Giants

Giants select Georgia Tech C Joey Bart with No. 2 overall pick in 2018 MLB Draft

Giants select Georgia Tech C Joey Bart with No. 2 overall pick in 2018 MLB Draft

SAN FRANCISCO — The last time the Giants took a catcher from Georgia, they won three World Series titles. They’re hoping for a repeat of history. 

With the second pick in the MLB Draft, their highest selection in 33 years, the Giants took Joey Bart, a catcher from Georgia Tech widely viewed as the best position-player prospect available. Bart is from Buford, Georgia, a three-hour drive from Buster Posey’s hometown. 

Bart said Posey was one of his favorite players growing up. The rumors have swirled for weeks that he would join Posey’s organization, and as the announcement was about to be made, Bart had one overwhelming thought. 

“I hope the Giants want me because that’s where I want to be,” he said. “Everything worked out.”

Bart, who turns 22 in December, is listed at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. He bats from the right side, and this season was a nightmare for ACC pitchers, batting a league-leading .359 with a .471 on-base percentage and .632 slugging percentage. Bart became the first Georgia Tech player since Mark Teixeira to win the ACC Player-of-the-Year Award and he’s a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, the Dick Howser Trophy and the Johnny Bench Award. This wasn’t just a one-year-run; Bart hit 13 homers as a sophomore and batted .299 with 10 doubles and 31 RBI as a freshman. 

Bart is known as a quality receiver behind the plate with a good arm. Manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher himself, liked that Bart called his own pitches in an age when most directions come from the bench. 

"He's gifted defensively and had a big year with the bat,” Bochy said. “You look at him and he's a man, a good sized kid already, and he really has developed his game and is playing well on both sides. He looks like he's pretty advanced. I don't know where he's going to start (in the minors) but you look at the size of the kid and his success and intangibles...you would think someone like this would be on the fast track."

Despite having a team in win-now mode, the Giants took the best available player, with an eye toward the future. It should be a workable situation no matter when Bart arrives. Posey is signed through 2021 with a team option for 2022 and first baseman Brandon Belt is also signed through 2021. If Bart moves quickly, he could break in as Posey’s backup, making 40-50 starts while learning from the best catcher in the game. Posey has played more first base over the years and Belt is comfortable in left field. 

“Looking at the players available in this draft, the pool of players you’re evaluating, with this pool of players, to be able to get Joey Bart and be able to select him for the Giants, it was really good for us,” said John Barr, the team’s vice president in charge of scouting. “You can’t take for need. You get yourself in trouble when you take for need. Right now we look at Joey as being someone that we think has a chance to be an everyday catcher and hit in the middle of the lineup and hit for power.” 

The Giants started scouting Bart in high school and followed him throughout his collegiate career. He met with Barr in Atlanta recently and also met with general manager Bobby Evans, and he was brought out to San Francisco last week for a workout at AT&T Park. It was said to be impressive. Bart, who said it was 100 degrees in Georgia, came away equally impressed with the other side of the equation. 

“It was unreal,” he said. “Being right there on the water and the bay, it was really cool. It was a really different feeling. I’ve been a lot of places — SoCal and on the Cape — but it was just a different feeling and I soaked it all in. I loved hitting out there. I could hit out there all day long. It was so much fun.”

San Francisco made an additional selection on Monday, drafting right-handed pitcher Sean Hjelle from the University of Kentucky at No. 45 overall:

Pick: Sean Hjelle, University of Kentucky (No. 45 overall)

Position: Pitcher

Bats/Throws: Right/Right 

Height: 6-11

Weight: 225 lbs

Age: 21 

Hometown: White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Hunter Strickland blows two-run lead in 'unacceptable' ninth inning

Hunter Strickland blows two-run lead in 'unacceptable' ninth inning

SAN FRANCISCO — The life of a closer is a brutal one. No matter how many games you save, no matter how many scoreless appearances you pile up, the bullseye will be squarely on your back when you falter and cost the team a game. 

For Hunter Strickland, there was always going to be an added degree of difficulty. Strickland has been one of the most durable and reliable relievers in the National League since a rough 2014 postseason, and he entered Monday’s game with a 2.01 ERA and 13 saves in 16 chances. He had converted 11 of his previous 12 chances, and the one misstep was more about the defense behind him. 

But many Giants fans have never forgotten 2014, or gotten over a fight with Bryce Harper. So when Strickland gave up three runs in the top of the ninth inning and then exchanged words with the runner on third, the boos cascaded from the few left watching a Giants-Marlins game on a Monday night. Strickland, after a 5-4 loss was complete, was a harsher critic. 

“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “(Andrew) Suarez went out and did a heck of a job. Sammy (Dyson) picked him up and obviously I let them down.”

A minute later, Strickland was more succinct. 

“It sucked in general,” he said. 

This was not the way the Giants wanted to return home. They spent three days in Los Angeles talking about how difficult the road schedule has been, but they did not take advantage of a cupcake on their first night back. Suarez was good, opposing lefty Caleb Smith lasted just four rough innings, and the Marlins kicked the ball around AT&T Park. But still, they were handed a win, once again coming back against the Giants, as they did all series last week while taking three of four in Miami. 

Strickland opened the ninth by walking Brian Anderson, a sin for a relief pitcher. 

“Can’t have that. That’s unacceptable,” he said. 

He hung a slider to J.T. Realmuto and the double cut a 4-2 lead in half. Justin Bour was walked and Reyes Moronta and Tony Watson started getting loose in a hurry. But Bruce Bochy stuck with Strickland, who had some easier matchups ahead of him. After a groundout, Lewis Brinson — hitting .179 at the time — lined a game-tying single into right. Miguel Rojas, another light hitter, curled the go-ahead hit down the line. 

Strickland’s night was done, but he was not. The first pitch to Brinson had been a heater up and in, and when the rookie responded with a base hit later, he joyously jumped his way down the line. Strickland took exception, and he chirped at Brinson, standing on third, as he walked toward the dugout. Strickland said he was just “in the moment.”

“I was not real happy with myself,” he said. 

The moment did not help Strickland’s cause, but he’s had them before, and he has pushed past them before. His job is to close, and for most of this season, he has done it very well. The Giants had been 31-0 when leading after eight. Bochy scoffed when asked if a change is needed in the ninth.

“You look at the job he’s done, there’s no reason to have a leash on him,” he said. “He’s really pitched well. The numbers show that.”

Giants open homestand with sour taste, blow ninth-inning lead in loss to Marlins

Giants open homestand with sour taste, blow ninth-inning lead in loss to Marlins

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants talked a lot about how difficult their stretch on the road was. Their first night back was difficult to watch. 

Hunter Strickland melted down in the ninth, coughing up a two-run lead. He walked the leadoff batter, hung a slider that went for a double, walked the next batter, got an out, and then gave up back-to-back singles before departing with a few words for Lewis Brinson, who tied the game. The Giants lost 5-4 in an embarrassing fashion, dropping to 1-4 against the lowly Marlins this season. Here are some things that happened before the inning that ended in boos... 

—- Strickland’s performance blew a win for Andrew Suarez, who allowed two runs over seven innings. Suarez entered the night fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio among lefties with at least 40 innings this season, right behind Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw. He struck out seven and walked just one. 

—- Kelby Tomlinson is here for three days because Brandon Crawford is on paternity leave, and he made an impact his first night back. Tomlinson’s diving stop ended the third, and he made another sliding stop to start an inning-ending double play in the seventh. 

—- Pablo Sandoval’s homer was his first this season as a right-handed batter. He got a hanging slider from Caleb Smith and drove it into the first row of seats in left. Sandoval entered the day hitting just .148 against lefties, but he’ll see plenty of them now that Evan Longoria is out six-to-eight weeks. 

—- Bruce Bochy gave Sam Dyson some extended time off in Los Angeles so he could freshen up. Dyson needed one pitch to get a double play in the seventh and then breezed through the eighth, ending it with a 94 mph that flummoxed Starlin Castro.