Giants

How Giants were shaping up as original 2020 MLB Opening Day approaches

How Giants were shaping up as original 2020 MLB Opening Day approaches

The Giants would have flown to Los Angeles on Wednesday. At some point, Gabe Kapler would have sat down with a pen and card and created his first lineup as manager, deciding just how heavy he wanted to go with right-handers with Clayton Kershaw ready to dig in on the other side. Perhaps Kapler would have spent a few minutes with pitching coach Andrew Bailey discussing their best option if they had a lead after eight innings. 

Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris would have finalized the roster, picking a 26th man for the first time and making the final decisions in their outfield and bullpen. They would have scoured the waiver wire one more time, looking for recently-designated players they could slide onto the back of the 40-man roster. 

None of that is the reality right now. The Giants don't know when they will play again, how many games they'll get in 2020, or if fans will even be in attendance the first time Johnny Cueto kicks at the dirt and decides to mix in a shimmy or a quick pitch. 

But at some point, the Giants and the rest of MLB will resume, and at some point the focus will turn back to baseball. There will be an Opening Day, it just won't be tomorrow. There will be an Opening Day roster, and much of it was decided before the coronavirus pandemic hit the pause button on spring training. 

It's unlikely that much will change in terms of the roster before all of this resumes, so with the original Opening Day date just a few hours away, let's take a look at how the Giants were shaping up:

Catcher

The last major move made before the end of the spring was the decision to send Joey Bart back to minor league camp. But all along it was Rob Brantly vs. Tyler Heineman in the race to back up Buster Posey. Neither was tearing it up in the Cactus League, and there definitely was a strong chance that another catcher would have been scooped up this week.

Remember, Zaidi added Erik Kratz and Tom Murphy at the end of his first spring with the Giants. 

Infield

You have your locks in Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria and Wilmer Flores, and there was little doubt that Mauricio Dubon was making the team and seeing plenty of time at second, short and center. 

Donovan Solano has an option remaining but he was 8-for-21 in the spring, reminding the staff of how reliable he has become at the plate. Yolmer Sanchez was just 3-for-26, and while this staff certainly won't overreact to a small sample size, he had to be feeling some nerves as the games ticked by. 

With an extra spot, the Giants could have carried Solano and Sanchez, but that won't be possible when they resume if rosters don't expand for position players. Pablo Sandoval will almost certainly be 100 percent cleared by that point and will get a backup spot. 

Outfield

With Dubon showing he can play center, the Giants gained more flexibility in the outfield, and some clarity was gained when they optioned Steven Duggar to Triple-A. 

Mike Yastrzemski, Hunter Pence and Alex Dickerson are the locks, and after that it might have come down to keeping inventory. The Giants want to get a look at Jaylin Davis this season, but they wouldn't mind him getting hot in Triple-A first. Austin Slater is in a tough spot because he can be optioned. 

With Duggar optioned, it would be somewhat risky to go into a season at Oracle Park with Yastrzemski (who didn't play much center last year) and Dubon (a natural infielder) as your main center fielders, so Billy Hamilton looked to be in a good spot. 

The toughest decision might have been with veteran Darin Ruf, who was 12-for-28 with three homers, five doubles and a triple. Ruf was the story of the final days of camp and his right-handed thunder would have been a nice fit on the bench, but it might be tougher to fit him in once Sandoval is back. 

Rotation

This is where the layoff might end up making a decision for the Giants. Their best option behind Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly is 23-year-old Logan Webb, but he was going to be under a workload restriction after throwing just 103 innings last year. With a shortened season, the Giants can more easily put Webb in their rotation to start and just keep him there, and that's probably what they should do. 

The Giants felt pretty good about their depth, with Trevor Cahill, Trevor Oaks and Andrew Suarez throwing well early on. They'll have another option once all of this resumes; Tyler Anderson was ahead of schedule in rehab from knee surgery and he should be ready. 

Bullpen

There was just about complete uncertainty with this group heading into the spring, and it could be even wilder when Spring Training 2.0 kicks off. That's because the expectation within the game is that a shortened season will at least start with expanded rosters. There has been speculation that teams could start with an additional half-dozen pitchers to make up for the lack of ramp-up time before games begin.

So, if you're trying to make final cuts in the bullpen, maybe you end up just keeping them all and even adding a player who has been optioned already -- say, a Shaun Anderson type. 

[RELATED: Pence doesn't think shorter season cheapens World Series]

The layoff will allow Tony Watson to get his shoulder fully healthy, and Trevor Gott was in a good spot behind him. Quietly, Wandy Peralta and Jarlin Garcia had combined for 18 spring strikeouts in 10 scoreless innings, and both lefties should be in a Giants bullpen of any size. 

With an expanded roster and shortened season, there's no reason to not keep Rule 5 pick Dany Jimenez, and young guys like Sam Coonrod and Tyler Rogers don't have to worry as much about being on the bubble. There is more breathing room for veterans like Jerry Blevins and Nick Vincent, too. 

The Giants could fill out their bullpen with guys like Cahill, Oaks, Suarez, Dereck Rodriguez, Tyson Ross and Andrew Triggs, who could all provide valuable innings, especially with the likelihood that teams will play a lot more doubleheaders.

In a weird way, this might put the Giants in a decent spot. Their staff wasn't being built to go head-to-head with opposing starters for seven innings every night, but they certainly have accumulated plenty of guys who can give you 40-50 pitches several times a week.

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

A starting pitcher can take control of a game and singlehandedly lead his team to a win, but in general, it's hard for baseball players to will their team to victory day after day.

Starters pitch once every five days and position players know that even on a five-hit night, you're dependent on your own pitchers standing tall, and every time you reach base, you have to wait a couple innings for another chance to impact the game.

But every once in a while, a hitter gets so hot that it seems he's carrying his team for weeks at a time. The Giants last truly experienced this in 2018, when Brandon Crawford briefly thrust himself into the MVP race and earned an All-Star selection with an absurd stretch in May and June.

Buster Posey won the MVP award with his second half of 2012, and Melky Cabrera dragged the Giants to plenty of wins earlier that year before failing a PED test. In the first half of this century, Barry Bonds could carry the lineup for weeks, even seasons, at a time. 

Randy Winn experienced that after being traded to the Giants from the Mariners in 2005, and that year he had his own hot streak that to this day is one of the most impressive in franchise history. Over the final 30 games of that season, Winn had 54 hits in 123 at-bats, good for a .439 batting average. He hit 11 homers, 13 doubles and three triples, with a slugging percentage of .862 and OPS of 1.331. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Winn recalled what it felt like to get that hot for such a long period of time. 

"Nothing felt different -- everything just felt really, really easy and really slow," Winn said. "Whenever I felt like I wanted to take a pitch, the pitcher would throw a ball. If in my mind I was thinking, you know what, he might throw me a changeup, and he would throw me a changeup and it was very hittable. When anybody describes 'the zone' or being on fire, what they say is always the same: Everything was really slow, I was really relaxed, and my mind was really clear.

"When I think back on that time or other times when I was hitting really well, those are always the things that I remember. I didn't feel different, I wasn't really doing anything different. It just feels like you're in control of everything."

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Winn was having a solid season to that point, with a .273 average and .742 OPS. He opened September with eight hits in a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks and never looked back, finishing the year with a .306 average. Winn had 17 multi-hit games in September, including three four-hit games. His 51 hits that month set a San Francisco Giants record that Cabrera tied in May of 2012. 

"It was a great situation for me," Winn said of the midseason trade that brought him to San Francisco. "Coming home, still live in the Bay Area, grew up in the Bay Area, my wife is from the Bay Area, our parents at that time lived in the Bay Area, so for us it was a homecoming and it was just great to be back home."

[RELATED: Why "Champ" Timmy is the best version of former Giants ace]

On the podcast, Winn also talks about how he would handle this layoff, what it was like playing college basketball with Steve Nash, what made Bonds and Albert Pujols so great, and much more. 

Giants fans vote 'Champ' Tim Lincecum as best version of former ace

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AP

Giants fans vote 'Champ' Tim Lincecum as best version of former ace

You the fans have spoken.

We asked you to designate your favorite version of former Giants ace Tim Lincecum, and the social media response was overwhelming.

Lincecum was a part of all three World Series-winning teams in 2010, 2012, and 2014 in San Francisco.

During his first postseason run in 2010, Lincecum put together an impressive stretch of performances, solidifying himself as a franchise icon.

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He kicked off the 2010 MLB Playoffs by throwing a 119-pitch shutout with 14 strikeouts against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1, propping up an offense that only mustered one run of support to give the Giants a leg up in the five-game division series.

He followed that effort up by striking out eight Phillies in a Game 1 road win in Philadelphia, when Cody Ross’ two home runs led the Giants to a 4-3 win.

[RELATED: Forbes values Giants as worth $3.1B, fifth-highest in MLB]

Lincecum wrapped up the postseason by earning two World Series wins, including the series clincher in Game 5, striking out 10 Texas Rangers over eight innings as the Giants won their first Fall Classic since the franchise relocated to the west coast in 1958.

Although Lincecum earned plenty of nicknames during his legendary career in San Francisco, “Champ” definitely has a nice ring to it.