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Giants spring training Day 30: Prospects make it interesting

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Giants spring training Day 30: Prospects make it interesting

PEORIA, Ariz. — As one veteran after another hit the disabled list last September, Jake Peavy often found himself taking the field surrounded by rookies. That stretch taught him something.

“From the outside looking in, you hear about ‘we don’t have any prospects … from the position player side it’s weak,’” Peavy said. “But that’s certainly not been the case since I’ve been here.”

The young hitters who tried to catch the Dodgers late last year are now trying to win roster spots, and they continue to impress. Jarrett Parker hit a long, loud homer on a 93 mph sinker from Andrew Cashner on Thursday, his third of the spring. Mac Williamson leads the club with four, and he’s batting .316 as he battles Parker and others for the fifth spot in the outfield. 

“They’re exciting guys,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re good young players with power. I turned Parker loose there 3-0 -- that was a good piece of hitting. They’re making it tough.”

[PAVLOVIC: Giants' Bumgarner, Span on track to play this weekend]

Catcher Trevor Brown was the only Giant in the starting lineup for back-to-back games in Peoria (a traffic-heavy hour-plus from Scottsdale) and he took advantage of the playing time. After going 2 for 3 with 3 RBI on Wednesday, Brown knocked a two-run single Thursday and later drove in another run. Brown has already earned the trust of the starting staff behind the plate, and he’s hitting .400 this spring. 

“(You see) the growth in such a short time,” said Peavy, who pitched to Brown during a Triple-A rehab assignment last summer. “I don’t know how high he was on the radar down there. I thought defensively he was really advanced (and you) watch what he’s been able to do with the stick.”

The Giants may end up keeping two of the rookies, or they may send all three down. Others, like Gorkys Hernandez — who threw a runner out from center — are pushing for bench spots. But the more Peavy and other veterans see of the next generation, the more they like.

“When you’re sending guys like that away, you feel good about the organization,” Peavy said.  

HEALTH UPDATES: Gregor Blanco and Kyle Blanks were scratched from the lineup in the afternoon. Blanco said he probably just needs another day or two of treatment for back tightness, and he’s not concerned. Blanks, who is trying to make the team as a bench bat, has a right Achilles issue and it popped up during BP. Bochy said Blanks -- who had surgery on both heels last year -- is day to day.

There is good news, however, for banged-up starters Madison Bumgarner and Denard Span.  

LOCKING IN: Peavy gave up eight hits in four innings, but two were flares to the outfield and another was a roller through the shift. He said he felt “free” physically, in part because he was making his first night start. “It’s nice to have a night game and work your way into the day,” Peavy said. “It’s nice that they’re starting to put more of them at night.”

Spring training is odd in that respect. Teams play mostly night games during the season, but to prepare for it they ... play almost entirely day games. It doesn’t make much sense, but that’s the way it is. Most of the night games down here are only scheduled that way because they’re on TV. 

“I think my stats will tell you I pitch better in day games, but I certainly like night games,” Peavy said. 

Yep. Last year Peavy had a 2.67 ERA under the sun and 3.87 ERA at night.  

QUOTABLE: “He’s got a nice smooth swing. He’s exactly like he is on the pitcher’s mound. Nice smooth swing, good contact … After a good drive, after a good putt, he’ll strut it off, too. He’s definitely Dr. Smooth.” — George Kontos describing Javier Lopez’s golf game on my podcast. If you missed it, you can listen online here and download on iTunes here.

Pregame decision, sloppy defense cost Gabe Kapler, Giants in 7-6 loss

Pregame decision, sloppy defense cost Gabe Kapler, Giants in 7-6 loss

It almost seemed like a mistake when the Giants' lineup card was posted.

Steven Duggar, the best defensive outfielder on the roster, was listed in left field. Alex Dickerson was the right fielder for just the second time in his big league career. 

It seemed like a mixup, but Gabe Kapler explained before Monday's game why it made sense. Left field at Coors Field has significantly more real estate than right, and the gap is much harder to play on that side of the field. Kapler said the staff had gone over the spray charts for Rockies hitters and decided it made more sense to put Duggar, who had two previous professional innings in left, there Monday. 

"It's a little bit unpredictable," Kapler said in the afternoon. "Sometimes you get that right and sometimes you don't."

A few hours later, it felt like the decision ended up being costly. Dickerson, who previously had only played right when Brandon Belt was the left fielder, had two misplays in the five-run sixth inning of a 7-6 loss to the Rockies. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

With the Giants up by a run, Ryan McMahon hit a one-out shot to right that Dickerson got a glove on as his feet hit the warning track. But he bobbled the ball and dropped it as McMahon raced into third. The Rockies took the lead later in the inning on a single to right that turned into a two-run play when Dickerson's throw back to the infield overshot the cutoff man. Pitcher Wandy Peralta and catcher Chadwick Tromp ended up converging on the ball near the dugout as the trail runner easily took a vacated plate. 

Kapler said a night like that does lead to second-guessing, but he added that "sometimes you set them up and you set them up the right way and it doesn't work out."

"In hindsight, you question was that the right call. Honestly I bet Dick makes that (catch) 19 out of 20 times," Kapler said. "The throw, I bet he makes almost every time. There's no question."

The Giants were confident in their process, but at this point it might be hard to be too confident in how those decisions will play out on the field. The defense has been a mess through 11 games, a bit of a surprise given the intensity of both camps. They lead the NL with 13 errors. Evan Longoria booted a grounder in the first inning that led to the first run off Johnny Cueto, who was later charged with two more on a Nolan Arenado homer. 

That blast, Arenado's first of the year, started the five-run outburst. The Rockies kept tacking on thanks to the defensive mistakes, and perhaps the pre-game decision. 

[RELATED: How Giants are developing players at alternate site]

Dickerson said the switch might have factored in "a little bit" on the angles he took and said something caught his eye on the throw, perhaps because he was in an unfamiliar spot. But Dickerson said there were no excuses, and those were plays that should have been made regardless of his lack of experience in right. 

"At the end of the day you're still an athlete," he said. "You've got to be able to go catch a ball like that. I just kind of had one of those innings where there were two big flukes that really cost us."

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 7-6 loss to Rockies

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 7-6 loss to Rockies

BOX SCORE

Through their good times and bad early on this season, there's been one consistent theme for the Giants. They've been sloppy defensively, and on Monday that was a killer.

The Rockies scored five runs in the sixth, pushed along by a couple of defensive misplays from right fielder Alex Dickerson, and held on for a 7-6 victory. The Giants fell back a game under .500.

Here are three things you have to know from the first night of a 10-game road trip:

Step in the Right Direction

Johnny Cueto entered with a 5-2 record and 3.26 ERA in eight career starts at Coors Field, which is rare, obviously. He had his longest start of the young season, going five innings for the first time and allowing three runs, two of which were earned.

Cueto was cruising along until Nolan Arenado did what he has always done, crushing an elevated fastball into the empty seats for a two-run homer. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Same Old Nolan

Arenado entered the game with a .226 average and no homers, but he took Cueto halfway up the bleachers in left in the sixth inning. That was the last batter Cueto faced. 

The homer was the 228th of Arenado's career, which moved him past Carlos Gonzalez and into fourth place on the franchise list. He has hit 227 of those against the Giants.

[RELATED: Nine observations from GIants' homestand]

Still Powerful

The Giants hit some long homers on the 3-3 homestand and kept crushing on their first night in the best hitter's park around.

Chadwick Tromp homered for the second straight day and red-hot Mike Yastrzemski hit his third in 11 games. The most impressive shot came from Dickerson, who one-handed a low slider over the right field wall. It was his second career homer off a lefty. Coors!