Giants

Logan Webb, up-and-coming Giants prospect, finds the right mentors

loganwebbgiantsusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Logan Webb, up-and-coming Giants prospect, finds the right mentors

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Giants pitching prospect Logan Webb grew up in Rocklin, a few miles from Sacramento, so he reasonably could have chosen to root for either Bay Area team. Webb leaned towards the A’s as a teenager, but as he has gotten closer and closer to the big leagues, it has become clear that he was drafted into the organization that was the best fit. 

Webb likes to pitch with what he calls a “bulldog mentality,” so earlier this spring he sought out Madison Bumgarner to discuss harnessing that emotion on the mound. A couple of years after getting drafted, he found himself learning from a rehabbing Jake Peavy. Last season, Webb had a half-dozen sit-downs with Ryan Vogelsong, now a roving instructor in the organization. 

If you want to be a bulldog on the mound, you couldn’t find a better trio of teachers, and none of those three would tell a young pitcher like Webb to try and be someone else.

“That’s something that you don’t want to change about him. It's one of the things I like about him,” Vogelsong said. “He’s not afraid to get mad at himself. You just need to learn to channel it a little bit better.”

That can take a while for a young pitcher. As a 20-year-old, Bumgarner once got so mad during a Triple-A game that he was ejected and practically pulled off the field before he turned and whipped the baseball towards the outfield wall. The Giants were not concerned. Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti watched the YouTube clip before Bumgarner was promoted and liked the fire the young pitcher had shown. Four years later, with Bumgarner dominating the postseason, Dick Tidrow smiled as he recalled the incident. 

“We thought that (showed) a lot of arm strength,” he said. 

Webb, 22, couldn't hide his grin recently as he told the story of a night last season that might have turned out similarly. He was upset with an A-ball umpire, and when manager Lipso Nava pulled him from the game, Webb thought it was because he was about to get kicked out anyway. 

“He came out and told me I was going to Double-A,” he said. “Then I started smiling.”

Webb earned that promotion with a strong run through the hitter-friendly California League. In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, he posted a 1.82 ERA in 21 appearances — 20 starts — for San Jose, riding a mid 90s fastball that fills the zone and has late life. Baseball America named him one of the 20 prospects in the league. 

“He pitches with a chip on his shoulder,” Visalia manager Joe Mather told the publication. “He just has a knack for getting outs, quick outs, and throwing the ball in the strike zone.”

Webb had a solid six-start stretch with Double-A Richmond, which is a short flight from Vogelsong’s home in Georgia. When the Giants legend would visit, Webb would try to sit next to him in the dugout and soak up as much as he could. 

“He’s a little more intense than I am on the days I’m pitching, but the way he harnessed it and his routine and everything he did was to calm him down in that moment, and that’s something I’m trying to work on,” Webb said. 

Some of the lessons were about how to prepare in the day leading up to a start. Some were about things Webb had never given much thought to. Webb doesn’t have a lot of experience facing opposing pitchers, but he has found that it’s weird to see one in the box, and often worried about hitting his counterpart. Vogelsong encouraged him to treat the opposing pitcher like he would anyone else. “Go after him like he’s a normal hitter,” Webb was taught, “Because if you walk him or give up a hit you’re going to be pissed at yourself.”

Webb has continued to bank knowledge this spring. The Giants added him to the 40-man roster in November and believe he has a good chance to be part of their next wave of homegrown pitching, along with guys like Shaun Anderson and Garrett Williams. All of them are in camp to learn and fill in late in games, and thus far Webb has struck out three in 2 2/3 scoreless relief innings.

[RELATED: How Webb shot up Giants rankings]

Soon, Webb will head back to minor league camp to stretch out as a starter. He figures to begin the year at Double-A, working on improving his off-speed pitches -- he relied mostly on his fastball last year because of of an innings limit -- and finding the right mentality. Vogelsong believes Webb is already well on his way, but the lessons will continue. 

"He knows as well as everybody else that I was as emotional as it got," Vogelsong said. "It took me a while to figure out how to channel adrenaline and anger and be able to be mad and get over it real quick and get into making the next pitch. That's stuff that he and I have talked about, and it'll come with repetitions and experience. He'll know when to use it and when it's hurting him and he needs to back off a little bit."

Farhan Zaidi sees growth since he last considered Gabe Kapler as manager

Farhan Zaidi sees growth since he last considered Gabe Kapler as manager

SAN FRANCISCO -- New Giants manager Gabe Kapler was one of the people Farhan Zaidi spoke to the most when he left the A's to become the general manager of the Dodgers. Perhaps at that time, Zaidi thought he would soon hand Kapler a jersey, hat and the manager job. On Wednesday, nearly four years after the first time Zaidi introduced a new manager to the media, he finally got to do it with Kapler. 

Kapler was thought to be the favorite when the Dodgers started looking for Don Mattingly's replacement, but Dave Roberts ended up getting the job and since has earned an extension. Kapler, then the Dodgers' director of player development, finished as the runner-up. 

"In all candor, I think one of the questions we had was who was going to be the best leader at the time for that clubhouse," Zaidi said Wednesday. "On the one hand I think Doc (Roberts) has proven himself to be a very worthy choice and the right choice, but I think in that process we might have underestimated Gabe's leadership abilities in the clubhouse, and that's one reason we really dug into his experience in Philadelphia and sought to get references and talk to players and staff there."

The Giants dug deep, talking to Phillies players and members of the front office that let Kapler go in early October. One team official said Wednesday that a high-ranking Phillies executive told the Giants that 29 other teams would be lucky to have Kapler, but that the situation in Philadelphia had just run its course. 

"I have to say I was a little overwhelmed by the unsolicited texts and phone calls I got from players and staff in Philly supporting his candidacy here and talking about how well-respected and liked he was in the Philadelphia clubhouse," Zaidi said. "Obviously the team didn't live up to expectations and they felt they needed to make a change, but I think he's a much better candidate to lead a team and be a Major League manager now than he was when we evaluated him in Los Angeles and even when he began his managerial tenure in Philadelphia. 

"That's kind of been a theme of ours through this process, is having a growth mindset and getting better at the job, and I think he's done that and will continue to do it."

There was other due diligence to be done, of course. The Giants initially planned to talk to two internal candidates -- Ron Wotus and Hensley Meulens -- and eight-to-10 overall. By the end of October, they were down to Kapler, Houston's Joe Espada, Kansas City's Pedro Grifol and Tampa Bay's Matt Quatraro. By Monday, people throughout the organization felt it was Kapler vs. Espada, with Zaidi truly conflicted on which way to go. The conversations and interviews continued into the evening on Monday. 

[RELATED: How Kapler plans to handle core of Giants' veteran lineup]

Zaidi ultimately chose Kapler, setting up a situation where two men who could have been running the Dodgers four years ago now will try and loosen their stranglehold on the NL West, with Kapler going up against a former teammate. Kapler and Roberts played together in 1998 on the Jacksonville Suns, the Double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Kapler drove in 146 runs that season and Roberts scored 71 in just 69 games. 

"He was on base so often for me, he hit at the top of the lineup and I hit a couple of batters later," Kapler said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "But then we stayed in touch over the years. I was kind of wrestling with the disappointment of not getting the position as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and my happiness and my feeling good for Dave Roberts.

"It is something that I can play around with (Zaidi) and kind of bust his chops on. But I know that those decisions are made collaboratively and I don't hold any one person responsible or accountable for them."

How Giants manager Gabe Kapler plans to handle veteran core of lineup

How Giants manager Gabe Kapler plans to handle veteran core of lineup

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler spent the last month talking to Giants employees about why he would be the right fit for the job, and on Wednesday he spent nearly an hour on a podium discussing his past and future. But now Kapler plans to listen.

The new Giants manager is three months from the start of spring training and soon after that he'll have to start putting together lineups. On the Giants Insider Podcast, Kapler said he plans to talk to core players before revealing any preferences. 

"An executive in Los Angeles once said to me: 'Know where they've been, know where they are, know where they're going," Kapler said. "In order to know those three things, I need to be able to ask those questions and hear what's going on in their brains."

The arrival of Kapler -- and general manager Scott Harris -- should lead to big changes even if the Giants aren't able to trade any veterans. Bruce Bochy had too much respect for Buster Posey's past accomplishments to move him out of the heart of the order, but Kapler enters without that history.

Brandon Crawford is coming off a down year and could lose time to Mauricio Dubon or a newcomer. Brandon Belt didn't hit for much power last year, but Bochy hit him leadoff at times because of his ability to have good plate appearances, and Kapler complimented Belt during his press conference Wednesday. 

"I've thought a lot about Brandon Belt (and) how impressive it is to watch him take an at-bat, independent of the outcome of the at-bat," Kapler said. "He tends to look over pitches and make really good swing-or-don't-swing decisions."

It'll now be up to Kapler to figure out the best configuration. He said he already has started digging into his new options, and he's excited about meeting the longtime Giants. 

"In preparing for an interview like this, you start to learn the players: The areas where they've taken off since you might have seen them last, the areas where they might have regressed a little bit," he said. "Before any real lineup decisions are made or any strategic decisions are made, tactical decisions, you have conversations with the players. I think that's a really important part of the process that sometimes gets blown past.

"I don't think it makes any sense for me to come in here and say Brandon Belt is going to lead off for us and Evan Longoria will hit in this spot and Buster Posey is going to play 'X' amount of games. All of those things we have an idea and a feel for, but much more importantly, before I make any decision like that or suggest any decision like that, I'll have a conversation with Buster, have a conversation with Evan, find out where they've been."

The perception in some circles is that Kapler was brought in partly because he can have those conversations before taking lineup suggestions from Zaidi, a close friend. But Kapler said he had autonomy in Philadelphia and doesn't expect a change, although he's happy to have input from the front office.

[RELATED: Zaidi lands his guy in Kapler, who must prove he fits Giants]

"I see it as a plus and a positive that Farhan will be invested in what happens on the field," he said. "That's the way it should be. But it's also important to note that I have a fairly strong personality. I've always shared my opinions. I always will share my opinions. We'll just come to the best decisions that help the San Francisco Giants win baseball games."

For more of Kapler's thoughts on strategy, bullpen usage, developing top prospects, his reunion with Zaidi, and those ice cream urban legends, you can stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Click here to watch the full Kapler interview