Giants

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

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AP

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”

Giants trade minor league infielder for veteran catcher Erik Kratz

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USATSI

Giants trade minor league infielder for veteran catcher Erik Kratz

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after they made a seemingly endless series of transactions, the Giants got going with an early morning trade. 

Catcher Erik Kratz was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers, with minor league infielder C.J. Hinojosa headed the other way. The deal was made a day after the Giants released Rene Rivera, a similar veteran who appeared in line for an Opening Day job. 

When Rivera was let go, Aramis Garcia looked to be in line for the backup job. But Kratz is a right-handed-hitting veteran who is out of options, so the Giants may keep him instead. Kratz, 38, will be playing for his eighth big league team. He hit .236 for the Brewers last year with six homers and six doubles in 203 at-bats. 

Kratz was a surprise contributor in the postseason, hitting .292 in 26 plate appearances. He is known for doing good work defensively and is a strong clubhouse presence. 

It's unclear why the Giants elected to go with Kratz over Rivera, who worked with their pitchers all camp. Or why they may be shying away from sticking with Garcia, who had a good spring and also knows the pitching staff well. Those questions will be answered in the next four days, and the Giants figure to make many more moves before the dust settles. 

[RELATED: Giants trade Matt Joyce after three days with team]

Hinojosa was once viewed as a future utility man at the big league level, but he was suspended 50 games last season for a positive test for a drug of abuse. When he returned, he posted a .689 OPS. 

To clear a 40-man spot for Kratz, the Giants DFA'd pitcher Jose Lopez, acquired at the start of the spring from the Reds. 

Connor Joe reveals first reaction when traded to Giants from Reds

Connor Joe reveals first reaction when traded to Giants from Reds

Ever since he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft, Connor Joe has been working to get to the big leagues.

It appears the San Diego native will finally get that shot. A trade from the Reds to the Giants may have smashed open the door for Joe.

"It was exciting," Joe told KNBR 680 on Saturday when asked what his initial reaction was to the trade. "I was thrilled for the opportunity to get back with a team on the West Coast ... that's closer to home is an amazing opportunity for me."

Joe attended Poway High School in San Diego, and then went to the University of San Diego. The Pittsburgh Pirates used the No. 39 overall draft pick on Joe in 2014 and then traded him to Atlanta in August of 2017 for Sean Rodriguez. A month later, the Braves shipped him to the Dodgers. This past December, the Reds claimed Joe in the Rule 5 draft.

Then the trade to the Giants happened on Thursday.

Joe knows San Francisco well. During his time in the West Coast Conference, Joe made plenty of trips to the Bay Area to face the University of San Francisco, Saint Mary's and Santa Clara. He told KNBR's Marty Lurie that his sister lives in San Francisco, and that he traveled up state with his dad for the 2007 MLB All-Star Game.

"It's a great city, I love it," Joe said. "It's a little different speed than I'm used to in San Diego, but I'm really excited to be there and really excited for this opportunity."

The 2018 season was a breakout campaign for the 26-year-old. After hitting just 11 home runs his first three minor league seasons, Joe crushed 17 home runs last season between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City, and finished the year with a .299/.408/.527 slash line.

What led to the improved play?

"For me, I think the biggest thing was allowing my athletic abilities to come out and not being trapped in a certain way that people wanted me to be," Joe said. "So, I told myself to be athletic in the box, out in the field and saw really positive results from that."

One of the aspects that made Joe attractive to the Giants is his versatility. He has experience at first base, third base, left field and right field. But he doesn't have a preferred position.

"I can't tell you what I am," Joe said. "I'm a baseball player. It's something I've done throughout my career, starting in college, so I'm used to bouncing around from game to game, even inning to inning."

Things can change in a hurry, but considering that the Giants acquired him a week before Opening Day, it's safe to say they envision him on the roster.

[RELATED: Giants reportedly acquire Michael Reed]

Guess where the Giants open the 2019 season? Yep. San Diego.

Imagine if Joe is able to make his major league debut in his hometown in front of his family. What a story that would be.