Giants

Giants sign pitcher Drew Smyly to one-year contract, add rotation depth

Giants sign pitcher Drew Smyly to one-year contract, add rotation depth

Last January, the Giants signed lefties Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz to one-year contracts, with mixed results. This year, Drew Smyly is the lefty joining the rotation mix. 

The Giants announced Thursday that they've signed Smyly to a one-year, $4 million big league contract. Right-hander Trevor Oaks, claimed from the Kansas City Royals earlier this offseason, was DFA'd to clear a 40-man roster spot. Smyly can make an additional $3 million on bonuses tied to starting pitching and $1 million in reliever bonuses. He'll get a $250,000 bonus if he's on the opening day roster.

Smyly, 30, spent last season with Gabe Kapler's Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 4.45 ERA in 12 starts but averaging more than a strikeout per inning. He'll immediately join a crowded race to be in the Opening Day starting rotation, and he has a leg up simply because of the arm he throws with. The Giants are extremely right-handed on the roster, and Smyly joins Tyler Anderson as lefties who could help break up Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Tyler Beede, Logan Webb and others. Anderson currently is rehabbing from a knee injury. 

Smyly has bounced around the American League for most of his career, and he put up good numbers before Tommy John surgery derailed him in 2017. Smyly had a 3.53 ERA in three years in Detroit and a 3.93 ERA in three seasons with the Rays. He was a good enough young pitcher that at one point he was included in a deal for David Price, but Smyly has struggled to stay in a rotation since having elbow surgery. 

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Smyly didn't pitch in the big leagues in 2017 or 2018 and had 13 rocky appearances for the Texas Rangers in 2019. He was released by the Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers before catching on in Philadelphia, where he was a solid rotation piece down the stretch and posted a 3.65 ERA in five September starts.

The Giants had been looking for left-handed help, and Smyly should find himself with the same opportunity Pomeranz and Holland were given last year. Both started the season in the rotation and eventually ended up in the bullpen. Pomeranz turned into a nice trade chip, bringing Mauricio Dubon to San Francisco at the deadline. 

Giants' Reyes Moronta set to take big step in rehab from gruesome injury

Giants' Reyes Moronta set to take big step in rehab from gruesome injury

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Gabe Kapler gathered the 71 Giants players, 13 coaches and the rest of the support staff at Scottsdale Stadium on Monday morning, it should have been the official start of the biggest spring of Reyes Moronta's career. 

Moronta likely would have entered the spring as a favorite to become Kapler's closer, but he suffered a devastating shoulder injury at the end of August and had surgery on September 10 to repair his labrum. Moronta will spend the whole spring and most of the season rehabbing, but the first full workout day still was an important one for Moronta.

He was set to play catch Monday for the first time since getting hurt. 

"It's a big day," Moronta said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. "Since I got hurt, I've been waiting for this day."

It's a small step, but an important one for a player who is expected to be out until August. The Giants will be careful with Moronta, who holds an interesting spot on the roster. In a camp where Kapler wants every young pitcher to get stretched out, Moronta is one of the few true relievers with big league experience for the Giants.

The Giants plan to be creative this spring, and pitchers are preparing for the possibility that four of five with starting experience might end up in the bullpen going two or three innings an outing. Kapler has been hesitant to hand out specific roles, but the Giants do figure to lock Tony Watson into the late innings somewhere.

After that, there are a lot of question marks, and long term, Moronta still profiles as a closer or setup man. Before the injury, he ranked in the top 20 among NL relievers in batting average allowed (.197) and opponents' slugging percentage (.298). 

A big step will be taken Monday, but Moronta knows he won't fully mentally clear all the hurdles until he gets back on a big league mound. His injury was awful to watch, and it's the type that often lingers when a player starts ramping it up. He said the pain matched the scene, but he didn't realize how much damage had been done to his throwing shoulder until later.

"It was awful pain," he said. "But I feel good now."

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For now, the focus is on getting healthy. Moronta spent his offseason in Scottsdale to focus on rehab, taking a short break to get married. It's a goal for him to follow Johnny Cueto's lead and get back late in the year, if only for a few appearances. 

"It's very important for me and for the team and for my family," he said. "It's important for me to at least pitch a month or so and know that I'm healthy."

Why Giants brought in umpires for second round of bullpen sessions

Why Giants brought in umpires for second round of bullpen sessions

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Andrew Suarez kicked at the dirt on the bullpen mound Saturday and looked in at his catcher, most of what he saw was similar to every other bullpen session of his life. There was one key difference, though: An umpire in full uniform crouched behind the catcher.

Suarez fired a fastball, and the umpire emphatically pointed a finger to his left, signaling a strike. 

"It was different, but I liked it," Suarez said. "You get a good feel for the plate."

The Giants have made a lot of subtle changes to drills under manager Gabe Kapler and a 13-person coaching staff. Pitchers fielded pop-ups Sunday, an extreme rarity in a sport where the default move for a pitcher is to get out of the way and let an infielder take over. The outfield drills more closely resemble the NFL combine, with cones meticulously set up and coaches focusing on change-of-direction. But the biggest difference through a week of camp has been the addition of three real professional umpires to bullpen sessions.

The Giants brought the umpires, who live locally, in for their second round of bullpen sessions. They have four mounds going at a time and pitchers could opt out if they preferred to just throw to a catcher, but they seemed to enjoy the extra touch of intensity. Kapler said it was something he did in Philadelphia. 

"The concept obviously is to try to create heightened awareness and add a little competition to it," Kapler said.

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When Andrew Bailey met with coaches earlier this month, one thing the new pitching coach preached was making sure every pitch of every bullpen session had a purpose. The Giants record every session and pitchers can stop to watch video or get the spin rate or velocity on a previous pitch. The hope was that the addition of umpires would ramp up the intensity a bit, but Kapler said it wasn't just designed for pitchers. 

"The catchers are getting some feedback," Kapler said. "The bullpen sessions are as much for the catchers as they are for the pitchers, and you see how much attention and emphasis our catching coaches are putting on receiving. I think it's been good so far."