Giants

Steven Duggar sets lofty goal of stealing 30 bases for Giants in 2019

Steven Duggar sets lofty goal of stealing 30 bases for Giants in 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When he was breaking into the majors last year and dealing with your typical rookie growing pains, Steven Duggar sat down with hitting coach Alonzo Powell.

"Check one box a night," Powell told Duggar in an effort to slow everything down. 

What Powell meant was that Duggar should focus on doing just one thing every game to help the Giants win. Run down a line drive to save your pitcher. Score a run. Knock in a teammate. Steal a base. Move a runner over from second to third. Just do something every night to contribute, and over time it will all add up.

In his second season, Duggar is ready to be a bit more ambitious, particularly in one area of his game that should blossom. 

"I've set a soft goal," he said this week when asked about stolen bases. "I'd like to get to 30. I think I can get to 30. It's a lofty goal, but I think that if I can set my sights high and try to aim for 30 -- if we could reach 30 that would be unreal -- but if we end up somewhere around 20 or 25, that would be great, too."

For the Giants, even 20 stolen bases has been lofty in recent years. Andrew McCutchen (13 steals) was the only Giant in double-figures last season. You have to go back to peak Hunter Pence in 2013 (22) to find someone who hit 20. Angel Pagan swiped 29 in 2012, but the Giants haven't had anyone steal 30 in so long that the man who did it in 2007, Dave Roberts, now manages the rival Dodgers.

Roberts was the first Giant in a decade to steal 30 bags. 

So, the soft goal is indeed a lofty one. But it's also one Duggar has the raw ability to reach. BaseballSavant.com allows you to organize players by five-foot splits, and Duggar's speed is elite by any measure. 

To travel 30 feet, Duggar had the fifth-fastest split (1.67 seconds) in the majors last year, giving him the same time as Billy Hamilton. For 60 feet, Duggar (2.76) ranks 13th, sandwiched between Hamilton and Trea Turner. Hamilton has four 50-steal seasons and Turner has swiped 40-plus each of the past two years.

There is more to this than natural speed, of course. Duggar was successful in five of six attempts last season but stole just 42 bases in the minors, where he battled injuries at times. The difference now, Duggar said, is that he's working with better technique. 

Duggar constantly stayed behind after workouts last spring to work on his first step with instructor Vince Coleman, who -- this is not a typo -- stole 100 bases in each of his first three big league seasons. Coleman immediately recognized a flaw in Duggar's technique. 

Duggar used to crouch low, meaning his first move would be to pop up a bit before he took off for second. Coleman showed him guys like Hamilton and Ricky Henderson who wasted no movement heading towards second base.

Duggar is more upright now -- "that's made a huge difference in the first step," he said -- and he has worked with Coleman and third base coach Ron Wotus on changing his mindset, too. 

"Before I was so nervous to get picked off that in the back of your mind your first step is always back instead of forward," he said. "It's more aggressive now. But it's also about knowing when to go, being smart, seeing who is hitting, who is on the mound -- there are a lot of factors."

The Giants will weigh them all, and you can bet that quite often they'll let Duggar take the risk, particularly if the defense is shifting and he may have a chance to catch defenders out of position. The roster has not been injected with power, and it remains unclear how the same lineup that was so poor the previous two seasons can support the pitching staff this season. 

[RELATED: Why Steven Duggar wants to bring bunts back to life for Giants in 2019]

One partial solution could be to have a disruptive leadoff hitter, allowing Duggar to dream of a season in which he is constantly taking second or third in front of Buster Posey and the rest of the core.  

"Every 90 feet could be huge for us," Duggar said.

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

SAN FRANCISCO -- Early in camp, a Giants veteran looked at a group of young players sitting at a card table and joked that he didn't recognize half the guys in the room. That's no longer the case. 

The Giants, after two more rounds of cuts, are down to 39 players in big-league camp, and most of them are familiar to fans. We have hit the point of the spring where guys who were seriously fighting for jobs are seeing that dream end, so as we did last week, let's take a look at who got cut and who might return at some point ... 

March 14: Outfielder Austin Slater and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte optioned; right-hander Derek Law and infielder Zach Green reassigned to minor league camp.

It was a disappointing spring for both Slater and Venditte, who were in races for a backup outfield job and bullpen spot, respectively. 

Slater hit .185 in 12 spring appearances, with just one extra-base hit. The staff asked him to make some swing changes in the offseason to add more loft and hopefully tap into his raw power, but it continues to be a work in progress. More than just about anyone, Slater really could use an everyday role in Sacramento to try and continue to figure out the new swing. He's just 26, offers positional versatility, and could help balance the lineup from the right side, so a breakout would solve a lot of the big league roster's bench issues. 

Venditte was the first free agent signing of the Zaidi era, but he never got on track, allowing seven runs in six appearances. Even at 33, he had a minor league option remaining, so he seems a good bet to shuttle back and forth this season as the Giants embrace some of that Dodger way of handling a pitching staff. At the very least, the switch-pitching thing continues to be remarkable. 

Law was knocked off the 40-man just before camp, but came in optimistic about the way he was throwing. He made just four appearances, allowing a pair of runs. Law's future is murky. If he can get untracked and find that 2016 form, the Giants would be thrilled to add him to the mix. But he's off the 40-man now, so the road back will be a long one. 

Green, 25, was an interesting addition, and he had a nice month, posting an OPS over 1.100 in 23 plate appearances and hitting a couple of homers. It'll be fascinating to check Sacramento's box scores early in the season. Will Zaidi keep giving shots to guys like Slater and Ryder Jones who have been with the organization for a while, or will newcomers like Green jump the line? Green hit 20 homers in the high minors last season and could soon be the next man up at the corner infield spots. 

March 17: Outfielder Mike Gerber and infielder Levi Michael reassigned. 

Anonymous to most fans, these two are guys to keep an eye on.

Gerber was the first player Zaidi acquired for the Giants and they got him through waivers, and onto their Triple-A roster. He had eight hits in 19 spring at-bats, and might have had the plate appearance of the spring, shaking off a head-seeking fastball from a tough Rangers lefty to line a two-run triple into the gap as the Giants nearly pulled off a wild comeback a week ago. He's an outfielder who can play all three spots, and simply has good plate appearances, which is something lacking in this organization. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a shot in the outfield this summer. 

[RELATED: Giants top prospect Bart awarded for impressive spring]

Michael played three infield spots this spring and has handled the outfield in the minors. He has always been a high OBP guy in the minors, and reached at a .400 clip in limited action this spring. Does that sound like the type Zaidi might want on the roster? Yep. 

The Giants will carry 13 pitchers more often than not, and might need a third catcher at times. Anyone with versatility -- Michael, Breyvic Valera, Alen Hanson, etc. -- will have a leg up when decisions are made. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident

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USATSI

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a statement Monday calling on Major League Baseball to issue sanctions on Giants CEO Larry Baer over a March 1 incident involving his wife, Pam.

“When the incident first occurred involving Larry Baer and his wife, the San Francisco Police Department immediately began an investigation,” Breed said in the statement posted on her website. "That investigation is ongoing, but regardless of the outcome, Major League Baseball needs to send a message that any and all acts of violence against women is unacceptable.

"The letter written by several respected women leaders in our domestic violence community echoes an all too familiar reality where incidents involving violence against women are not met with true accountability. While Mr. Baer has apologized and expressed remorse for his behavior, it does not excuse his actions and it does not erase what transpired. Mr. Baer’s actions were serious and wrong. We are a City that loves and supports our San Francisco Giants, and that means holding our organization and its leaders to the highest of standards.

“Every little girl, every woman should be able to attend a Giants game with a clear sense of the organization’s values. I share in the call to action by the women who have written the Commissioner calling for greater accountability. There must be a stronger public reaction and response to violence against women in our City and our country.”

The letter that Breed references in her statement came from a dozen San Francisco community leaders, who wrote to MLB that they’d like to see Baer disciplined. The San Francisco Chronicle cited portions of the letter, which told MLB their stance is about “… the responsibility that you, as well as the board and executive leadership of the Giants organization, have to fairly enforce MLB policy, as you would had it been a major league player in that video, rather than a high-profile CEO.”

MLB issued a statement on the day of the incident, saying: “Major League Baseball is aware of the incident and, just like any other situation like this, will immediately begin to gather the facts. We will have no further comment until this process is completed.” MLB has not commented since then.

The San Francisco district attorney’s office told the Chronicle on March 8 it hadn’t decided if charges should be filed and that police had been investigating the situation.