Giants

Hunter Pence changing positions to accommodate Andrew McCutchen

Hunter Pence changing positions to accommodate Andrew McCutchen

SAN FRANCISCO -- Andrew McCutchen has spent his entire career as a center fielder. With a new team comes a new position. 

Manager Bruce Bochy confirmed on Tuesday that McCutchen will move to right field for the Giants, with Hunter Pence sliding over from right to left. Bochy said he talked to McCutchen about the plan -- one the Giants had throughout the McCutchen chase -- after Monday's trade. 

"I'm looking forward to right field," McCutchen said. "That's one place people can't pick on me saying that my defensive metrics are so bad. I'm looking forward to playing right. I know there's a lot of room out there to run, so it's definitely going to be almost like playing center."

McCutchen said he's looking forward to picking Pence's brain about patrolling right field at AT&T Park. Bochy has already spoken to Pence and said his longtime right fielder is on board with the plan. 

RELATED: After moving McCutchen and Pence, Giants looking at veteran center fielders

"He's just so excited about getting Cutch on this club that he's good with anything or whatever is best for this club," Bochy said. "So that's the plan right now."

McCutchen has played 11,621 defensive innings in his career and all but 115 1/3 of them have been in center field. He briefly moved to right field last season but shifted back to center when Starling Marte was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. McCutchen was a Gold Glove Award winner in 2012 but his defensive metrics tailed off in recent seasons. He was worth negative 28 Defensive Runs Saved in 2016 and was at negative 16 DRS last season. 

McCutchen had wanted to stay in center in Pittsburgh, but said it's a new case with a new team.

"I wasn’t too keen on (moving at first) because I felt that I had more there, that I could do something there (in center)," he said. "I honored (the Pirates) once they wanted me to play a little shallower and that backfired on me. I was basically asking for another shot but I didn’t get that chance or opportunity. But now that I’m going into the Giants organization and this is something they want me to do, I’m all for it.

"San Francisco has a huge field. It’s bigger than PNC Park. They’ve got Triples Alley and it’s called Triples Alley for a reason. For me, it’s another center field. I’m moving over a little and if it’s saving my legs and I can get more stolen bases, I’m all game and I’m all for it.”

Melancon's role upon return from DL should be similar to end of last season

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AP

Melancon's role upon return from DL should be similar to end of last season

HOUSTON — For a player who was such a high-profile addition two years ago, Mark Melancon has slipped under the radar over the past two months. His arm discomfort was quickly overshadowed by Madison Bumgarner’s pinky fracture, and while Melancon made progress, Johnny Cueto made a trip to Dr. James Andrews. 

But Melancon should be the first of the injured pitchers to return. He will start a rehab assignment tonight with the Sacramento River Cats, and if all goes well, Melancon should be back on the big league roster in two weeks. But, what will the role be for a player who was not long ago given $62 million to close games?

“It will probably be like last year (when he returned from injury), earlier innings and we’ll see where he’s at and how he’s feeling and how he’s throwing,” manager Bruce Bochy said over the weekend. “We’ll let him get settled in and go that way. I don’t want to put added pressure on him as soon as he gets back.”

When Melancon returned from a six-week DL stint last year, he never pitched the ninth. He saw time in the seventh and then the eighth before shutting it down for surgery that didn’t solve his pronator issues. The Giants went into the spring with Melancon set for the closer role, but he was shut down over the final week and Hunter Strickland took over. He has a 2.18 ERA and nine saves in 11 opportunities. Tony Watson, who has closed in the past, has a 2.14 ERA, and Sam Dyson (last year’s fill-in) has also pitched well.

It’s a good problem to have. If the Giants can get anything from Melancon, they’ll be adding another quality arm to a bullpen that has been strong at the back end. If Melancon throws so well that he’s an option to close once again, Bochy will deal with it. For now, the hurdle is not performance. It’s durability. 

One of Strickland’s strengths is his ability to take the ball multiple days in a row, and twice already this season he has pitched three consecutive games. Bochy needs a closer who is available just about every day, and Melancon had to be shut down in the spring after going back-to-back for the first time. The plan is for him to pitch in back-to-back games at least once during the rehab assignment. 

“It’s going to take some time to get there,” Bochy said. “With our bullpen situation, the back end has been doing a really nice job. We’ll mix him in there and he’ll be a big part of it, too. It allows you to rest guys and keep them fresh and he’ll be a big part of it.”

Brandon Belt earns NL Player of the Week honors

Brandon Belt earns NL Player of the Week honors

HOUSTON -- Another homer-filled stretch earned some national recognition for Brandon Belt.

The first baseman was named the National League's Player of the Week after hitting five homers in seven games. Belt had a .444/.500/.1.074 slash line, eight runs and 11 RBI. He led the NL in homers, runs and total bases (29).

Belt also won the award in August of 2013. He's the first Giant to do it since Jeff Samardzija in September of 2017.

Through the season's first two months, Belt has been the best first baseman in the National League. He looks headed for an All-Star appearance, and at the moment is an MVP candidate for a team that's .500 despite a slew of injuries.