Jeff Samardzija keeps personal hot streak alive in Giants' blowout win

Jeff Samardzija keeps personal hot streak alive in Giants' blowout win

DENVER -- Jeff Samardzija has never been one to worry about his ERA or his record. Don't walk up to him and ask what he thinks about FIP or spin rate. 

Samardzija is old school, and for years he has focused above all on being a workhorse and throwing 200 innings for his team. That made it awkward this spring when the Giants said from the start that all they wanted was five-and-dive from the veteran, and he had some issues early in the year when he was limited to five innings just about every time out. 

Samardzija laughed Monday afternoon and said he was on Bruce Bochy and Curt Young when they repeatedly pulled him before he reached 90 pitches. 

"I probably let them hear about it too much, but when you look back at things and understand that they were looking out for you then, it really feels great as a player," Samardzija said. "That's not necessarily the norm."

Samardzija now sees the big picture. The Giants were worried about a shoulder injury that wrecked his 2018 season, and they slow-played him from the start. But as the weather has warmed, the restraints have come off a bit. Samardzija had thrown 15 innings in his previous two starts and on Monday he went 6 2/3 dominant frames in a 19-2 blowout of the Rockies

Samardzija did so while looking like the Shark of old. He averaged more than 93 mph with his fastball and ticked above 95 at points. When Samardzija and catcher Buster Posey saw how much his ball was cutting in the bullpen, they ran with it. He estimated he threw 60-70 cutters while limiting the Rockies to two solo homers on a day when the Giants piled up 21 hits on the other end. 

Samardzija looked like the 2017 version and said he physically feels like everything is in line. 

"I'm really surprised with how strong it's become over the last month or so," he said of his shoulder. "I was expecting to grind all year."

Instead he was getting in and out of the dugout while Rockies pitchers struggled to keep the ball in the yard. On a 91-degree day at Coors Field, the Giants hit two homers and scored five runs in the first inning. It looked like this would be a shootout, but Samardzija opened with five scoreless frames. 

"It was really big for the club so (the hitters) are not out there on the field for a long time," Bochy said. "It was hot. He was really good with his command. To have those nice crisp innings, it was easy to let guys go. He really helped the flow of the game for our guys."

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The lineup rewarded Samardzija with an insurmountable lead early on, but he didn't need much. After a rough stretch in June, Samardzija has allowed four runs over 21 2/3 innings in three July starts. He said that all along he felt he was throwing better than the numbers showed. 

"I tried to keep my head on straight and understand that it's coming out good and eventually the bounces will go your way," Samardzija said. "And that's exactly what happened. And on top of that we started swinging the bats like crazy and now you're in a situation as a starter where you just don't want to be 'that guy' that ends the streak.

"You just want to go out there and do your job and kind of not get in the offense's way right now."

Giants hire former Red Sox exec Brian Bannister as Director of Pitching

Giants hire former Red Sox exec Brian Bannister as Director of Pitching

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have quietly spent most of the past month putting a staff together, one they expect to announce in the coming days. One new addition won't be working in a traditional dugout role, but still is expected to make a huge impact on the next generation of Giants pitchers. 

Brian Bannister, a former big leaguer who spent the previous five seasons with the Red Sox, will join the Giants as director of pitching, NBC Sports Bay Area has learned.

While it's unclear what Bannister's exact duties will be, his background is in development and the fact that he's joining the Giants but not as their pitching coach would seem to indicate he'll mostly be working with younger pitchers. 

Bannister has been a rising star in baseball circles since joining the Red Sox in 2015. He became their assistant pitching coach a year later and a few months after that added the title of vice president of pitching development. According to NBC Sports Boston, Bannister had an unusual contract that allowed the Red Sox to deny interview requests from other organizations that wanted to make Bannister a pitching coach, something they did repeatedly. In that story, Bannister explained his role and what he liked about it. 

“I think I’m kind of in that sweet spot right now where I know what our needs are, and I have the opportunity to work with staff at all levels of the organization to try to produce pitchers at a faster rate to keep that major league product winning on the field,” Bannister said. “I’ll be scouting one day, I’ll be in player development the next day. I’ll be in the front office working in analytics on Day 3. And the diversity of the role and the exposure to every aspect of the organization is what’s so appealing.

"Because you really start to see on an interdepartmental basis, how each person positively impacts the Boston Red Sox. And then figuring out ways to fill in the gaps. How to get the players from amateur scouting, through player development as efficiently as possible, and prepare them with exactly what they need for the major league staff. That part’s fascinating. I definitely enjoy the exposure to everything and trying to add value to everything. And that’s probably where my role is unique.”

The Giants have been looking to put together a unique staff, one that can focus on development of younger players in Kapler's first year. In that respect, Bannister fits perfectly, but he also has the playing experience that carries so much weight with players who prefer traditional methods. 

Bannister finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2007 after putting up a 3.87 ERA in 27 starts for the Royals. That was the highlight of his professional career, as he finished with a 5.08 ERA in five big league seasons.

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A USC grad, Bannister is coming home in multiple ways. He lives in the Bay Area and was born in Scottsdale, where he later starred at Chaparral High, which is about a 20-minute drive from Scottsdale Stadium. When Fox Sports first reported that Bannister would be headed to San Francisco, he thanked his previous organization. 

The Giants are expected to announce some staffing decisions over the coming week. The only known member of Kapler's staff thus far is previous third base coach Ron Wotus.

MLB rumors: Free agent Madison Bumgarner prefers to stay with Giants

MLB rumors: Free agent Madison Bumgarner prefers to stay with Giants

Madison Bumgarner stepped to the plate against longtime Dodgers rival and friend Clayton Kershaw at Oracle Park on Sept. 29, 2019. The pitcher who rakes pinch-hit for shortstop Brandon Crawford in the seventh inning of Game 162, and lined out on a 3-2 fastball to third baseman Jedd Gyorko.

The day belonged to manager Bruce Bochy in his last game as the team's skipper. It very well might have been goodbye for a longtime ace and franchise hero, too. 

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Wednesday that Bumgarner, who is a free agent for the first time this offseason, prefers to continue his career with the Giants but the team has "shown no inclination to keep him." 

After free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler reportedly agreed to a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies on Wednesday, it became clear Bumgarner very well could sign a nine-figure contract this offseason. That doesn't seem to fit into the rebuilding Giants' plans. 

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said late last month that San Francisco has "financial flexibility" but that doesn't mean he and general manager Scott Harris are going to throw huge contracts at veteran players. In fact, Zaidi seems focused on the opposite of that this offseason. 

"We need to be careful given our recent history about creating too many long-term commitments that can get us back in the jam that we very recently put ourselves in," Zaidi told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on the "TK Show."

Nightengale also reported Wednesday that the Giants were interested in free-agent pitcher Cole Hamels before he signed with the Braves. Though San Francisco wants to get younger, Hamels' one-year, $18 million contract is much more in line with their plan. 

Bumgarner likely is looking for a four- or five-year contract on the open market. With veterans Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija still on the team's books, and young arms next in line, the Giants don't seem too inclined to sign a pitcher to a hefty, long-term contract. 

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MadBum debuted with the Giants in September 2009, and has spent his entire career in San Francisco. He is a four-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger and three-time World Series champion. His real impact, however, came in the playoffs. 

The lefty is regarded by many as the greatest postseason pitcher of all time. He is 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA in 16 playoff appearances, and is a perfect 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA in five World Series games.

Relish the memories, Giants fans. Bumgarner's days of walking to the mound in San Francisco with the Marshall Tucker Band's "Fire on the Mountain" playing in the background, might be over.