Giants

Sabean looking for 'meaningful piece' for Giants' bullpen

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Sabean looking for 'meaningful piece' for Giants' bullpen

BOSTON — Brian Sabean doesn’t know whether the Giants will get an impact bullpen arm in a market flush with marquee buyers. But he knows exactly the type the front office will chase before the August 1 deadline. 

“The real dilemma is how you upgrade, and it has to be meaningful,” the Giants’ executive vice president of baseball operations said. “It can’t just be a body.”

The Giants are aiming high in their search for bullpen help. In the past, Sabean and Bobby Evans have added matchup plays and middle relief types, and it’s worked out well. But Sabean made it clear Wednesday that as Evans canvasses the market — and the Giants are checking in on just about everyone — he’s looking for a back-end type. 

The Giants have 18 blown saves this season, the most in the Majors. Before Wednesday’s loss at Fenway Park, Sabean was asked if he would be comfortable in the postseason with the current options in the eighth and ninth. The Giants have Sergio Romo setting up for Santiago Casilla. 

“It’s a good question, but usually bullpens get on a roll like a rotation or a lineup,” he said. “They’ve got the experience. They’ve been there before, both of them. Then you lean on that. Having said that, we know how busy (the front office) guys are looking for some help. But it’s not just going to be the average Joe coming in.

“You’re thinking it’s going to be a meaningful piece, but the competition on the premium people is going to be real stiff and it already is.”

The Giants have watched as good prospects have been shipped away in early deals, and they know the ask on an Andrew Miller or someone similar will be astronomical and somewhat system-depleting. They’ll see Miller this weekend, along with Aroldis Chapman, who was suspended 30 games earlier this season for a violation of MLB’s domestic violence policy. The sense from Giants officials at the moment is that the incident hasn’t eliminated Chapman as an option. Asked about the type of addition he would prefer, Sabean described a pitcher who can get a strikeout in a big spot, someone who sounds very much like Chapman. 

“The (way) the game is played now you want swing-and-miss,” Sabean said. “We got away with it a long time — and to their credit — with a lot of contact relievers. But the game has kind of changed in front of us. Now that wouldn’t preclude you from getting somebody that was as such, but selfishly you would want somebody that could really get through an inning and not have much flak in getting through the inning.”

Miller averages 15.24 strikeouts-per-nine and Chapman, who hit 105 mph earlier this week, is also elite at 12.71.

There are others on non-contending teams — like Milwaukee’s Tyler Thornburg or San Diego’s Ryan Buchter — who fit the strikeout mold, but not the rest of the wish list. The Giants have checked in on Philadelphia (David Hernandez has that kind of power stuff) and they could find a strikeout arm on a sinking team in their division; The Diamondbacks still have Tyler Clippard and Daniel Hudson available after dealing Brad Ziegler. 

But the Giants are aiming higher, and while they're unlikely to trade off their 25-man roster they won’t completely rule it out. Team president and CEO Larry Baer said there is wiggle room in the budget, even with the Giants already paying the competitive balance tax. The bigger issue will be what is being sent back for an impact player. 

“You know you’re going to hurt somewhere, it’s just how much pain you’re going to take,” Sabean said. “I think you’re seeing in some of these trades, the people who have been really aggressive have really gotten a premium guy back. That’s really what you have to decide — what side of the fence you want to be on.”

Regardless of where they end up, the Giants feel the current bullpen group will be better down the stretch. Sabean noted that the pecking order was out of whack when Romo went on the DL, and he said “we knew that (Josh) Osich and (Hunter) Strickland would have growing pains.

“When you don’t have that second guy and somebody like Casilla can’t pitch or he falters, you don’t really know where to turn,” he said, adding that manager Bruce Bochy turned to the matchups. “Having said that, I think things have a chance to settle down.”

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — While dealing with multiple concussions, Brandon Belt was often forced to sit peacefully in a dark room to avoid noise and light. This latest DL stint also included some sitting in a room, but this time the focus was on visualization. 

Belt said he sat down and repeatedly told himself that he would be fine physically when he returned from an appendectomy. He needed to trust his body and his approach, and in his first at-bat back, he got validation. Belt flied out to the track in the second inning Saturday night. A day later, he cleared the wall, giving Chris Stratton insurance that would hold up in a 4-1 win over the Dodgers. 

The homer was Belt’s 12th of the season and 110th in the big leagues. It was his first without an appendix, and it came after no rehab games. 

“I knew I felt alright,” he said.”I didn’t need (rehab games). I guess there’s always a concern when you come back and try to be up to speed, but the way I felt in the cage, I figured I would be alright.”

Belt’s blast was the second of just three hits for the Giants, but they didn’t need any more than that. Nick Hundley had a two-run shot himself and Stratton battled without his best stuff, throwing six innings for a staff that needed a boost in the worst way. 

For the third time on this trip, the Giants won before taking a flight. This one is a short one and will get them back home, where they are 19-11 this season. The winning clubhouse was full of players and coaches eager to get away from hotels. 

“It’s awesome,” Belt said. “We’re through our toughest part of the schedule, I believe.”

The Giants have played 42 games on the road, the most in the majors. They’re just 16-26 away from home, and Bruce Bochy has said repeatedly that the team needs to play better on the road to have a chance at the postseason. But thats a goal the Giants can focus on in a couple of weeks. For now, they’re starting a stretch where they’ll play 20 of 26 at home. Those six road games are nearby — in Phoenix and Denver — and the three “road” games after this 26-game run are in Oakland. 

The Giants will spend just six nights away from their home beds from now until July 23. In other words, it’s go time. Despite their issues, they are just 4 1/2 games out in the National League West. This upcoming stretch will determine if they are a real contender, and could determine whether or not the front office is selling at the deadline. 

“We have a very, very good home field advantage with our fans and how well we’ve played at AT&T Park,” Hundley said. “If we’re going to win the division, we have to win at home. We know that, and we expect to win at AT&T Park and we’ll carry that confidence over to the next series.”

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The Giants sure know how to clinch a happy flight. 

This was a road trip that should have been better, but at the very least, the players made sure they didn’t have any depressing travel experiences. They beat Max Scherzer on getaway day in Washington D.C. and won a 16-inning game on the final day in Miami. Before flying back to San Francisco for a 10-game homestand, they toppled the Dodgers 4-1 to avoid a sweep and finish the trip at 5-5. 

After scoring two-or-fewer runs in 11 consecutive games at Dodger Stadium, the Giants got to four in the first three innings Sunday. Here’s how it all went down … 

—The Giants had just two hits in five innings against lefty Caleb Ferguson. Luckily, one was a two-run homer from Nick Hundley and the other was a two-run homer from Brandon Belt. Hundley’s homer was his eighth, giving him twice as many as Buster Posey. Belt’s homer was his team-leading 12th, and first since having his appendix removed. 

— Chris Stratton gave up plenty of loud outs, but got through it. He ended up allowing just one run on three hits in six innings. The Giants have won six of Stratton’s last seven starts. 

— Quietly, Will Smith has been outstanding. He lowered his ERA to 0.96 after striking out Cody Bellinger and Yasmani Grandal and getting Yasiel Puig to fly out to right.