Giants

Giants switch-pitcher Pat Venditte draws early crowd at Spring Training

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USATSI

Giants switch-pitcher Pat Venditte draws early crowd at Spring Training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants are getting closer and closer to having the full squad on the field. Pablo Sandoval took batting practice with Steven Duggar and Ryder Jones. Brandon Belt played catch on a back field. Mac Williamson shagged fly balls. 

Sunday is officially reporting day for position players, but nearly all of them have checked in already, well ahead of Monday’s first full squad workout. 

For a couple more days, though, the focus is on pitchers and catchers, so here are some observations from Day 4 ...

Something They Haven’t Seen

Pat Venditte, the switch-pitcher, is as fascinating to many of the Giants as he is to fans. As he warmed up his right arm Saturday, a member of the staff walked up and asked him to explain how he became a switch-pitcher. He has drawn a crowd during bullpen sessions, and manager Bruce Bochy joked about how he may use Venditte. 

“When I’m stuck and I don’t know which matchup I want, I’ll put him out there,” Bochy said smiling. “I can’t get questioned.”

Venditte has had more success as a lefty in his career but from both sides he gets good movement on his pitches. Bochy noted that he had a good season with the Dodgers, posting a 2.57 ERA in 15 appearances last year. 

“It’s pretty impressive, really, what he’s able to do,” Bochy said.

Young Power

Aramis Garcia has been a standout all week, showing easy power during batting practice. Bochy said he was happy with the work the young catcher put in over the offseason. 

"He's a strong kid," he said. "He has more power than you think"

Garcia hit four homers last September, and they weren't fluky. That's a nice trait to have as a backup catcher; it's often hard to stay in rhythm, but Nick Hundley brought some power to the lineup on his days, too. 

The other homegrown catching prospect in camp also had an impressive day. With Bochy and Farhan Zaidi watching a few feet away, Joey Bart hit a series of rockets the opposite way and over the fence in right, including a couple that clanked off the facing of the bar on top of the bullpens at Scottsdale Stadium. 

Familiar Face

Dan Fouts, the Hall of Fame quarterback, watched BP and spent about 20 minutes chatting with Bochy.

"He always stops by and spends a day with us in the spring," Bochy said. "He's a Giants fan."

Fouts is a San Francisco native who graduated from St. Ignatius in the city. 

Could Madison Bumgarner's bad road stats hurt him in MLB free agency?

Could Madison Bumgarner's bad road stats hurt him in MLB free agency?

Madison Bumgarner is entering free agency at a curious time in his career. The longtime Giants ace has built a legendary reputation, but plenty of question marks also surround the 30-year-old.

Bumgarner proved he's still a workhorse after missing time the previous two seasons with freak injuries. His 34 starts were tied for the MLB lead, and his 207 2/3 innings pitched ranked second in the NL.

But while looking at Bumgarner's stats from this past season, one thing stands out that could hurt him in free agency and actually help the Giants if they want to bring back the left-hander.

MadBum's home-road splits were staggering in 2019. He was a completely different pitcher in front of the home crowd at Oracle Park, compared to pitching away from San Francisco.

Here are Bumgarner's home stats this past season, compared to when he pitched on the road.

Home: 19 GS, 6-2, 2.93 ERA, 122 2/3 IP, 40 ER, 15 HR, 120 SO, 21 BB, 0.93 WHIP, 5.71 SO/W
Away: 15 GS, 3-7, 5.29 ERA, 85 IP, 50 ER, 15 HR, 83 SO, 22 BB, 1.41 WHIP, 3.77 SO/W

Oracle Park is known as a pitcher's dream. In fact, the Giants' home park was the least favorable for offenses this season by Park Factors, per ESPN. The 11-year veteran used that his advantage, but that luxury didn't follow him on the road.

Bumgarner allowed the same amount of homers in four fewer road games as he did at home. He also walked one more batter and allowed five more hits -- 98 on the road, compared to 93 at home. For someone with a lot of mileage on his arm and his fastball declining in velocity, that's certainly alarming.

[RELATED: Astros call possible Giants target Cole 'West Coast guy']

As a pitcher who's never tested the open market and has spent his entire career in a pitcher's paradise, these numbers will be looked at closely by front offices around the league this offseason.

Bumgarner figures to join Gerrit Cole, among others, as the most coveted starting pitchers in free agency. So, while his road numbers could help the Giants in keeping him in San Francisco, they also could prevent the veteran from signing the hefty contract he likely desires.

Alex Dickerson's bright future with Giants clouded by injury concerns

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Alex Dickerson's bright future with Giants clouded by injury concerns

SAN FRANCISCO -- Once he hires a manager and general manager, Farhan Zaidi will turn to the heavy lifting. The main goal this offseason is to make the Giants lineup more competitive, particularly at home. It would be a lot easier to do that if the Giants knew exactly what they could count on from a midseason acquisition. 

Alex Dickerson changed the course of the season when he joined the Giants at Chase Field in late June against the Diamondbacks, bringing left-handed thunder to the lineup and life to the dugout as a struggling team briefly put it all together with a memorable July run. But Dickerson's season ended up going a familiar route.

He was available to Zaidi only because he had been unable to stay available for the Padres, and an oblique injury wrecked Dickerson's second half. 

That didn't leave a bad taste in his mouth, though. As Dickerson stood in front of his locker the final week of the season, he pointed out that he didn't play an inning in the big leagues the previous two seasons. 

"I just wanted to get out and compete again, and I knew there were going to be ups and downs," he said. 

The highs were game-changers for the Giants. Dickerson drove in six runs in his Giants debut and didn't slow down until he was forced to the Injured List the first week of August. In 30 games over that stretch, he hit .386 with six homers, 10 doubles, 23 RBI and a 1.222 OPS. The Giants went 20-10 when he was in the lineup. 

That's certainly not sustainable, but nothing about what Dickerson was doing looked particularly flukey, either. He has always flashed power and he showed good plate discipline and a short swing that first month. 

The oblique injury put a halt to all that, and when Dickerson returned, it was touch-and-go the rest of the way. He never felt quite comfortable, hitting .164 with three extra-base hits over his final 67 at-bats, which were scattered because he was able to start only 14 times the final six weeks. 

Looking back, Dickerson feels he returned earlier than he should have, but he has no regrets because the Giants were trying to stay in the race. He said his swing got out of whack and he was never able to find it again because he didn't go through a normal rehab process. 

There were positives, though. Dickerson's surgically-repaired back and elbow were not an issue, and he plans to be aggressive in attacking the oblique pain this offseason. Dickerson said he will do additional research and talk to as many experts as he can in an attempt to increase his core mobility and make sure the oblique pain does not return. For the first time in a long time, he's not rehabbing going into the offseason. That's a comforting feeling. 

"It'll just be a normal offseason and building up and getting in shape to hopefully play a full season next year," he said. 

[RELATED: Watch Giants prospect get ejected on call by robot ump]

Given Dickerson's history -- he has never played more than 84 games -- the Giants can't count on a full year. But they're hopeful that Dickerson, who is arbitration-eligible and a lock to return, can be part of the solution. They can manage his health as long as that bat is still helping win games. 

"With the impact potential he showed, he's going to play as much as his body will allow," Zaidi said.