Stephen Vogt stays loose, takes big step in rehab from shoulder surgery

Stephen Vogt stays loose, takes big step in rehab from shoulder surgery

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before leaving Scottsdale Stadium the other day, Stephen Vogt showed off a bit of an NBA referee routine that he has perfected over the years.

As Vogt emphatically signaled that an invisible player had drawn a charge, a Giants staffer walked past a group of reporters and whispered, "We need that guy in our clubhouse."

Vogt took a big step toward reaching that goal this week. 

The veteran had been limited to DH duty all spring, but he caught in a minor league game Monday. On the TV broadcast Tuesday night, Vogt said he'll likely catch in two more minor league games before getting behind the plate for the Giants sometime early next week. The first test went well.

"For me, it was just the up-and-down, catching one inning and then having to go back out there after sitting," Vogt said. "When you're going through the throwing program on your rehab, you're making sure you're warm and stretching before even going out there, so for me, it was just getting back up for that second and third inning. How easily I was able to stay loose -- that was huge."

Vogt feels good, but the Giants do not believe he has quite enough time to get in the mix for the Opening Day roster. If he catches a Cactus League game next week, he'll have less than two weeks until the opener, and the backup catcher will need to be durable early on since Buster Posey (hip surgery) will be slow-played in April.

Aramis Garcia has had a strong spring, and Rene Rivera also has put himself in position to be the choice.

Vogt might start the season on the DL, continuing to strengthen his shoulder in Sacramento, but the Giants have seen enough to know that he could contribute relatively quickly. Vogt is 6-for-12 at the plate as a DH and has shown surprising quickness for a 34-year-old catcher.

On Friday night, the two-time All-Star easily scored from first on Cameron Maybin's double to left. 

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Vogt and the Giants now must wait for the shoulder to comply. He had surgery last season and never played, and he couldn't fully take part in defensive drills early in camp. But catching Monday was a big step, and Vogt is close to making himself a bench option. 

"I'm almost 10 months out of surgery, so I'm pretty proud of where I'm at," he said. "I'm hoping to get out there as soon as possible."

Giants' Tyler Beede showing signs of hope despite continued struggles

Giants' Tyler Beede showing signs of hope despite continued struggles

ATLANTA -- There were some close calls in the second half, some postgame media sessions where manager Bruce Bochy indicated that Tyler Beede's rotation spot was in jeopardy. 

But the Giants stuck with their young right-hander, who now is poised to finish the season in the rotation. Two parts of Friday's 6-0 loss to the Braves, who clinched the NL East title, showed why it's so important that they continue to be patient. 

Beede ended the second inning by freezing his college teammate, Dansby Swanson, with a 98 mph fastball. It was the fastest pitch of Beede's season and comes at the end of a long and often trying year -- and it's the kind of pitch that only a select group of right-handed starters have in their arsenal. 

Mike Foltynewicz is one of them, and he's an example of what the Giants hope Beede can become. Foltynewicz has similar stuff and a similar background as a high-end prospect, and he had a very strong 2018 season. 

But Foltynewicz has also struggled with inconsistency, so much so that the Braves optioned him back to Triple-A for six weeks this summer. Since returning, he has a 6-0 record and a sparkling 2.35 ERA. On Friday, he threw eight shutout innings. 

Beede is 26. Foltynewicz turns 28 in a month. There are still plenty of reasons for hope as the Giants move forward. 

This night was a representation of much of Beede's season. His fastball averaged 95.4 mph, his slider hit 88 mph, his changeup darted at times, and he had so much movement on his curveball that at one point Josh Donaldson swung at an 0-2 bender and ended up whipping his bat towards first base. 

But Beede also allowed seven hits, two of which cleared the fence. Ronald Acuña Jr. got a hanging curveball in the fifth and hit a no-doubter to right-center. An inning later, Brian McCann hit a two-run shot on a fastball that was low but center-cut. 

"It's one of those games where you wonder how he gave up six, but (there were) a couple of long balls," Bochy said. "Really good at times, but he just didn't get away with any mistakes."

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The highlight of the night was that tantalizing pitch to Swanson, a friend of Beede's since their Vanderbilt days. 

"I feel great. I'll just continue to learn, learn a lot," Beede said. "I'll go out there and try to compete, fill the zone and go after guys. I hate losing, man. I'm not going to be happy about a start like this, but at the same time I thought it might be better than the results showed."

Mark Melancon excited to face Giants for first time since Braves trade

Mark Melancon excited to face Giants for first time since Braves trade

ATLANTA -- As the Braves' relief pitchers finished their sprints in right field Friday afternoon, a pack of Giants relievers started a jog around the warning track. Mark Melancon walked over and met his former teammates, but the hugs lost a little steam as he made his way through. Eventually, Melancon was standing around with just Will Smith, catching up a few hours before they faced each other. 

"The first half (of the group) I knew all the guys," Melancon said, smiling. "The second half it was all new guys."

The Giants just about have a completely new bullpen since Melancon's last appearance. Melancon has a new situation, too. As the Giants limp to the finish, their former marquee free-agent addition will try to close out a National League East title with the Braves. 

Melancon, mostly a mid-innings man for the Giants this season, is the closer for one of the National League's powerhouses. He's perfect in 11 save opportunities in Atlanta. That may come as a surprise to fans who watched him for two and a half seasons in San Francisco. It does not at all seem out of place for Melancon. 

"That's where I think I'm best," he said of the ninth inning. "I knew that. That was easy for me to see."

Melancon never lost that confidence in San Francisco, even as an arm injury that popped up in his first week with the Giants robbed him of much of his old effectiveness. He had a 3.67 ERA with the Giants but totaled just 15 saves. 

The Giants got out of the final year-plus of a $62 million deal and acquiring two pitching prospects in the minutes before the trade deadline. Melancon ended up being the real winner in the deal. He has found himself closing for a team that can clinch the division Friday night. 

"I'm so impressed with these guys," he said of the Braves. "They're 22-year-olds acting like they're 35 as far as maturity level. It's really impressive."

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Melancon is excited about heading back to the postseason, although he credited his former team for never losing sight of that goal. He said he appreciated that the Giants never went full rebuild, and he looks back on his time in San Francisco fondly. 

"I had a great time. It's always about the people," he said. "It was a great two and a half years with great people ... that was our home for two and a half years and it was awesome."