Giants

Sources: Giants down to three candidates in search for new manager

Sources: Giants down to three candidates in search for new manager

SAN FRANCISCO -- A year ago, Larry Baer and the Giants ownership group had to wait until the end of the World Series to get a chance to hire their man. This time around, it's Farhan Zaidi, last offseason's big hire, who has had to be patient. 

But Zaidi and the Giants appear to be zeroing in on a new manager. 

According to league sources, the Giants are believed to have narrowed their search to former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, Royals quality control coach Pedro Grifol and Astros bench coach Joe Espada, who is coming in for a second in-person interview now that Houston's bid for a title is over.

The Giants talked to Espada on the phone early in a search process that kicked into gear in the week after Bruce Bochy's final game. Before Game 3 of the World Series, he flew from Houston to San Francisco for several hours of interviews before catching a late afternoon flight to Washington D.C. 

Kapler, fired by the Phillies after two seasons, has long been an option because of his connection to Zaidi when both worked for the Dodgers. According to one source, Kapler has at points been the favorite in the process, but it's unclear where the search stands currently.

Grifol, who also interviewed for the Royals job that went to Mike Matheny, has been a dark horse throughout but comes with a strong background. 

Grifol is 49 years old, while both Kapler and Espada are 44. Kapler is the only one of the trio with previous big league managerial experience, and while his time in Philadelphia was rocky, Zaidi has talked of the importance of having done the job before. 

The Giants have had nine known candidates for the job, although it's possible that others were brought in given how secretive the process has been. Nobody representing the organization has spoken publicly about the search since Zaidi's end-of-season press conference on Oct. 1. 

[RELATED: Bochy clarifies 'one more shot' comments on managing again]

Internal candidates Ron Wotus and Hensley Meulens were joined by the three mentioned above, A's bench coach Mark Kotsay, Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro and Cubs first base coach Will Venable. According to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, the Giants also spoke to Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren.

Zaidi said he expected to interview eight to 10 candidates. 

Giants' Heliot Ramos could make MLB debut in 2020, Gabe Kapler says

Giants' Heliot Ramos could make MLB debut in 2020, Gabe Kapler says

The start to MLB's ramp-up to the season certainly hasn't gone smooth. Four Giants already have tested positive for the coronavirus, and workouts at Oracle Park were suspended Tuesday pending the results of tests conducted this past weekend. 

If there actually is a season this year, Giants fans could get a glimpse of their exciting future. Manager Gabe Kapler already has raved about 18-year-old Marco Luciano, catcher Joey Bart is set to learn another position to help his major-league chances in the near future and a 20-year-old outfielder could make his MLB debut this season. It certainly didn't take long for Heliot Ramos to impress Kapler.

"I'm never one to rule anything out, and Ramos has shown especially well in these first couple of days," Kapler said Monday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Ramos, the Giants' first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, might have been their most impressive prospect last year. He spent the entire season as a 19-year-old and made it all the way to Double-A Richmond. Through 77 games in Class A San Jose, Ramos hit .306 with 13 homers and 18 doubles before playing his final 25 games in Richmond. 

He only played two games with the big league club in spring training, but he did crush a two-run homer against the Colorado Rockies. On Monday, he opened eyes yet again with his approach at the plate. 

"He had another couple of good at-bats (Monday), just missed a hanging slider ... the whole camp kind of opened their mouths like, 'He really just missed putting that ball in the seats,' " Kapler said. "His engine is really incredible. Excellent bat speed, good throwing arm, smart kid, really great to have around." 

[RELATED: Giants could have some tough decisions with outfielders]

Ramos likely would have started the season in Triple-A Sacramento this year, or even played a few more games in Richmond. Now as he's part of the Giants' 60-man roster, he'll be in Sacramento at the Giants' sister site when the MLB season begins.

But at only 20 years old, Ramos could be in San Francisco playing for the Giants as soon as this season. 

"Wouldn't rule anything out," Kapler said. "Likelihood is there's probably a little more development there."

Why Gabe Kapler isn't worried about Giants suspending camp Tuesday

Why Gabe Kapler isn't worried about Giants suspending camp Tuesday

The Giants have spent weeks preparing for every possibility that might pop up during a spring training held at Oracle Park amid a continued coronavirus outbreak.

But there's one thing they could not have planned for, a hurdle nobody quite saw coming across the league. 

A missing FedEx truck. 

On Tuesday the Giants announced that their afternoon workout had been canceled because they are awaiting test results from Saturday. Manager Gabe Kapler said the Giants, like at least a half-dozen other teams, had issues relating to their courier who was supposed to take a round of COVID-19 tests to MLB's facility in Utah. Because the Giants did not have Saturday's results back, they were unable to take the field Tuesday.

A few players, mostly pitchers, were able to take part in a light workout in the morning before the staff made the decision to call off the day's activities. Kapler said he's confident Saturday's test results will come back Tuesday at some point, allowing the Giants to take the field as planned Wednesday. 

While some executives around the league have blasted MLB's handling of all this, Kapler was diplomatic, saying he has a "level of empathy for everybody" working hard to keep camps running across the league.

"Nobody expected this to be easy," Kapler said, "And everybody is doing the best that they can."

It will have to be better, though. Players already have a high level of distrust with the league and trepidation about playing this season, as Buster Posey made clear Saturday. Continued issues could lead to a wave of players opting out before the season even starts, and people across the game have said publicly the last couple of days that they need to see MLB clean up the process. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The issues started over the weekend when the A's were unable to hold a workout because their test results had been delayed by a lack of pickups over the holiday weekend. On Monday, the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros had to cancel workouts because of delays for Friday's testing. The Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels also have had to push back workouts. 

Players are supposed to be tested every other day, and Kapler was hopeful that the process would get back on track quickly. The Giants had another round of testing Monday and hope to get that back Wednesday. Kapler was confident the protocols would be better figured out in the coming days. 

"I feel as confident today as I did yesterday," he said. "I understand that there's going to be hiccups along the way. I think our club does, as well. Our players and staff are included in that. I still have confidence for sure."

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The Giants were supposed to hold their first intrasquad scrimmage on Tuesday. They had moved it up a few days because camp had been going well over the weekend, and there is some urgency to all of this. The Giants will open at Dodger Stadium on July 23, and while they have not had any known big leaguers test positive for COVID-19 -- four members of the organization have, overall -- there is very little time to get the healthy players ready. 

Kapler, though, focused on the positive. He said this would not be a significant setback, noting that it could be a needed break for players, coaches and support staff, most of whom rushed to San Francisco in the last two weeks and jumped right into a modified camp with extreme safety protocols. Kapler said the Giants would use this as a "mental recovery day."

"There's some benefit to that," he said.