With Span out another day, Panik gets first big league start atop lineup

With Span out another day, Panik gets first big league start atop lineup

SAN DIEGO -- As Joe Panik got his gear on Friday afternoon, Duane Kuiper walked by and cracked, "Good luck, Little Brock." The Giants don't need their leadoff hitter for the day to do a Lou Brock impersonation. Bruce Bochy is simply looking for one additional quality at-bat.

"He's swinging the bat well," Bochy said. "This is all really about, if you're going to give someone an extra at-bat, the way Joe is swinging, give it to him."

Panik is 5-for-13 with a double and triple through four games. Bochy was short on top-of-the-order choices because Denard Span is still nursing a sore hip and Buster Posey and Hunter Pence got scheduled rest days. Panik has hit first just once since high school: August 4, 2011, when he was a shortstop named Joseph in rookie ball. 

"I'm not going to change my approach," Panik said. "Same attitude, same approach. I don't think they expect me to steal three bags today."

Aaron Hill, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Nick Hundley make up the rest of the top five. Eduardo Nunez, a potential leadoff option, is hitting sixth again.

"I talked to Nuney," Bochy said. "He likes it there. I like him there. It's a mutual deal and he's had some success there."

--- Span took BP and ran sprints, and he hopes to be available off the bench tonight. He looked normal. 

--- Steven Okert is back, replacing Hunter Strickland, who is on the paternity list. Okert would have made the team after a strong spring but the Giants didn't want to lose Neil Ramirez. Okert took it in stride.

"I knew the situation," Okert said. "I knew this was a possibility, being out of options. It's out of my control."

--- The Padres placed former Giant Hector Sanchez on the 7-day concussion DL. Sanchez had a really bad concussion when he was with the Giants, and a bunch of other small things. Hopefully this isn't the end for a guy who really loves to play the game. 

--- Madison Bumgarner taking aim at the scoreboard during BP is nothing new. He missed by about 15 feet, and cracked, "I'm cutting down on my swing." What was new, at least for me, was seeing Dave Righetti and Phil Nevin stop along the third base line to watch him finish up. The Bumgarner thing isn't just a joy for fans to watch. Players and coaches continue to be amazed, too. 

Giants trade minor league infielder for veteran catcher Erik Kratz


Giants trade minor league infielder for veteran catcher Erik Kratz

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after they made a seemingly endless series of transactions, the Giants got going with an early morning trade. 

Catcher Erik Kratz was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers, with minor league infielder C.J. Hinojosa headed the other way. The deal was made a day after the Giants released Rene Rivera, a similar veteran who appeared in line for an Opening Day job. 

When Rivera was let go, Aramis Garcia looked to be in line for the backup job. But Kratz is a right-handed-hitting veteran who is out of options, so the Giants may keep him instead. Kratz, 38, will be playing for his eighth big league team. He hit .236 for the Brewers last year with six homers and six doubles in 203 at-bats. 

Kratz was a surprise contributor in the postseason, hitting .292 in 26 plate appearances. He is known for doing good work defensively and is a strong clubhouse presence. 

It's unclear why the Giants elected to go with Kratz over Rivera, who worked with their pitchers all camp. Or why they may be shying away from sticking with Garcia, who had a good spring and also knows the pitching staff well. Those questions will be answered in the next four days, and the Giants figure to make many more moves before the dust settles. 

[RELATED: Giants trade Matt Joyce after three days with team]

Hinojosa was once viewed as a future utility man at the big league level, but he was suspended 50 games last season for a positive test for a drug of abuse. When he returned, he posted a .689 OPS. 

To clear a 40-man spot for Kratz, the Giants DFA'd pitcher Jose Lopez, acquired at the start of the spring from the Reds. 

Connor Joe reveals first reaction when traded to Giants from Reds

Connor Joe reveals first reaction when traded to Giants from Reds

Ever since he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft, Connor Joe has been working to get to the big leagues.

It appears the San Diego native will finally get that shot. A trade from the Reds to the Giants may have smashed open the door for Joe.

"It was exciting," Joe told KNBR 680 on Saturday when asked what his initial reaction was to the trade. "I was thrilled for the opportunity to get back with a team on the West Coast ... that's closer to home is an amazing opportunity for me."

Joe attended Poway High School in San Diego, and then went to the University of San Diego. The Pittsburgh Pirates used the No. 39 overall draft pick on Joe in 2014 and then traded him to Atlanta in August of 2017 for Sean Rodriguez. A month later, the Braves shipped him to the Dodgers. This past December, the Reds claimed Joe in the Rule 5 draft.

Then the trade to the Giants happened on Thursday.

Joe knows San Francisco well. During his time in the West Coast Conference, Joe made plenty of trips to the Bay Area to face the University of San Francisco, Saint Mary's and Santa Clara. He told KNBR's Marty Lurie that his sister lives in San Francisco, and that he traveled up state with his dad for the 2007 MLB All-Star Game.

"It's a great city, I love it," Joe said. "It's a little different speed than I'm used to in San Diego, but I'm really excited to be there and really excited for this opportunity."

The 2018 season was a breakout campaign for the 26-year-old. After hitting just 11 home runs his first three minor league seasons, Joe crushed 17 home runs last season between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City, and finished the year with a .299/.408/.527 slash line.

What led to the improved play?

"For me, I think the biggest thing was allowing my athletic abilities to come out and not being trapped in a certain way that people wanted me to be," Joe said. "So, I told myself to be athletic in the box, out in the field and saw really positive results from that."

One of the aspects that made Joe attractive to the Giants is his versatility. He has experience at first base, third base, left field and right field. But he doesn't have a preferred position.

"I can't tell you what I am," Joe said. "I'm a baseball player. It's something I've done throughout my career, starting in college, so I'm used to bouncing around from game to game, even inning to inning."

Things can change in a hurry, but considering that the Giants acquired him a week before Opening Day, it's safe to say they envision him on the roster.

[RELATED: Giants reportedly acquire Michael Reed]

Guess where the Giants open the 2019 season? Yep. San Diego.

Imagine if Joe is able to make his major league debut in his hometown in front of his family. What a story that would be.