Giants

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy thought he might take it slow with Hunter Pence this spring. Pence, of course, had other ideas. 

Pence, who was held back by intercostal soreness during the first week of workouts, insisted on playing the Cactus League opener. He drove in the first Giants run of the new year with a double off the wall in the bottom of the first inning. 

“I just like to be out there Game 1,” Pence said. “It’s a message. It’s good to be out there. I have every intention of being ready to play every game of the season, so getting out there Game 1 is important to me.”

Bochy played plenty of regulars on the first day, but they were long gone when this one was decided in dramatic fashion. Chris Marrero, a non-roster invitee, hit a three-run walk-off homer as the Giants topped the Reds 6-4.

Marrero, 28, was one of the lead targets for a scouting staff that has made a habit of finding non-roster gems. The former first-round pick hit 23 homers for Boston’s Triple-A team and the Giants went after him hard when he became a minor league free agent. Marrero said his agent got a call within the first five minutes. It was an easy decision, in part because of the non-roster history here and in part because Marrero never got a call-up despite minor league success with the Red Sox. 

“If this team wants you, it’s a good thing,” Marrero said of the Giants. 

Marrero plays first base and the outfield, and while there are plenty of longtime big leaguers in camp, he certainly made a statement on the first day. The slider he hit went out to left in a hurry. 

“He’s a right-handed bat with power,” Bochy said. “He threw out good at-bats on the first day. We’re excited he signed with us. He’s going to get some at-bats here.”

THE ACE: Bochy gave Madison Bumgarner the option of skipping this game and making his debut next week, but Bumgarner — who typically doesn’t throw off a mound until he gets to camp — wanted to face hitters. “I thought it’d be good to get out there and get my feet wet,” he said. Bumgarner worked with Nick Hundley, who made some friends the first time out. 

PROSPECT WATCH: Clayton Blackburn delivered a bit of a message with two perfect innings: Don’t forget about me. 

Blackburn has been bumped down the depth chart by Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, but he was sharp while striking out three. “He was right on, wasn’t he?” Bochy said.

Blackburn was a big story last spring, coming off a season where he led the PCL with a 2.85 ERA. He had a 4.36 ERA last season and that led to some offseason changes. Blackburn said he threw off a mound 10-12 times before coming to camp last year, but he limited it to a handful of sessions this year, instead focusing on flat-ground throws into a net.

“You only have so many bullets,” he said, noting there was some fatigue last season. “You can’t waste them all in the offseason.”

Blackburn was called up last season but never got into a game. 

“There’s definitely a lot more hunger,” he said. “It’s always cool to get called up, but it was disappointing not to get in and not see any more time the rest of the year. It’s disappointing, but it’s part of the game.”

With a few more outings like Friday’s, Blackburn will get that second shot. His peripherals were just about the same across the board in 2015 and 2016, with the glaring difference being 12 additional homers in a hitter-friendly league. If he cuts back on the home runs, there’s no reason why Blackburn can’t get back in the mix here. 

NOTEWORTHY: Jimmy Rollins was 1-for-2 in his Giants debut, with a run scored … Wynton Bernard, the speedy outfielder plucked from Detroit’s system, scored on a double and two wild pitches … Jae-gyun Hwang didn’t have the best debut. He struck out twice and stumbled (for an error) on a slow roller to third ... Healthy Joe Panik had two hits in two at-bats ... Orlando Calixte played second and short and Bochy lit up when talking about his versatility. Calixte will see time in the outfield this spring, too. 

FAMILIAR FACES: It was 2010 Day at the ballpark, as Freddy Sanchez, Bengie Molina and Jeremy Affeldt were all on the field during BP. Molina and Affeldt were part of broadcast teams, but Sanchez was here with his under-9 travel ball team. Per Sanchez, the team is the best U9 team in Arizona. 

QUOTABLE: “We feed off each other and I know he feeds off of me. Hunter is a special cat. He’s the most positive person you’ll ever come across, but it’s hard because he plays with the team-first mentality and he puts himself second and sometimes that gets really hard on a person and can weigh a person down. I like to be there with him and bounce things off of him and try to keep him light and energetic. I’m not saying I take anything away from him, but don’t let him carry this big burden. Be that guy for him. He can be Batman, I’ll be Robin.” --- Mike Morse during an interview that airs on my podcast this week. You can stream it online here or download it on iTunes here.

Baseball Hall of Fame: Good, bad news for two former Giants on ballot

kentomarap.jpg
AP

Baseball Hall of Fame: Good, bad news for two former Giants on ballot

SAN FRANCISCO -- A pair of former Giants middle infielders made modest gains in Hall of Fame voting, but only one of them seems to have a real shot. 

In his second year on the ballot, Omar Vizquel went from 37 percent to 42.8 percent.

Jeff Kent, now in his sixth year on the ballot, reached a new high of 18.1 percent, but he is far, far away from the 75 percent needed for induction, and he's running out of time. Kent has been between 14 and 18.1 percent in every year he has been on the ballot. 

The Kent case is a bit baffling, as he's the all-time leader in home runs among second basemen, a five-time All-Star and the 2000 National League MVP. He has seemingly been punished for playing in a homer-happy era and having a less-than-stellar defensive reputation, but Kent still seems worthy of far more discussion than he gets on a yearly basis. 

Perhaps Kent will benefit from a bit of a ballot purge, as four players were voted in Tuesday. Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous Hall of Famer and will be joined in the 2019 class by Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, and the late Roy Halladay. Barry Bonds, in his seventh year on the ballot, received just 59.1 percent of the vote. 

Vizquel is one of the best defensive shortstops of all-time and finished his career with 2,877 hits. The 11-time Gold Glove winner played four seasons with the Giants and is an interesting spot. He currently is far from induction, but there are always players who make massive leaps in their final years on the ballot and get to the threshold. Martinez was at 43.4 percent as late as 2016 and Mussina was at 43 percent that year. Both are now Hall of Famers, and with a similar trajectory, Vizquel could join them one day. 

[RELATED: Bonds gains ground, but falls short of Hall of Fame again]

Another player with Giants ties certainly will not. Miguel Tejada got five total votes in his first year on the ballot and will not be eligible again. 
 

Barry Bonds gains votes, but remains far from Hall of Fame induction

bondssadap.jpg
AP

Barry Bonds gains votes, but remains far from Hall of Fame induction

SAN FRANCISCO — Once again, Barry Bonds saw small gains in Hall of Fame voting, but it wasn't nearly enough. 

Bonds was listed on 59.1 percent of ballots this year, a bump from his total of 56.4 percent in 2018, but remains well short of the 75 percent required to make the Hall of Fame. This was his seventh time on the ballot, meaning he has just three more years of eligibility.

Four players will be inducted this summer, led by former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who became the first player to be inducted unanimously. Former Mariners star Edgar Martinez easily made it in his final year on the ballot, the late Roy Halladay made it in his first, and longtime Orioles and Yankees ace Mike Mussina made it in his sixth year. 

Bonds, a seven-time MVP and the all-time home run leader, was first on the ballot in 2013, when he got just 36.2 percent of the vote. He dipped to 34.7 percent the next year before going 36.8, 44.3 and 53.8 the next three years. The final jump coincided with Bud Selig, who oversaw the steroid era, getting in, which led many voters to change their minds. 

Bonds has also slightly benefited from younger voters entering the process. According to Ryan Thibodaux’s vote tracker, Bonds was on the ballots of seven of the eight first-time voters who made their choices public before Tuesday’s announcement. Still, it has not been nearly enough. The climb has been slow, and he does not appear to be trending towards induction. 

Bonds and Roger Clemens have always been side by side because of their similar cases. They are all-time greats, worthy of unanimous inclusion if not for PED connections. In recent years, Bonds has mostly stopped commenting publicly about his fate, but he has become more visible in San Francisco. Bonds had his number retired last season as part of an ongoing effort to celebrate his achievements.