Pablo Sandoval to honor Bruce Bochy, manager who always had his back


Pablo Sandoval to honor Bruce Bochy, manager who always had his back

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval burned his share of bridges when he left the Giants for the Red Sox in 2014, but his conversation with his manager that offseason carried a different kind of emotion.

Sandoval still remembers how hard it was to tell Bochy he was leaving. He told Bochy he would miss him. Bochy responded by telling Sandoval he wished he was returning.

"He said, 'Enjoy your moment. This is the time you've been waiting for,'" Sandoval recalled recently. 

Three years later, Bochy was there waiting when Sandoval decided to come back. 

Sandoval's career with the Giants will go down as one of the more interesting in franchise history, full of highs (All-Star appearances, World Series titles, a performance that dropped Justin Verlander's jaw) and lows (getting benched, repeatedly dealing with weight issues, downtimes on the field and that exit to Boston), but through it all, he has had his manager in his corner.

He views Bochy as someone who has always been fair with him and has always communicated with him in the right way, and tonight he'll honor his longtime manager. 

Sandoval has chosen to recognize Bochy at the Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards. Now in its fifth year, the Game Changer Awards honor coaches who have had a noteworthy impact on the lives of some of the biggest stars in the Bay Area.

For Sandoval, this relationship goes beyond a player and coach. 

"I tell him, 'You're my father.' I always tell him that," Sandoval said. "I love him and I wish him a nice end to his career, and I wish that I can be there when he retires. I want him to be my manager when I retire from baseball."

Four years ago, it didn't appear that was possible. 

In his first spring with the Red Sox, Sandoval gave a stunning interview with Bleacher Report in which he said it was "not hard at all" to leave the team that signed him out of Venezuela and questioned the way the Giants treated him. The most eye-opening quote came when Sandoval was asked if he missed the Giants. 

"Only Bochy," he said at the time. "I love Boch. He's like my dad. He's the only guy that I miss. And Hunter Pence. Just those guys."

The quotes made waves in his old clubhouse, and when Sandoval found himself looking for a job just two and a half seasons into that massive contract, a reunion seemed unlikely. There were players who were not ready to welcome him back, and executives high up in the organization who were not on board with the move. Sandoval knew that, and on his first day back, he walked into Bochy's office and told him he knew what he had to do. 

"I came to Bochy and said, 'You know what, I need to apologize to you,'" Sandoval said 

The redemption tour quickly gained steam. Sandoval moved past those comments quickly, again bringing energy to a clubhouse that needed it and earning a role as a valuable reserve. When he pitched a perfect inning against the Dodgers last April, Sandoval was all the way back to his former status as a favorite of much of the fan base. Bochy was looking for a way to shake things up in the midst of a blowout that day. He knew exactly which player to send to the mound. 

From his first day in Bochy's clubhouse, Sandoval has stood out because of his energy and enthusiasm for the game. Bochy says it is infectious, and something that has never waned through two tours with the Giants. 

"That's what I love about Pablo, his passion for the game," Bochy said. "To me, that can be a difference-maker for a club, it really can. Chemistry is such an important part of the game, too. We're always looking at the talent, but the talent can come together and gel if you have the right guys in the clubhouse. You get guys to enjoy the game and just play the game for the love of it, and that's the type of player that he is. There have been times that he's been on the DL and players miss him. They miss him in the dugout, they miss him around the clubhouse."

Bochy said that repeatedly down the stretch last season, when Sandoval was sidelined by a major hamstring injury. With his team on an 11-game losing streak, Bochy sat in his office one Friday last September and wondered aloud what he was supposed to do.

The Giants simply did not have the talent to compete with the teams Bochy was seeing every night. As he talked through solutions, Sandoval walked into his office, a wrap on his injured leg but a bat in his hand. He smacked the bat against a door and promised his manager that the Giants would win that night. 

"We miss him," Bochy said, a few hours before the Giants edged the Rockies to snap the streak. 

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Sandoval felt the same way about Bochy when he was gone, and he said the manager was one of the main reasons he returned to San Francisco. Sandoval credits Bochy for helping him be himself in the big leagues, constantly reminding him to have fun, but also to respect the game and play it the right way. In the down times, Bochy has always been there with a lesson. In the good times, Sandoval looks at his manager and simply sees an approving smile. 

"I try to remind myself how difficult the game is, and when a guy is going through a tough patch, that's when they need you," Bochy said. "That's when they need support. If you make an impact on a player that's struggling and you can help them, that's what it's about. That's what the game is about."

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

SAN FRANCISCO -- Early in camp, a Giants veteran looked at a group of young players sitting at a card table and joked that he didn't recognize half the guys in the room. That's no longer the case. 

The Giants, after two more rounds of cuts, are down to 39 players in big-league camp, and most of them are familiar to fans. We have hit the point of the spring where guys who were seriously fighting for jobs are seeing that dream end, so as we did last week, let's take a look at who got cut and who might return at some point ... 

March 14: Outfielder Austin Slater and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte optioned; right-hander Derek Law and infielder Zach Green reassigned to minor league camp.

It was a disappointing spring for both Slater and Venditte, who were in races for a backup outfield job and bullpen spot, respectively. 

Slater hit .185 in 12 spring appearances, with just one extra-base hit. The staff asked him to make some swing changes in the offseason to add more loft and hopefully tap into his raw power, but it continues to be a work in progress. More than just about anyone, Slater really could use an everyday role in Sacramento to try and continue to figure out the new swing. He's just 26, offers positional versatility, and could help balance the lineup from the right side, so a breakout would solve a lot of the big league roster's bench issues. 

Venditte was the first free agent signing of the Zaidi era, but he never got on track, allowing seven runs in six appearances. Even at 33, he had a minor league option remaining, so he seems a good bet to shuttle back and forth this season as the Giants embrace some of that Dodger way of handling a pitching staff. At the very least, the switch-pitching thing continues to be remarkable. 

Law was knocked off the 40-man just before camp, but came in optimistic about the way he was throwing. He made just four appearances, allowing a pair of runs. Law's future is murky. If he can get untracked and find that 2016 form, the Giants would be thrilled to add him to the mix. But he's off the 40-man now, so the road back will be a long one. 

Green, 25, was an interesting addition, and he had a nice month, posting an OPS over 1.100 in 23 plate appearances and hitting a couple of homers. It'll be fascinating to check Sacramento's box scores early in the season. Will Zaidi keep giving shots to guys like Slater and Ryder Jones who have been with the organization for a while, or will newcomers like Green jump the line? Green hit 20 homers in the high minors last season and could soon be the next man up at the corner infield spots. 

March 17: Outfielder Mike Gerber and infielder Levi Michael reassigned. 

Anonymous to most fans, these two are guys to keep an eye on.

Gerber was the first player Zaidi acquired for the Giants and they got him through waivers, and onto their Triple-A roster. He had eight hits in 19 spring at-bats, and might have had the plate appearance of the spring, shaking off a head-seeking fastball from a tough Rangers lefty to line a two-run triple into the gap as the Giants nearly pulled off a wild comeback a week ago. He's an outfielder who can play all three spots, and simply has good plate appearances, which is something lacking in this organization. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a shot in the outfield this summer. 

[RELATED: Giants top prospect Bart awarded for impressive spring]

Michael played three infield spots this spring and has handled the outfield in the minors. He has always been a high OBP guy in the minors, and reached at a .400 clip in limited action this spring. Does that sound like the type Zaidi might want on the roster? Yep. 

The Giants will carry 13 pitchers more often than not, and might need a third catcher at times. Anyone with versatility -- Michael, Breyvic Valera, Alen Hanson, etc. -- will have a leg up when decisions are made. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident


San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a statement Monday calling on Major League Baseball to issue sanctions on Giants CEO Larry Baer over a March 1 incident involving his wife, Pam.

“When the incident first occurred involving Larry Baer and his wife, the San Francisco Police Department immediately began an investigation,” Breed said in the statement posted on her website. "That investigation is ongoing, but regardless of the outcome, Major League Baseball needs to send a message that any and all acts of violence against women is unacceptable.

"The letter written by several respected women leaders in our domestic violence community echoes an all too familiar reality where incidents involving violence against women are not met with true accountability. While Mr. Baer has apologized and expressed remorse for his behavior, it does not excuse his actions and it does not erase what transpired. Mr. Baer’s actions were serious and wrong. We are a City that loves and supports our San Francisco Giants, and that means holding our organization and its leaders to the highest of standards.

“Every little girl, every woman should be able to attend a Giants game with a clear sense of the organization’s values. I share in the call to action by the women who have written the Commissioner calling for greater accountability. There must be a stronger public reaction and response to violence against women in our City and our country.”

The letter that Breed references in her statement came from a dozen San Francisco community leaders, who wrote to MLB that they’d like to see Baer disciplined. The San Francisco Chronicle cited portions of the letter, which told MLB their stance is about “… the responsibility that you, as well as the board and executive leadership of the Giants organization, have to fairly enforce MLB policy, as you would had it been a major league player in that video, rather than a high-profile CEO.”

MLB issued a statement on the day of the incident, saying: “Major League Baseball is aware of the incident and, just like any other situation like this, will immediately begin to gather the facts. We will have no further comment until this process is completed.” MLB has not commented since then.

The San Francisco district attorney’s office told the Chronicle on March 8 it hadn’t decided if charges should be filed and that police had been investigating the situation.