Q&A: Ex-Giants lefty Aaron Fultz on AT&T Park, coaching career and more


Q&A: Ex-Giants lefty Aaron Fultz on AT&T Park, coaching career and more

Former Giants reliever Aaron Fultz, who was the team's sixth-round draft pick in 1992 and spent his first three MLB seasons in San Francisco from 2000 through 2002, now is getting a front-row view of two of the team's top pitching prospects. 

Fultz, 45, is the pitching coach for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League where he oversees four Giants pitching prospects -- Melvin Adon, Garrett Williams, Chase Johnson, and Sam Wolff. NBC Sports Bay Area spoke to Fultz about Adon and Williams, but also much more.

Here is the rest of our conversation with Fultz, who is currently a pitching coach in the Philadelphia Phillies' minor league system.

As someone who spent six years in the minors before your MLB debut, What's your craziest minor leage story as a player?

Looking back at it, it was actually a lot better than when you're living it, because of the amount of things you learn and see. As far as really crazy things, I was pretty low key and didn't see a whole lot. It was a long road, but eventually I was lucky enough to get there [major leagues].

Your MLB career was one of a journeyman. How would you best describe the road of a journeyman?

Just be able to adapt. I was typically always the 11th or 12th man on the staff. I had streaks, runs where I was used in high leverage situations. And I had streaks and runs where I was the long man and just lucky to be on the team. It was give and take. To be a journeyman you have to be willing to adjust to different situations, teammates and everything. That part of it's really not that hard. It's just what you have to do. You don't really have a choice.

What's the mindset of knowing you don't really have a choice?

There's always 29 other teams watching. That's the concept you have to have. That's the truth. Arbitration and all that stuff, most people aren't going to pay you because they can get someone cheaper to replace you.

Have you been able to translate those lessons into your coaching career?

Without a doubt. One of the things I think makes me as good as I am is because I had to struggle and fight through it for so many years. It took me eight years to get there so I've had to work for everything that I got.

[JOHNSON: Giants prospect Melvin Adon makes it look easy in Arizona Fall League]

You also played two years of Indy Ball. What was that experience like?

I would say it's holding onto the dream. You always know at some point your career is going to be over. A lot of the times we don't want to accept it. After my first year [of Indy Ball] I was fortunate enough to get an invite to spring with Cincinnati. When I got released from there, I played for another week or two of Indy Ball before I realized it wasn't gonna happen again for me. They retired me I guess.

When did you start thinking about coaching?

It's something that I always considered. I took two and a half years off before I actually tried to reach out and get back into it. Luckily it worked. Once you've been in professional baseball for that long, it's really hard to work or do anything else. I think I played for 16 or 17 years. You get in a routine of being there and going to spring training in February or March and then getting home in September or so. It's a hard lifestyle to get away from.

[JOHNSON: The key to finding success for Giants pitching prospect Garrett Williams]

You're in the minors right now, but is the ultimate goal a MLB pitching coach?

I think that's always a goal, for sure. You don't want to be a career minor league coach. But there's also plenty of other opportunities. You can always go into scouting or the front office depending on the situation. Right now, my goal's to be a pitching coach in the big leagues, but it may change and I may want try something in scouting or the front office. All that stuff really interests me as well.

As someone who pitched at AT&T Park, what do you think about the idea of moving in Triples Alley?

Honestly, that park plays really big. It would be ok to make it more fair. Obviously, I am kinda biased. I like the way it is. But I also realize the way the game is now, you have to attract free-agent hitters. That does make it a little more appealing to them. If you still have good pitching, those few extra home runs shouldn't hurt you too much ... hopefully.

Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in explaining new staff


Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in explaining new staff

SAN DIEGO -- When you hear the words "player development," you think of 19-year-olds learning on back fields at the minor league facility in Scottsdale, or a roving hitting instructor spending time making swing changes with prospects Joey Bart or Heliot Ramos, or a coach teaching a Logan Webb or Sean Hjelle a new pitch. 

But when Giants manager Gabe Kapler talks about player development -- and he does so often -- he's also thinking about guys like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Kapler said this week that there's "not much I feel more strongly about" than players continuing to develop at the big league level, and that played a huge role as he hired a young staff that will ideally bring an innovative approach.

"There's evidence all over the place in Major League Baseball about players who reinvent themselves or take major steps forward and reestablish their value at the Major League level," Kapler said this week at the MLB Winter Meetings. 

The Giants are building for the future, but they also believe they can squeeze much more out of the existing core. And when Bart and Ramos are veterans one day, they want those guys to continue to find new levels, too. As he talked about player development at the big league level, Kapler pivoted and told a story about Bryce Harper, who already had more than 900 games under his belt when he joined Kapler's Phillies last season. 

"Bryce Harper, I think, was influenced heavily by Paco Figueroa, our first base and outfield coach, mostly just because Paco was not concerned about approaching Bryce," Kapler said. "He recognized that Bryce Harper wanted to be coached and wanted to develop, and he was willing to approach. Bryce recognized that so much so that at the end of the year when we were doing our exit meetings, Bryce recognized that Paco had been influential in his career and helped him become a better outfielder and baserunner."

Harper was worth negative-26 Defensive Runs Saved in 2018 according to Fangraphs -- just about the only blemish on his résumé as a free agent -- but was plus-9 in his first season in Philadelphia, a massive improvement. The Giants were actually intent on going that path long before Kapler arrived. When they offered Harper $310 million last year, their existing analytics and coaching staffs had ideas about how they could get more out of Harper defensively with positioning changes. 

Harper's not the only example the Giants will use to sell their vision to veteran players. General manager Scott Harris mentioned Gerrit Cole as another who found new ways to add to his game. 

"Look at the strides he made the last two seasons and now he signed the largest free-agent contract (for a pitcher) in the history of the game," Harris said. "You look at the strides he made when he first burst onto the scene for the Pirates and what he did in Houston. Their coaching staff was largely responsible for the development he saw at the Major League level."

The Astros' staff has gotten a lot of credit for turning Cole into the pitcher the Pirates were expecting when they took him first overall in 2011. Cole had a 3.50 ERA in Pittsburgh and a 2.68 ERA in Houston, where his strikeout rate jumped from 8.4 per nine innings to 13.1. He was worth 15.4 WAR in five seasons with the Pirates and then skyrocketed to 13.4 in two seasons in Houston. 

[RELATED: Kershaw believes Dodgers signing MadBum would be 'great']

Kapler and Harris are not walking into an organization that has a Harper or Cole, but they believe their new coaching staff and player-development methods can get the most out of existing talent. That'll be a focus in spring training, and the conversations have already begun with some veterans. Kapler, who mentioned J.D. Martinez as another example of late-career adjustments, said he has spoken to Posey multiple times since getting hired. 

"I think that a lot of established successful Major Leaguers want to get better and sometimes they don't know how," Kapler said. "In some cases, it's because coaches haven't approached them because they don't want to break something that's working well, but I think those days are gone and I think players crave having coaches approach them and ask them to make changes."

Dodgers signing Madison Bumgarner would be 'great,' Clayton Kershaw says

Dodgers signing Madison Bumgarner would be 'great,' Clayton Kershaw says

Despite what Giants fans want to believe, Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw are friends.

Before many Giants-Dodgers games over the years, they could be seen talking on the field, in plain sight of everyone.

So it should come as any surprise that Kershaw would love to have Bumgarner on the Dodgers.

"I love Bum," Kershaw said Friday at a Dodgers holiday event according to Dodgers Nation. "If we signed him, that’d be great."

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Thursday, citing sources, that the Dodgers and Bumgarner have a mutual interest in a deal.

Bumgarner in Dodger blue is the worst nightmare for Giants fans. But it's a real possibility with Los Angeles missing out on top free agent Gerrit Cole.

[RELATED: Padres reportedly looking at Bumgarner]

Kershaw hasn't been able to bring a World Series to Los Angeles on his own, so of course, he would love for a postseason hero to come help him end the Dodgers' title drought.