Giants

Mac Williamson will get long look with Giants, Farhan Zaidi says

Mac Williamson will get long look with Giants, Farhan Zaidi says

DENVER -- It's easy to forget sometimes how long the baseball season is, especially when you include nearly two months of spring training. There will be dozens of roster moves, multiple trades, debuts by guys most fans have never heard of, and countless slumps and hot streaks. 

When you step back and take a 500-foot view, any one transaction really isn't that noteworthy. And yet the latest return of Mac Williamson felt more significant, like another twist in a drama. 

"It feels like it's been a long saga," Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said, smiling. "But it's May 7. That's not that far into the season for him to be coming back."

The Giants played 35 games before summoning Williamson, but there's a reason this transaction carried so many layers. This is a homegrown player who has now spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues but has never really been given the runway to win a job. This is a power-hitting outfielder who still may break through for an organization starved, above all, for power-hitting outfielders.

When you step back and look at what Williamson could mean to the Giants, it's easy to see why every transaction including his name is a big deal. And when you look at everything that's happened to him in the last year alone, it's easy to see why Williamson took the field Tuesday thinking this may be his final chance to make it in orange and black.

"I would definitely assume it's my last opportunity with the Giants, but I don't think it's my last opportunity in baseball," Williamson said. "If I can just relax and be the hitter I started to become last year, I'd like to think I can pick it back up and run with it. But this game isn't easy."

No it's not, and that's why Zaidi said this isn't as dramatic as stating "this is Mac Williamson's last shot." But at the same time, Zaidi cut Williamson at the end of camp, giving 29 other teams the opportunity to claim him. There's some urgency here, and Williamson certainly played that way in Triple-A.

The return to the big leagues was a big one. Williamson reached base three times, hit a three-run homer, and drove in four runs. In five plate appearances, he raised the OPS of Giants left fielders by 44 points. That's hard to do a fifth of the way into the season, and it shows you the impact he made, but also just how bad it was in left before Tuesday night. 

Most of the guys who previously have tried to fill the hole were on a short leash. The Giants gave Connor Joe just 15 at-bats. Michael Reed got eight. Mike Gerber lasted just a long weekend in Cincinnati. 

But Zaidi and manager Bruce Bochy both said that Williamson returned as the everyday left fielder, and that he would get a significant opportunity to win the job. 

In a weird way, this maybe couldn't have happened a month ago. If Williamson made the Opening Day roster and struggled -- and he did have a rough spring -- he likely would have gone the way of Joe or Reed, getting cut quickly so others could get a shot. Instead he returned as the hottest hitter in the organization.

That wasn't always easy to take. Williamson said he confronted members of the organization about how clear it was that he would be released after 29 other rosters had already been set. Zaidi certainly should look back and wonder if he misevaluated the whole situation. 

But in the end, Williamson is here in early May, and not because he was simply out of options. He's here because he tore the cover off the ball in Triple-A. 

[RELATED: Mac Williamson crushes three-run homer]

"He's clearly on a roll," Zaidi said. "I think when you do it over a sustained period like he has over the last few weeks in Triple-A, you earn a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt than if you just kind of make the team as a default.

"He's in a better spot to hit the ground running and I think we're more committed to playing this thing out because of what he's shown in the first month."

MLB rumors: Giants-Twins Madison Bumgarner trade chatter ‘premature’

MLB rumors: Giants-Twins Madison Bumgarner trade chatter ‘premature’

It's possible that Madison Bumgarner made his last start for the Giants on Saturday at Oracle Park.

Charley Walters, a columnist for The Pioneer Press in Minnesota, reported that the Twins are "moving closer to a trade with the Giants for left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner."

Don't get too worked up just yet.

Darren Wolfson, a sports reporter for KSTP-TV in Minnesota, isn't ready to say a deal between the Giants and the Twins is close.

Bumgarner is the Giants' biggest trade chip, and he's expected to fetch them a haul of prospects before the July 31 trade deadline. A deal this far away from that deadline would be a surprise, though, as the team might want to wait longer for more suitors and richer offers.

The Twins aren’t one of the eight teams on Bumgarner's no-trade list, so that would make it easier for the Giants to facilitate a trade with Minnesota, which has surprised everyone this season and owned the best record in baseball through Saturday.

In 14 starts this season, 29-year-old Bumgarner has a 3.83 ERA and struck out 84 batters in 87 innings.

[RELATED: Will Smith remains focused as trade rumors swirl]

With the Giants in last place in the NL West, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi could start trading off his valuable pieces to restock the farm system. Along with Bumgarner, you can expect veteran relievers Will Smith, Tony Watson and Sam Dyson to be traded by the deadline.

Stephen Vogt's speed vs. Brewers leads Giants to fourth straight win

Stephen Vogt's speed vs. Brewers leads Giants to fourth straight win

SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey first worked together in the minors, and for a decade in the big leagues, more often than not, Posey has been in the squat when Bumgarner digs in and looks in at the plate in the first inning. Posey has caught nearly 80 percent of Bumgarner's big league starts, a number that would be much higher if not for a couple of season-ending injuries.

But when Giants manager Bruce Bochy sat down this week to plan out playing time, he made an interesting decision. With a day game Saturday, Bochy knew Posey, coming off a hamstring injury, would catch just one of the first two against the Brewers. He chose Friday, pairing Posey with Drew Pomeranz. That meant Stephen Vogt caught Bumgarner for a third straight start, and the left-hander didn't mind one bit. 

"That's definitely the fastest and easiest transition I've had with another catcher besides Buster," Bumgarner said. "The first game, it just clicked."

Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the partnership found smooth waters so quickly. Vogt is apparently all about speed these days. 

The 34-year-old catcher had two triples and an infield single Saturday, providing much of the energy in an exciting 8-7 win over the Brewers that was the fourth straight for the Giants. Vogt, popular in every big league stop, has quickly become a favorite of longtime Giants, including Bumgarner. 

"The guy's a ballplayer," Bumgarner said. "He's fun to watch. He gives it all he's got. Everybody really appreciates that. He's a guy that's easy to pull for."

The two triples got most the attention, but Vogt's most impactful sprint may have been the one he made in the bottom of the eighth. With runners on the corners and two outs, Vogt hit a slow roller up the middle and beat Orlando Arcia's throw to first, reaching 27.6 feet per second, his second-fastest sprint of the season. 

"I like to joke that the fastest human being on the planet is a baseball player that smells a hit," Vogt said, smiling. 

All kidding aside, those four and a half seconds told the Giants a lot about their backup catcher. After being in the squat for nearly three hours, Vogt busted it down the line, providing a necessary insurance run. Will Smith would give up a solo shot to Christian Yelich in the ninth but held on when Mike Yastrzemski made a diving catch for the final out. 

"It ended up being a huge run," Bochy said of Vogt's final hit. "In the eighth inning, for a catcher to get down there like that, that's impressive."

Vogt's day was historic in a way. He became the first Giants catcher since Steve Nicosia in 1984 to record two triples in one game and just the third catcher in the last eight years to do it. The Giants had not had a two-triple game from any player in three years. 

Vogt's first triple, just the 10th of his career, came when he lined a 2-0 fastball from former teammate and friend Jimmy Nelson off the fourth archway. The ball would have been a home run in 18 ballparks, but it ricocheted into center field and Vogt cruised into third, his helmet flying off, as Yelich chased it down. With a sprint speed of 26.4 feet per second, Vogt reached third in 12.4 seconds, a tenth of a second faster than the MLB average this season. He would score on Kevin Pillar's single. 

The second triple was a bit more traditional by the ballpark's standards, as Vogt lined a Junior Guerra splitter into Triples Alley and hustled into the bag in 12.14 seconds. Again, he scored on a Pillar single. Afterward, Vogt briefly took on a serious tone when noting that he hopes the ball won't be able to roll that far in the future. Vogt joined the chorus of players who want the bullpens moved off the field and into Triples Alley. He said it's a safety issue, pointing out that Chris Taylor toppled over a mound earlier this homestand. 

"If that's how we have to get that done, let's do it," he said. 

[RELATED: Will Smith focused despite trade rumors]

That's a conversation for the future. In the present, the Giants are just trying to put a positive stretch together. They remain eight games under .500, but this is their best run of the season, and on Sunday they have a chance to sweep a contender. 

"That's a big win," Vogt said. "A big win for us."