McCutchen gets 90-second ovation in Pittsburgh return

McCutchen gets 90-second ovation in Pittsburgh return

PITTSBURGH — Perhaps because they didn’t want to draw attention to a trade they made, the Pirates were awfully quiet about Andrew McCutchen before Friday’s game. An on-field stadium host was previewing the matchup 20 minutes before first pitch when he was cut off by a huge crowd. 

McCutchen had taken the field to start warming up, and the fans gave him an extended standing ovation, drowning out the man with the microphone as he tried to talk about Jameson Taillon. McCutchen’s first at-bat back in Pittsburgh led to an even stronger reaction. The sellout crowd stood and roared as Gregor Blanco’s leadoff fly settled into center fielder Starling Marte’s glove. The entire crowd was standing before McCutchen even approached the batter’s box, and he walked a few feet from the plate and tipped his cap.

After about 50 seconds, McCutchen tried to dig in. The crowd started chanting “MVP! MVP!” and he stepped back, a smile on his face. Catcher Francisco Cervelli vacated his spot to let the chant continue. Finally, after 90 seconds, McCutchen took a couple of deep breaths and stepped back into the box.

Earlier in the day, during a rare press conference in an opponents’ park, McCutchen said he did not know exactly how he would respond. 

“If I cry, I cry. Big whoop,” he said. “You’re supposed to. If I don’t, I don’t. I want to just try and soak it all in and appreciate it and appreciate the fans around here.”

Those fans gave him another long ovation as he took right field for the bottom of the inning. The Pirates showed a tribute video highlighting his nine-year career here. After that, it was down to business, and that’s what McCutchen anticipated for most of the weekend. 

The Giants and McCutchen arrived Thursday evening, and he went straight to a home he bought with his wife after they were married. McCutchen said he intends to live there for the rest of his life, and it continues to be his offseason home. In the first few hours back he took care of some important business. He went to his favorite local pizza place. 

Giants' Brandon Crawford confident knee issue won't linger

Giants' Brandon Crawford confident knee issue won't linger

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have lost their starting catcher, first baseman and center fielder for the year due to injuries that have required or will require surgery. Two of their top three starting pitchers coming into the season are on the 60-day disabled list, along with their top bench bat. 

The injury updates this season have ranged from bad to catastrophic, but when it comes to the starting shortstop, the recent developments have been positive. After sitting out five games in eight days because of left knee discomfort, Brandon Crawford believes he has turned a corner. He’s confident that this is not something that will plague him long-term or next season, comparing it to right shoulder soreness that popped up four years ago but has been managed with proactive rehab. 

“Cartilage doesn’t grow back, but as long as I stay on top of it like the shoulder stuff, it shouldn’t be an issue,” Crawford said of his knee. 

The pain Crawford has been dealing with throughout the second half is under the kneecap, but the training staff has found some traction strengthening his quad muscle and doing other rehab work that loosens the IT band. The work Crawford has been doing is similar to what you would do during a DL stint, but Crawford never felt he could take that much time, even as his numbers cratered after an All-Star first half. 

“I probably should have spoken up about how much it bothered me, but I wanted to be out there every day,” he said. “We were trying to make the playoffs.”

Now, the Giants are simply trying to keep others out of the playoffs. Manager Bruce Bochy gave Crawford a night off Tuesday, but expects him in the lineup for all three games against the contending Cardinals this weekend. You can bet that a Bay Area native who grew up learning how to dislike the Dodgers will be in the lineup all three games next weekend, too. 

Crawford wants more than to just be in the lineup, of course. He was the hottest hitter in the National League for a long stretch in the first half and was batting .338 at his peak. The knee injury has kept him from utilizing his normal approach and sitting on his back knee. He was drifting with his swing, but in recent games the results have been better. Crawford had three hits Wednesday and has four multi-hit games in his last nine starts.  

Crawford’s numbers won’t end up anywhere near where they might have had he stayed healthy. Asked Wednesday if the knowledge he now has about his knee makes that easier or more difficult to swallow, he paused. 

“I guess in a way I’m glad there’s a reason for it and it’s not just that I forgot how to hit,” he said, smiling. “It’s something that I didn’t realize was affecting me this much until it was too late.”

Giants' draft fate hasn't been significantly altered by September swoon

Giants' draft fate hasn't been significantly altered by September swoon

SAN DIEGO — A year ago at this time, the Giants were in a race for the top pick in the draft. Finishing second worked out pretty well, given what catcher Joey Bart did in his pro debut for Salem-Keizer, and the product on the field has been slightly improved a season later. 

The step forward hasn’t been what the Giants had hoped, though, and as they lost 11 straight earlier this month, it was easy for some fans to once again start dreaming about a top prospect. But there’s been something weird about this late-season collapse. The Giants have lost 13 of their last 17, but they haven’t improved their draft stock much.

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On the first day of the month, the Giants were 68-69 and in position to pick 14th in the draft. Currently, they are in position to pick 12th. There are three teams — the Twins, Mets and Blue Jays — right ahead of them in the overall standings, but it’s unlikely the Giants will move much in either direction over the final nine games. 

So what would a 12th overall pick mean? It’s still another significant chance for the Giants to add top-end talent. The recent history of No. 12 picks isn’t strong, but the early teens have provided plenty of stars. The last No. 12 pick to really become a good player was Yasmani Grandal in 2010, and before that it was Jay Bruce in 2005. The Giants have never had the 12th pick in the draft, although they’ve picked in that general vicinity a few times. Tyler Beede was taken 14th overall and Heliot Ramos and Phil Bickford were also taken in the teens. 

Perhaps the real key is to end up with the No. 10 pick. The Giants took Tim Lincecum 10th overall in 2006 and a year later grabbed Madison Bumgarner with the same pick.