Jeff Samardzija's new strategy gives him best night for Giants in over a year

Jeff Samardzija's new strategy gives him best night for Giants in over a year

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeff Samardzija set a series of checkmarks for himself this spring, but somewhere along that road he realized that the destination had changed. 

The Giants no longer wanted him to be a 200-inning workhorse, so as Samardzija diligently worked his way back from a season-wrecking shoulder injury, he focused on a new goal. He would pitch more, but throw less. He would mix up his pitches and set up hitters and use his whole arsenal. Most of his nights would be shorter, but hopefully more successful. 

On Thursday, Samardzija had the best of both worlds. 

The right-hander had the Rockies off balance all night in what became his best start in well over a year, scattering three hits while throwing seven shutout innings in a 1-0 win. Samardzija picked up his first win since last April when Kevin Pillar hit his third homer of the week in the top of the eighth. 

Through three starts, Samardzija has a 1.62 ERA. He had a 6.25 ERA last season. 

"Last year was not a great year for me but I learned a lot," Samardzija said. "To go out and pitch 15 times or so with nothing and a hurt arm, even if it's Double-A or Triple-A, it doesn't matter, you still figure out ways to get outs with B, C stuff. When you do go out there and feel good you don't take it for granted and you take that same approach that you had before.

"It's just not getting hurt with stuff in the zone, being smart, understanding what pitches are going well for you that day and really pound them and use them. It's definitely been a little bit of an evolution for me and a process."

Samardzija had Rockies hitters muttering to themselves early, and Charlie Blackmon nearly talked his way into an ejection after taking a called third strike in the third inning. Samardzija had 13 called strikes in the first three innings alone, matching his high from his previous two outings. He finished with 20 called strikes, and three of his seven strikeouts were looking. 

"When the umpire sees you hitting your spots when you're supposed to, a lot of times they give you that strike," Samardzija said. "These umps are paying attention to the game and when you execute, they reward you for it."

Four of the strikeouts came on the slider and three on the cutter, and all were on pitches between 80 and 89 mph. There has certainly been a shift in strategy as Samardzija's fastball has diminished -- it topped out 94.1 mph on Thursday and his season-high is 94.4 -- but it's working. Samardzija entered the night throwing his sinker, slider and cutter between 22 and 27 percent of the time, with four-seamers and curveballs also mixed in. He was equal-opportunity against the Rockies, too, throwing 29 sinkers, 26 sliders and 23 cutters, according to 

"He's definitely mixing up his pitches more," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He still uses his fastball very well, but he's not a guy trying to power his way through a lineup ... I think it's fair to say he was more of a power guy and he's evolved."

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Bochy will continue to evolve with his use of Samardzija. He said even this outing did not tempt him to let Samardzija regularly get past 100 pitches. The focus is on five really good innings. Anything beyond that is gravy, and on Thursday that's what Bochy got. This was Samardzija's longest scoreless start since he threw a shutout on Aug. 28, 2017. His seven strikeouts were his most since Sept. 15 of that season. 

"It felt good," Samardzija said. "Today was a good day."

Giants' Mauricio Dubon needs jersey number after Gabe Kapler took his

Giants' Mauricio Dubon needs jersey number after Gabe Kapler took his

Gabe Kapler had his introductory press conference as the Giants' new manager, and he's chosen his uniform number as well.

The skipper has chosen No. 19 to sport this season, which means young infielder Mauricio Dubon will have to choose a new number -- and he needs your help.

He recently took to Twitter and asked what number he should wear now that he has to make the switch: 

No. 21 appeared to stand out from a Milwaukee Brewer's fan account, since Honduras became a country in 1821. Dubon was born in Honduras in 1994 (sorry to make you guys feel old).

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Five-time All-Star second baseman Jeff Kent also sported the number with San Francisco.

We shall see ... 

Giants continue Triples Alley construction, moving bullpens off field

Giants continue Triples Alley construction, moving bullpens off field

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler and Scott Harris both went through the same drill earlier this week, standing near the home dugout at Oracle Park as a team photographer grabbed shots from their first days on the job. Behind the two new members of the brain trust, construction workers continued the work that started last month.

The Giants plan to make an official announcement about the changing dimensions of their ballpark, and the new locations of the bullpen, soon, but those who attended the press conferences this week -- and a TopGolf event the park hosted last week -- got a sneak preview. 

A chunk of the bleacher seats in right center have already been ripped out to make room for the new bullpens, and some seats have also been taken out in left center to accommodate other changes to the ballpark. But team president and CEO Larry Baer said the changes won't be drastic for hitters. 

"Triples Alley will still be Triples Alley, just with some refinements," Baer said. 

The Giants are still figuring out some of the exact details, but they know the bullpens will be side-by-side in center and right center. The kale garden will remain, although it sounds like there will be some changes to the dimensions out there because the center-field wall is coming in about six feet, which should please hitters. 

The deepest part of the park -- the nemesis for Brandon Belt and other left-handed hitters -- is 421 feet and will ultimately be closer to 410 feet when the construction is done, the Giants think. The Giants put a bar underneath the new scoreboard last season and plan to have additional changes, including a terrace, out there this year, continuing a trend around the game -- seen across the bridge in Oakland -- of having more gathering spots for fans. 

[RELATED: What Kapler learned from Phillies tenure]

Even as they held two press conferences last week, the Giants remained coy about their exact plans for the dimensions, but they expect to take out about 400 seats.

Some of those may be made up for in other spots. There is a short wall separating the old bullpens from the first row of seats and about 80 feet of that wall has been taken down on both sides of the park, which would seem to indicate that the Giants are going to add some premium seating in some of that territory.