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. 

Mayor London Breed clears way for Giants' June return to Oracle Park

Mayor London Breed clears way for Giants' June return to Oracle Park

The Giants expect the construction of their new bullpens to be finished in the next week or so. It might not be much longer before players are allowed to throw off the mounds. 

San Francisco mayor London Breed outlined new reopening rules on Thursday afternoon, and there was good news for professional sports teams. As part of a phase that will go into effect before June 15, professional sports teams can practice in the city of San Francisco with an approved plan. The city is targeting June 15 for the next phase, which states in part, "Professional sports games, tournaments and other entertainment venues allowed with no spectators with approved plans."

The players and owners are still far apart in negotiations, but if they can strike a deal that gets baseball back in July -- the target is to get games back by the July 4 holiday -- the Giants will be cleared to come home. Internally, they are still discussing the next steps and what a Spring Training 2.0 might look like. They're trying to decide between training at Scottsdale Stadium and doing so at Oracle Park, and the current lean is said to be returning to San Francisco.

It's not quite that easy, of course. The Giants would have to make significant changes to the structure at Oracle Park, expanding clubhouse space and finding new areas within the ballpark's footprint to train while following social distancing rules. They're hashing all of that now, and while they were never all that concerned about the restrictions in San Francisco, it certainly is a sigh of relief that the city is officially moving forward with reopening plans. 

[RELATED: Field to Table: How to make Oracle Park-style garlic fries]

The Giants have quietly reopened one of their other facilities in the meantime. Players who remained in the Scottsdale area have been allowed to work out at the ballpark there, although social distancing is practiced and there are limits on how many people can be in the building at one time. The vast majority of the team remains spread out across the country. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

How Giants fans' support impressed Mike Yastrzemski, Mauricio Dubon

How Giants fans' support impressed Mike Yastrzemski, Mauricio Dubon

Mike Yastrzemski and Mauricio Dubon entered this season as two of the more popular Giants, but a year ago at this time they were in extremely different situations. Yastrzemski was just getting his feet wet in his first week in the big leagues. Dubon was playing in Triple-A for the Milwaukee Brewers. 

They both got shots to grab a starting role later in the 2019 season with the Giants, and both did enough that they were going to be in Gabe Kapler's Opening Day lineup, possibly right at the top. Life changed quickly for Yastrzemski and Dubon, and on this week's episode of "Chalk Talk at Home," they talked about how far they've come. Both said interactions with the Giants fan base stood out early in their big league careers. 

"I struck out my first at-bat and they were still cheering for me walking back," Yastrzemski  "You don't get that too often, where it's a big market, big city with a huge history of winning, and usually fans demand excellence. The fans are so great out there that they're just exited for somebody to get an opportunity to come help the team and they're going to support you."

Dubon came along three months later, but he already knew all about Oracle Park's supportive fan. He grew up as one after moving to Honduras to Sacramento as a teenager. Still, Dubon found himself surprised by early interactions. 

"I was just trying to play baseball and the next thing I know I'm walking down the streets going to the field and a lot of people are honking in the car and saying hi to me, and I had no idea how they recognized me," he said. "It's pretty amazing how the Giants fans are."

Last year's rookie breakouts are training in Nashville and Miami, respectively, and both hope to be back at Oracle Park soon. MLB is angling for a July return, although there are plenty of hurdles. Whenever the sport resumes, it'll do so without fans, which might not be the adjustment you would expect.

Yastrzemski said he's able to get so focused at the plate that he never hears any noise anyway. The outfield may get weird, though. 

"You're used to having to like try and scream at the guy next to you to try and get his attention," he said. "You can whisper now."

[RELATED: Learn how to make Oracle Park's garlic fries]

Yastrzemski said it's going to be interesting to see how guys react, because some really feed off the energy coming from the seats. Dubon certainly qualifies as one of those players, and he said the empty stadium "is going to be weird."

"I'm a guy that feeds off that," he said. "I've just got to get used to it, I've just got to get used to not having anybody. I played in rookie ball here in Florida with literally nobody and it's going to be pretty much like that with the best players in the world."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]