. --  A month into camp, it's pretty easy at this point to picture an Opening Day lineup. The only question marks coming in were in the outfield, and Steven Duggar, Mac Williamson and Gerardo Parra are currently headed for the starting spots.

That could change any moment with a trade or free agent addition, but at the moment, the Giants are trying to figure out how to fill out the roster around that group. Farhan Zaidi likes positional versatility, but he said recently that another issue is on his mind. 

"One thing that's an area of concern for us is making sure we're protecting the left-handed bats in our lineup," Zaidi said. "We have, in all likelihood, three left-handed infielders and one or maybe two left-handed outfielders, and you want to feel like you have right-handed bats coming off the bench that can either platoon or spell those guys, or come in against a tough lefty late in the game. 

"The handedness is as much of a challenge as making sure we're covered defensively."

In a division full of good left-handed starting pitchers, the Giants could have a regular lineup featuring five left-handed hitters. The bigger issue is trying to find a way to complement them with bench pieces. Pablo Sandoval, Yangervis Solarte and Alen Hanson are all switch-hitters who hit much better from the left side. Sandoval and Hanson both posted a .439 OPS from the right side last season.

It's hard to see what the immediate solution is. The Giants do not have a Kiké Hernandez type who mashes lefties and can pay anywhere. They do have Cameron Maybin in camp, although he has gotten off to a slow start and doesn't have a track record of success against lefties.

Zaidi likes Drew Ferguson, and an Austin Slater, Anthony Garcia or Henry Ramos could find a role balancing the outfield. 

The best way may be to rely on a different kind of in-house solution. Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Brandon Belt have all shown they can handle lefties for stretches in the past, and the Giants always could give Buster Posey more time at first, with Aramis Garcia catching. 

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Posey is still being slow-played, which showed over the past week as the Giants struggled against a series of lefty starters. 

"That's kind of showing up in some of these games, the need for right-handed bats," manager Bruce Bochy said. "You're hoping the Williamsons and Slaters and different guys at some point of the year -- even Maybin, who didn't have great numbers against lefties last year -- will step up for you."

Bruce Bochy reacts to quirk at Oracle Park he had never seen before

Bruce Bochy reacts to quirk at Oracle Park he had never seen before

Bruce Bochy has seen just about everything since he started managing in 1995.

But in the Giants' 5-3 loss to the Brewers on Sunday, Bochy witness something he had never seen before.

"First time I've seen it," Bochy said. "First time."

In the second inning, reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich roped a Jeff Samardzija pitch to right field. The ball skipped to the wall, and then it disappeared.

Right fielder Kevin Pillar threw up his arms, the universal signal to the umpires that the ball has gone out of play.

But a ground rule double in right field at Oracle Park? That seems hard considering the height of the wall.

In this case, the ball bounced perfectly between the archway gates and into the standing-room only section under the out-of-town scoreboard where a fan picked up the ball.

First base umpire John Libka ran out to see what happened and once Pillar explained the situation, Yelich was awarded two bases. Ben Gamel, who was on first base, was awarded third base.

"I was a little concerned," Bochy said. "But Kevin, with his experience, he did the right thing instead of trying to dig it out."

Samardzija was able to strike out Ryan Braun to strand Gamel and Yelich.

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Oracle Park is in its 20th year of existence. Bochy is in his 13th and final year as Giants manager. Somehow, after all of Bochy's games in the ballpark on the shores of McCovey Cove, he saw something new.

"I've never seen that," Bochy said. "I didn't know what happened until the replay you could see it, where it went through the cushion."

Giants feeling good about themselves, love how they played on homestand

Giants feeling good about themselves, love how they played on homestand

For the Giants, this season isn't about contending for a playoff spot. It's about doing the small things right and building towards future success.

One thing manager Bruce Bochy wants his team to work on is playing better at Oracle Park.

Prior to the just-completed eight-game homestand, the Giants were 10-18 at home. But against the Dodgers, Padres and Brewers -- three quality clubs -- the Giants took five of the eight games.

"I think you look at it as a pretty good homestand," Bochy told reporters after the game. "We would have loved to have finished it off today ... and we could have, we had our chances. But we took two series against two good teams, so good bounce back off a tough series."

The Giants lost two of three to the Dodgers last weekend, but swept a two-game series with the Padres earlier this week. Then, this weekend, they had a chance to sweep the NL Central-leading Brewers before losing 5-3 on Sunday.

"So, better at home, that's what we've been looking for," Bochy said. "Hopefully when we get back it's the same thing, but now we got to hit the road here against some good teams. I like the way we're pitching, keeping it close and we are creating those chances and that's what you need to do. You do enough of it, as I said, odds are somebody's going to come through for you."

Jeff Samardzija started against Milwaukee Sunday and was tagged with four earned runs in five innings.

Despite taking the loss, Samardzija echoed Bochy's feeling that the team is on the right track.

"We're playing good ball right now," Samardzija told reporters. "I think we even showed it today. There were a couple situations there that definitely on my end, if we get out of there with a zero, it's probably a little bit different of a game and we had our opportunities."

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The Giants head down to LA to begin a four-game series with the rival Dodgers on Monday. After that, they head to Arizona for a three-game series before returning home next week to take on the Rockies.

"I love the way we're playing," Samardzija said. "We'll learn a lot about ourselves here in this next week."