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.

Buster Posey is doing well, but likely won't play until March 1


Buster Posey is doing well, but likely won't play until March 1


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There has been nothing over the first couple weeks of camp to indicate that Buster Posey won't be ready Opening Day, but the Giants promised all along to be cautious, and that will start Saturday when the Cactus League season kicks off. 

Manager Bruce Bochy said Posey won't play until March 1, and that may be the case for some other veterans. Brandon Crawford has been watched closely the last couple of years and Bochy wasn't sure if any regulars would be in the lineup Saturday when the Giants visit the Angels. He said it's the right thing to do with a long spring, although he's hoping to get big names out there soon, aware that fans often pay a lot for spring games. 

"As a kid, I was one of those guys that would skip school to see spring training games in Florida," Bochy said.

Brandon Belt and Joe Panik seem the most likely to get out there early on. Belt said he's eager to see real pitching. As for the rest of the everyday lineup, Evan Longoria fits the vet status, the Giants have position battles in both outfield corners, and Steven Duggar is coming off shoulder surgery and may be a few days behind. 

Bochy had a somewhat unusual spring when veterans like Cameron Maybin, Gerardo Parra, Stephen Vogt and Yangervis Solarte signed late. He said there's no rush to see what they can do. 

"These guys are chipping some rust off," he said. 

--- The schedule for the starters early on: Chris Stratton and Ty Blach on Saturday; Madison Bumgarner on Sunday; Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz on Monday; Dereck Rodriguez on Tuesday; Jeff Samardzija and Andrew Suarez on Wednesday. 

--- At the beginning of camp, Bochy said he hoped to get Joey Bart into early Cactus League games. That remains the plan. 

--- One more on the "Bochy is retiring" front: Here's what Bob Melvin had to say.

--- I wrote about top pitching prospect Shaun Anderson the other day. Here's some video of him in action today. There's certainly a Noah Syndergaard thing going on at times. 

Giants poised to take another step forward with center field defense

Giants poised to take another step forward with center field defense

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A year ago at this time, veteran pitchers were quietly asking around about Steven Duggar, the prospect in center field who looked ready to chase down anything that got up in the air. They waited a few months for his debut, and when he arrived, Duggar certainly lived up to the hype defensively. 

After a half-decade of having the worst center field defense in the game, the Giants finally took a step forward last season, with Duggar leading the way. With the addition of Cameron Maybin last week, they might be poised for another step.

Imagine a Giants team with center field defense that’s well above average? That’s what Bruce Bochy expects to see. 

“I really know that we’re going to be really good out there in center field defensively with whoever we put out there, and that’s an area we had to improve,” he said. “I thought we did last year, but you’re always looking to improve that outfield defense. We all know what happens when you don’t catch the ball in that outfield or make a mistake. There’s usually damage. We were a better club because we played better defensively in the outfield, I thought.”

In 40 games in center last year, Duggar was worth four Defensive Runs Saved, helping the Giants get to six DRS as a team. That put them 22nd in the majors, which doesn’t sound like a big deal … until you realize they were dead last a year earlier with negative 32 DRS, and ranked last in MLB overall from 2014-2017. 

Go back a few years and you won’t find another season quite as bad as 2017, but it has been a long time since the Giants were even an average team defensively in center field. Before 2018, you have to go back to 2013 (three DRS) to find a season that wasn’t a negative. The following three years, the Giants ranked 25th, 29th and 23rd in Defensive Runs Saved by center fielders. 

Maybin’s metrics have bounced back and forth during his career, sometimes showing him as elite in center and sometimes as the opposite. That can happen quite often with some defensive metrics, but generally, he’s viewed as an above-average defender in center, and he was plus-one over the last two seasons. When you move him around, those center field skills bump him up a notch. Maybin was worth six DRS in 316 innings in left field last season. 

Bochy has had to hide inferior defenders in left in recent years, but with the group the Giants have, there’s a chance outfield defense will be a strength late in games. The Giants have six weeks to sort all this out and it’s not a lock that both Maybin and the strong-armed Gerardo Parra make the team, but a late-innings alignment with both surrounding Duggar would be the best defensive outfield the Giants have had in years.

[RELATED: Odds for who will become the next Giants manager]

Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick, is viewed as a good defender in center, too, and can play all three spots if he makes the team. 

Bochy said he’ll move guys around and could play multiple center field-types at the same time. That will be decided once the roster is set, but at the very least, the Giants have a more promising defensive group than in recent seasons. 

“We’re happy to have him,” Bochy said of Maybin. “Excited to have him and he’s excited to be here. He gives us some nice depth in center field.”