Giants spring training Day 18: WBC trio off to slow start as tourney approaches

Giants spring training Day 18: WBC trio off to slow start as tourney approaches

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — If the World Baseball Classic organizers were following the news out of Giants camp on Thursday, they couldn’t have been thrilled. Johnny Cueto, who will finally arrive at Scottsdale Stadium on Friday, will likely announce that he’s pulling out of the first round of play. Buster Posey missed a second straight game with a stiff neck. 

That leaves Brandon Crawford as the only Giants who is currently healthy and ready for the WBC. He went 0-for-3 against the White Sox, dropping his average to .091 during an accelerated spring. 

“I saw Christian Yelich had a home run. Adam Jones, too. (Nolan) Arenado hit one,” a smiling Crawford said of his Team USA teammates. “So we’re good.” 

There’s no reason for Jim Leyland to be concerned about his incoming shortstop. Crawford has gotten plenty of early at-bats and there have been no concerns with a throwing arm he usually rests during spring training.

“Once I get out there in games, it’s going to be pretty easy to get into game-mode,” he said. “You want everything to be more season-ready because you want to do well in the WBC. I think I’m close. I’m just not getting results.”

Crawford will combine with Arenado to form a frightening defensive duo. Bochy said that even with Posey’s minor hiccup, the Giants expect him to be fine to start alongside Crawford. Posey, who leaves Monday, hopes to catch a significant portion of Friday’s game and then start on Sunday. Thus far, he has just four spring plate appearances and nine innings behind the plate.

“Right now, he’s not showing any concern about being able to catch,” Bochy said. “He’s said his legs feel as good as they have in spring training.”

Cueto threw regular bullpen sessions while waiting for a visa for his father. He’ll have a physical on Friday and meet with the staff, at which point the Giants should get more clarity on how much he plans on throwing in the WBC. The expectation right now is that he will pull out of the first round but keep his options open to join should the Dominican Republic advance.

GAME RECAP: The Giants and White Sox combined for 10 errors. Ten! Bochy took the six Giants errors in stride, pointing out that four were from young prospects — Steven Duggar and C.J. Hinojosa. Duggar, making his first start in center, had two early errors but bounced back to reach base four times. He’s a really interesting prospect, with speed that has been on full display through the first week. The sloppiness hurt Matt Moore, who gave up four of the runs in an 8-6 loss to the White Sox. 

SPLIT-SQUAD: Over in Tempe, Tyler Beede pitched two scoreless innings, giving him four for the spring. The Giants lost 5-4. They made just one error in the road game … Chris Marrero hit his second homer of the spring … Mac Williamson, Aaron Hill and Kelby Tomlinson had two-hit days … Trevor Brown caught three guys trying to steal second. 

STOCK RISING: To my eyes, Jimmy Rollins has to be a slight favorite for the second backup infielder job at the moment. He’s had a good first week of games. Here’s a story about his debut at second base. 

FAMILIAR FACE: Over in Tempe, the Giants faced Yusmeiro Petit. If you missed it, here’s a look at Petit and all the other former Giants who are in big league camps as non-roster invitees. 

ROSTER UPDATE: If you were waiting for Josmil Pinto to arrive, I have bad news for you. His locker has been cleared out. Apparently he won’t be in camp. 

QUOTABLE: “That was the first time I’ve gotten got on a delayed steal. It was a super-delay. I could’ve sworn I checked. I was mid-stretch and he’s going.” — Crawford on Rymer Liriano taking second on a delayed steal. Nobody covered the bag.

Why Josh Harrison would fit Giants but isn't perfect platoon partner


Why Josh Harrison would fit Giants but isn't perfect platoon partner

With Farhan Zaidi now at the head of decision-making, the Giants want a more versatile roster. One player who fits the mold and has been linked to the Giants in recent months is Josh Harrison.

FanCred's Jon Heyman resurfaced the report Sunday, listing the Giants, Dodgers, Angels, Phillies and Rays as teams interested in the former Pirates second baseman. 

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said he will embrace platooning players, and second baseman Joe Panik consistently has been talked about as a player the front office will look at as a left-handed hitter in need of a right-handed partner. 

So, could Harrison be the answer? Yes and no. 

Harrison, 31, certainly is the kind of multi-positional player Zaidi covets. While he spent 87 of the 89 games he saw in the field at second base, compared to just two at third base in 2018, he has played five positions -- second, third, right field, left field and shortstop -- over his eight-year career. 

The Giants could use Harrison all over the field, but is he the right platoon partner at the plate with Panik? Not exactly. 

Panik hit just .191 against left-handed pitching last season, compared to .282 facing right-handers. But Harrison, a right-handed hitter, also struggled mightily against left-handed pitching. He had reverse splits, hitting .262 against right-handers and just .219 against left-handers in 2018. 

Harrison's splits very well could be an outlier, though, making him more intriguing to the Giants. He hit .286 against left-handers in 2017, and is a .279 career hitter against southpaws. 

They'll have to hope his 2018 season isn't a sign for things to come, but Harrison makes plenty of sense for the Giants to at least entertain adding the utility man.

Why Dodgers might pick A.J. Pollock over Bryce Harper in MLB free agency


Why Dodgers might pick A.J. Pollock over Bryce Harper in MLB free agency

When the Dodgers traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds last month, it sparked speculation that the team was clearing space in its outfield to sign Bryce Harper.

What if it was for A.J. Pollock instead, though?

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday that the Dodgers are interested in Pollock, who fits their player profile and needs in many ways.

Pollock has his issues -- he reportedly wants a five-year, $80 million contract, and he played more than 115 games just twice in seven seasons with the Diamondbacks. But, as Rosenthal noted, Pollock would provide the Dodgers with positional versatility and the right-handed bat they need. Harper, a lefty hitter who mostly plays right field, would do neither, and he’s rumored to be seeking a $300 million-plus deal.

While the Dodgers have big wallets, they could decide signing Pollock for about one-fifth the price of Harper is more prudent. That certainly would sit well with Giants fans, who don’t want to see their hated NL West rivals loading up for a run at a seventh consecutive division title.

And before you ask, no, Harper and/or Pollock aren’t options for the Giants, who also could use outfield help. It’s clear new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, who came from the Dodgers, values sense more than dollars as he tackles the huge task of making the Giants contenders again.