Giants

Giants spring training Day 36: Hill adds to strong showing with start in LF

Giants spring training Day 36: Hill adds to strong showing with start in LF

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Aaron Hill, the 34-year-old career infielder trying to win a bench job, started in left field Monday. Asked to think back to the last time he lined up in the outfield, Hill smiled.

“It was my freshman year of college,” the LSU alum said. “We had Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot up the middle.”

Fontenot and Theriot eventually made their way to San Francisco. With eight days left in camp, it looks like Hill will, too.

A hitless day Monday dropped his spring average to .242, but the majority of the outs in recent days have been scorched, and Hill has already shown that he can handle three infield spots. He has taken grounders at first base, too, and with Johnny Cueto on the mound, he looked just fine in left. 

Hill’s biggest test came in the fourth, when Peter Bourjos led off with a triple. Leury Garcia lofted a fly ball down deep down the left field line and Hill made a strong one-hop throw to the plate. There was no shot at Bourjos, one of the faster players in the game, but the throw opened some eyes. 

“How’d it look?” Hill said.” It felt alright.”

Cueto noted the strength of the throw and Brandon Belt, who was playing first, joked that it looked like 95 mph out of the arm. Manager Bruce Bochy liked what he saw.

As they zero in on an opening day group, the Giants have thrown a number of infielders into the outfield during workouts. Hill has been joined by Gordon Beckham and Jae-gyun Hwang during drills with instructor Cody Ross, and he said he’s having a blast. 

“That was fun, honestly,” he said. “It’s been talked about the last couple of weeks, getting me in there. That’s the first time in a game and it was fun. It’s challenging and it’s different, and I’m always up for a challenge. In my position, anything can help.”

BAD NEWS: Will Smith will have a second MRI on his left elbow. Here's the story.

ICYMI: The main story today: Johnny Cueto looks ready. Cueto had some fun as he came off the mound in the fifth. 

Also, here's my story on Steven Okert. He could end up being really important if Smith misses serious time. 

PROSPECT WATCH: Ryder Jones blasted a three-run shot in the eighth and made a very slick pick of a short-hop grounder in the bottom of the inning. He doesn’t get brought up much, but he’s a really interesting guy because of his athleticism. I’ve seen him at first and he’s pretty good there, and the Giants are going to get him some time in left. As much as we talk about Christian Arroyo’s age, remember: Jones is still just 22 years old, and he'll continue to grow into power. 

"He's just what you like from a corner guy," Bochy said. "First base, third base, with power. He's got a good arm. They're going to move him around in Triple-A."

 

Giants CEO Larry Baer won't face criminal charges over incident with wife

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AP

Giants CEO Larry Baer won't face criminal charges over incident with wife

The San Francisco district attorney's office announced Tuesday that it has decided not to charge Giants CEO Larry Baer in relation to the March 1 incident with his wife, Pam.

"After a careful review of the relevant evidence, including multiple videos, statements from several witnesses and the parties themselves, the evidence does not support filing criminal charges," Alex Bastian, a district attorney’s office spokesman, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Giants said March 4 that Baer was stepping away from day-to-day operations of the Giants. MLB said on the day of the incident that it was “aware of the incident and, just like any other situation like this, will immediately begin to gather the facts. We will have no further comment until this process is completed."

Giants' new role players must step up for team to have successful 2019

Giants' new role players must step up for team to have successful 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before you start reading this, knock on wood a couple dozen times. 

The Giants have stayed healthy this spring, and that's the first step towards being better than they were the last two years. 

But that could change at any moment. After all, Madison Bumgarner got hurt in his final start last spring. Whether it's next week or next month, the Giants will need to start dipping into their depth, and while this has been a remarkably quiet offseason, they have done a decent job of upgrading the back ends of the active and 40-man rosters. 

The 2018 Giants were bad, but the 2018 Sacramento River Cats were also bad, which gave the big league club little hope of finding adequate replacements when injuries popped up, or regulars became ineffective. 

That's one area where this year's team should be better, and if you're looking for a way Farhan Zaidi can automatically pick up a few wins in Year 1, look no further than last year's roster. This is some of what he has had to replace:

Gorkys Hernandez: Despite the homers, he had a .656 OPS in 451 plate appearances
Hunter Pence: He is beloved, but posted a .226/.258/.332 line in 248 plate appearances
Gregor Blanco: Also a #ForeverGiant, but he hit .217/.262/.317 in 203 plate appearances 
Austin Jackson: Had a .604 OPS in 59 games before he was salary-dumped
Kelby Tomlinson: Great dude, fan favorite ... slugged .264 in 152 plate appearances
Chase d'Arnaud: Great dude, great with fans ... had a .618 OPS in 100 plate appearances

The pitching staff was better, but the Giants still had a lot of appearances Zaidi believes can be more effectively replaced. Notably, Hunter Strickland, who was non-tendered, had a 3.97 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 49 appearances and Pierce Johnson had a 5.56 ERA in 37 appearances. This year's bullpen is deeper and the rotation is deep enough that Andrew Suarez won't be in it to start the year. 

Of all the players listed above, Hernandez (0.5) was the only one with a positive WAR. The rest combined for negative four Wins Above Replacement.  

[RELATED: How will Giants narrow bullpen options before Opening Day?]

Will Yangervis Solarte make better use of those spare infield at-bats? Will Travis Bergen or Trevor Gott be better than the relievers who were let go? Will Mac Williamson, Gerardo Parra and Cameron Maybin greatly outperform Hernandez, Pence and Blanco? 

We'll see, but the standard set in 2018 was not at all a high one, and improvement from the complementary pieces on this year's roster would help the Giants inch a bit closer to meaningful September baseball.