Giants

Jeff Samardzija's success bright spot as Giants offense goes quiet

Jeff Samardzija's success bright spot as Giants offense goes quiet

In the Giants' frustrating series at Wrigley Field, at there was at least one clear bright spot -- Jeff Samardzija.

The Giants lost 1-0 to complete a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs, but to no fault of Samardzija. The former Cub showed the side of him that the Giants wanted when he was snagged in free agency back in 2015. 

He's just about cut last season's ERA in half, as he now boasts a sterling 3.44 ERA in 2019.

The Giants didn't play their best baseball during the recent road series, but that shouldn't take away from how Samardzija has been pitching.

“I think we missed an opportunity, but I don’t think it’s crippling,” Samardzija told reporters after the game, via Kerry Crowley of the Mercury News. “I think we’ve kind of shown here over the last couple of months that we can hang around and play some good ball and then we get hot.”

And July and August have been scorching for him.

In nine games, he's 5-2 and the Giants have compiled a 7-2 record in those games. Across 56 frames, he's boasted a 2.09 ERA and a minuscule 0.86 WHIP. And he's limiting batters to a .182/.235/.338 line.

Bochy has noticed it too. In the midst of his farewell tour -- the Cubs gifted him a No. 15 tile from the Wrigley Field wall to match his uniform number before the game -- he admitted it's been fun to watch what Samardzija has been doing.

“It’s a great story, isn’t it?” Bochy said. “What he’s done, how well he’s pitched, how consistent he’s been, it really is.”

[RELATED: Watch Shark's reaction to Longo homer]

The Giants manager did wish the team could have done more, however.

"It's hard to pitch a better game than what `Shark' did today," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a shame we couldn't find a way to win that one for him."

How Giants, Farhan Zaidi might choose to use new 26th roster spot

How Giants, Farhan Zaidi might choose to use new 26th roster spot

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As Giants veterans checked into camp last week, a couple of them referred to the 25-man roster in interviews. Like writing a new year on your checks, it'll take a while for players to adjust to having a 26th man.

But on the second floor of the new facility at Scottsdale Stadium, there already have been plenty of conversations about it. 

The front office has an extra roster spot to work with, and few executives will dig that more than Farhan Zaidi, who spent 2019 in an endless roster shuffle as he added depth and talent to the 40-man roster. Zaidi, general manager Scott Harris and manager Gabe Kapler have talked this spring of all the different ways they can go. 

As the Giants go through their spring rotation for the first time, it's far too early to project a full roster, especially in a camp where so many jobs are up for grabs. But we can take a look at how that roster will be impacted by the extra spot. The Giants will have 13 pitchers, that much we know. But what will they do with that 13th position player?

Pablo Sandoval

Just about seven months removed from Tommy John surgery, Sandoval already is taking part in nearly every drill, with some restrictions on his throwing. But he's a month ahead of schedule in that department, and he hasn't ruled out Opening Day. 

The staff is looking more at a May return, but they'll leave the door open for Sandoval. There's some thought that given his age (33) and the fact that he's on the back end of his career, it might be easier to push Sandoval than a younger player. He's not a 24-year-old looking for that life-changing contract; he's someone who above all simply wants to play baseball. 

Sandoval feels he's ready to pinch-hit now and he has looked sharp in early BP sessions. If, say, his throwing arm will be fully healed by mid-April, could the Giants put him on the Opening Day roster purely as a pinch-hitter and let him rehab his elbow before games? They've talked about it. 

Speed/defense

This is the Billy Hamilton section. Hamilton no longer is the 50-stolen base threat he was in Cincinnati, but he still is one of the fastest players in the game and an elite defensive center fielder. He hasn't hit enough in recent years to be a regular starter, but the Giants still could find creative ways for him to impact a game. 

Let's say Mike Yastrzemski starts in center and Hunter Pence in left and Pence leads off the sixth with a single. If you know he won't hit again until late in the game and your preference is to replace him defensively anyway, you can bring Hamilton in to pinch-run and play center, with Yastrzemski sliding to left. The Giants also have discussed making this type of move much earlier in a game to gain a slight edge. 

They don't have a true center fielder and there's not much speed on the locked-in part of the roster. The 26th spot makes it a lot easier to carry a Hamilton or Steven Duggar. 

A full infield

You start adding them up: Brandon Belt, Wilmer Flores, Mauricio Dubon, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria ... that's five infielders before you even get to Sandoval, Donovan Solano (who had a very solid 2019) or Yolmer Sanchez (who won a Gold Glove last year and chose San Francisco over other offers, indicating he was told he has a really good shot at making the roster). 

The Giants could go with four in the outfield and use Dubon as their fifth, while keeping Solano and Sanchez on the Opening Day roster. This team may simply have to carry seven infielders at times, because that's where most of their core guys are. 

Third catcher

The Giants don't have the depth to do this but you can bet some other clubs will. Long term, though, this will be an appealing option. Zaidi has talked a lot over the past year about versatile catchers and it would be a nice boost if they could find a lefty to pair with Buster Posey and Joey Bart next year, ideally someone with options. That would allow Kapler to freely use both Posey and Bart in every game. 

Stephen Vogt, who played some left field, is in Arizona now, but someone like that would make sense in future years. The best bet would be developing a lefty-swinging catcher who could be optioned back and forth as a third guy. 

[RELATED: Watch Bart, Dubon homer in Giants' spring training opener]

Inventory

This isn't about any particular player, but adding a 26th player makes it a bit easier at the end of the spring to stash a veteran who is out of options. There are a lot of waiver claims during that final week before Opening Day rosters are set, but teams generally slow down once the season officially starts. No executive likes to lose a player who is out of options.

The Giants could stash someone on Opening Day, and then DFA him later and try to sneak him through waivers and onto the Triple-A roster. 

Joey Bart, Mauricio Dubon hit homers in Giants' spring training opener

Joey Bart, Mauricio Dubon hit homers in Giants' spring training opener

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Maybe the finish line of this rebuild isn't as far away as it first seemed.

The Giants waited nearly three hours for the rain to clear Saturday so they could get their Cactus League opener in, and it was worth it when a couple of young hitters stepped to the plate against the Dodgers. Mauricio Dubon went deep to left with his first swing of the spring, and four innings later Joey Bart also smashed a homer to right with his first swing of 2020.

Dubon showed surprising power as a rookie, hitting four homers in 104 at-bats after his promotion from Triple-A. He said he has spent a lot of time this spring working with new hitting coach Donnie Ecker on an adjustment to lower his leg kick, which should allow him to see the ball better. In addition to the solo shot, Dubon had an RBI single to center. 

Bart is in theory here to get reps before heading to Triple-A, but the Giants don't have a locked-in backup catcher and plan to be aggressive with a promotion early in the year if Bart's bat warrants it. Thus far, he's had an impressive camp. 

Bart primarily is working on defensive adjustments and trying to show the ball to umpires more efficiently, but his batting practice sessions have been loud, with the new staff marveling at how easily Bart goes the opposite way. In his first at-bat after replacing Buster Posey, Bart nearly came out of his spikes while lining a shot to right. 

[RELATED: Bochy surprises Panda, Giants with his spring training visit]

"It's always good to see Joey stay through the baseball to the right side," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We've seen that swing result since camp began, driving the ball to the air to the right side. It's nice to see that show up in ballgame."

Bart drew a four-pitch walk in his second at-bat to load the bases for Drew Robinson, a non-roster invitee who flied out to left. The Giants lost Kapler's first spring game 10-4.