As they wait for their ace, Giants get right back near top of NL West

As they wait for their ace, Giants get right back near top of NL West

SAN FRANCISCO — Derek Holland walked up to the microphones late Monday night, a Warriors cap tugged over his curly hair and a koala cartoon on his chest. He introduced himself as Derek Lastname, a nod to a bungled and incomplete graphic that made it onto a national network’s broadcast of the game. 

When asked about being pulled after four innings, he gave manager Bruce Bochy credit for going to a pinch-hitter who drove in two runs with the bases loaded. When told that he was on pace for 27 strikeouts after whiffing the first four Diamondbacks, he pointed out how hard the feat is. Then he puffed his chest out so the writing on his t-shirt was clear. 

“But I am…totally koalafied,” Holland said.

Yes, these Giants are having fun. And who could blame them? They’ve won five in a row, they just swept a good Phillies team, and they beat the Diamondbacks 10-3 on Monday by scoring seven runs in the bottom of the fourth, immediately after a two-run double by the visitors. Oh, and they get Madison Bumgarner back on Tuesday night. 

The Giants once hoped Bumgarner could come back in time to keep them in the race. Now the hope is that their best player can vault them to the front of the pack. They are 30-30, and just 1 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks and Rockies, co-leaders of a division that has yet to show a contender. 

Players will always tell you that there are no excuses. But in moments of honesty, these Giants will also tell you that they will happily take their current record given Bumgarner’s two-month absence. 

“That means we did our job,” Holland said. “Now we’ve got to continue to keep doing it. This is the time to gain some ground and make moves and get where we feel we should be.”

A week ago, the Giants looked headed for a tailspin. Now it’s not hard to picture them grabbing hold of this division. 

The lineup is the deepest in the NL West. Andrew McCutchen, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval and Nick Hundley all homered Monday. Buster Posey had two hits in his new No. 2 spot in the order, including a big two-run double. Hanson is a weapon off the bench. Joe Panik looks suited for leadoff life. Evan Longoria is a vast improvement over last year’s third basemen and Gorkys Hernandez has been a revelation. Even Hunter Pence got into the mix Monday. 

The bullpen might be the deepest in the NL West, too. Pierce Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A to clear a spot for Bumgarner, but eight remain, and it’s the best Giants group in several years. 

The rotation has been the weak spot, but the weekend was full of positives and…Madison Bumgarner returns Tuesday night. Did we mention that? Last Tuesday, the Giants dropped their third straight road game and fell to 25-30. What a difference a week has made. 

“They’ve done a great job of bouncing back,” Bochy said. 

Giants acquire Connor Joe, who has shot at making Opening Day roster

Giants acquire Connor Joe, who has shot at making Opening Day roster

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants swapped out a Rule 5 pick who wasn't going to make the team for one who now very well might. 

Drew Ferguson, an outfielder picked up from the Houston Astros in the Rule 5 Draft, was designated for assignment Thursday to clear a roster spot for Connor Joe, a utility man who was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds. Joe is under the same restrictions, and given that the Giants picked him up one week from Opening Day, there seems a good chance that Farhan Zaidi will try to tuck the former Dodgers prospect onto the roster. 

Joe, 26, has moved all over throughout his minor league career, primarily playing first base, third and the outfield. As a right-handed bat with a .363 career OBP in the minors, he fits a lot of what the Giants are looking for on their bench. That also could lead to some interesting decisions next week. 

The Giants already were trying to decide how to squeeze Yangervis Solarte, Alen Hanson and Pablo Sandoval on the roster, with the latter two looking like tough calls. They also could try to put Joe in the outfield mix, perhaps at the expense of a player like Mac Williamson or Cameron Maybin. 
Joe had a .935 OPS with 17 homers in Double-A and Triple-A for the Dodgers organization last season. He was the sixth player selected in the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings, and hit .275 this spring for the Reds. 

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The Giants had hoped Ferguson would fill these holes, but he had a poor spring and was not in position to make the club. The Giants would have had to offer him back to the Astros next week, with very little hope of keeping him in their system. 

To acquire Joe, the Giants traded minor league right-hander Jordan Johnson and cash considerations to the Reds. Johnson had a 4.37 ERA in 86 minor league appearances for the Giants. 

Brandon Belt putting up exceptional numbers for Giants at plate in spring

Brandon Belt putting up exceptional numbers for Giants at plate in spring

Before I start this post ...

I know ... "spring training stats don't matter." But Brandon Belt is hitting the you-know-what out of the ball right now in the Cactus League, and going 9-for-9 isn't something that should be ignored -- even during games that don't count.

Now that we got that out of the way ... 

Baseball Reference is one of the few sites that has spring training stats, so shout out to them. And this is what Belt is working with as we head into Opening Day.

A .485/.553/.818 line with three home runs and six RBI in 13 games. 

Not bad ... not bad at all.

And he seems to be having fun despite a small mishap cutting half of his eyebrow off prior to Photo Day, but who hasn't done that?