'Rejuvenated' Pagan surprised by Span signing, but 'on board'


'Rejuvenated' Pagan surprised by Span signing, but 'on board'

SCOTTSDALE — Angel Pagan has the same spot in the Scottsdale Stadium clubhouse as he did last year, except this time it’s a bit more symbolic. Two lockers to his left is Denard Span, and if you stand in front of the row you see the new outfield formation staring back at you: Span in center, Pagan off to his side in left field.

Pagan on Tuesday addressed the change for the first time since the January deal that brought Span to San Francisco for the next three years. He said he won’t fight the move to left and never thought of asking for a trade, but he also admitted that the position change caught him by surprise.

“I’ll be honest, I’ll be really honest, I was a little surprised by the move. When that’s your position and you’re asked to play a different position, I was surprised, but at the same time Span is a great center fielder and great player,” Pagan said. “Every player has pride and you have to sit down and understand that at some point you have to make a move. I prepared myself really well for center field and the team asked me to move to left — I’m on board.

“I’m on board 100 percent. I’m here to do whatever the team asks me to do.”

Pagan hasn’t played left field since 2010, when he started 22 games there for the Mets. He has been a center fielder throughout his time with the Giants, but it became clear last season that a defensive upgrade up the middle could help the team’s cause. Advanced metrics showed Pagan was one of the worst defensive center fielders in the big leagues, but he still believes he has the athleticism to handle his favorite spot. 

The Giants haven’t decided yet if Pagan will back up Span on days when the new center fielder, who dealt with injuries last year, gets a day off. It’s possible Pagan shifts back and forth, but Gregor Blanco also could handle backup duty at all three outfield spots. For now, the only certainty is that Span is lined up to play center field and lead off (another longtime Pagan spot) on Opening Day. Pagan said he’s looking forward to having a conversation with his new teammate.

“I don’t have any hard feelings at all,” he said. “I want him to know that I’m on board and I’m ready to get as far as I can and reach for a gapper with him. Hopefully we can play the best defense we can for the pitching staff we have.”

The Giants kept Pagan in the loop as they finalized a deal with Span, and they were so worried about a potentially sticky situation that they didn’t immediately name Span the center fielder after agreeing to a deal. It wasn’t until FanFest earlier this month that Bochy made it official, and that announcement came after a telephone conversation with Pagan. 

“I had to sit down with my family and explore what was going on and accept it and move on,” Pagan said. “Right now I’m with the Giants, and I’m here to win a championship in 2016. Anything that involves business I just try to stay away because I had no control over it.”

Bochy is hopeful that the switch helps the oft-injured Pagan stay on the field. 

“I think it could benefit him,” Bochy said. “There’s a little more wear and tear playing center field.”

Pagan has played just 454 games in four seasons with the Giants, twice failing to reach the 100-game mark. He said he changed trainers in the offseason and worked more on flexibility and stretching. He also had a minor procedure on his right knee, described as an injection to remove scar tissue. After four weeks off, Pagan got back in the gym, eager to push past a season when he wasn’t healthy enough to drive the ball and ended up hitting just .262 with a .635 OPS.

“I feel rejuvenated,” Pagan said. “I’m ready to work.”

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.