Tyler Beede's growing confidence on display in Giants' win vs. Padres

Tyler Beede's growing confidence on display in Giants' win vs. Padres

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tyler Beede resurrected his career this spring by cutting his repertoire down to three pitches, but on Tuesday, Statcast caught two that fell in between his fastball and changeup. Beede smiled when asked if he was throwing a slider again.

"Thank you for noticing," he said. 

The pitch didn't do any damage, but it tells you a bit about where Beede and the Giants are right now that he even felt comfortable changing it up in a game. The Giants are willing to give their young right-hander a long audition, no matter what the ERA says, and Beede is going into each start with the confidence that he can work to get better, not just try to hold on to a big league job. 

The final line in a 6-5 win over the Padres on Tuesday might not show improvement at first glance: 4 2/3 innings, 4 earned runs. But this might have been Beede's most encouraging start of the season, in large part because of a stretch that shows exactly why the Giants are still so excited about the former first-rounder. 

Beede retired 11 straight after a rough start, seven of the outs coming on strikeouts. He mixed an overpowering fastball with a good curve, and briefly dominated a good lineup without really needing his changeup, which often is his best pitch. 

"It does a lot for me," Beede said. "Coming into this game, I wanted to attack these guys with my stuff. Coming out, I know my stuff plays."

There is work to do, still. Ultimately this game is about recording outs, and while Beede suffered from some bad luck, he didn't help his cause by opening the fifth with a walk as he held a two-run lead. But after a comeback win, the Giants were able to feel a bit better about a young player who hopes to be part of the future here. 

"He just looked determined to not let it get away from him this time, and he did a great job of that," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a homer on the first pitch of the night and the Padres put runners on the corners with one out in the first inning, but Beede got out of the jam and cruised into the fifth. On a rare 85-degree night at Oracle Park, he showed the kind of raw stuff that the Giants don't have elsewhere in their rotation. His fastball averaged 94.6 mph and maxed out at 96.1. He blew a 95 mph heater past Manny Machado to end the third and got Wil Myers, a notorious masher at Oracle Park, on the same pitch. 

Beede used his curveball as his out pitch for five of his seven strikeouts.

"As I was going, I was able to see that the curve was a pitch I could land and use to expand in and out of the zone," he said. "I felt comfortable using the heater to get ahead."

The fastball took center stage at the end. Two infield singles pushed a run across in the fifth, but Beede still had a chance to get back to the dugout with the lead and a shot at his first big league win. 

With two outs, Machado saw 12 pitches, fouling seven of them off. Beede reached back for 96 mph on his 93rd pitch of the night and Machado fouled it straight back. The next 3-2 offering came in at 95, and that, too, was fouled back. A changeup dipped too far inside and Beede's night was done, the bases loaded as the rookie yelled into his glove.  

"I threw the kitchen sink at him," Beede said. "I didn't want to throw him a cookie down the middle. He won that at-bat."

[RELATED: Giants expect Posey back in lineup Wednesday vs. Padres]

The Giants trailed a few moments later when the Padres somehow scored two on a grounder back to the mound. But San Francisco rallied with three runs in the seventh. Third base coach Ron Wotus may have been the unlikely star of the sequence. When Evan Longoria rocketed a ball into the left-field corner, Wotus aggressively sent the trail runner, Joe Panik, to the plate. Panik looked like he would be out by 10 feet, but Tatis Jr.'s throw skipped and the run scored. 

"That's aggressive there and it worked out great," Bochy said. "That's a great job by Ronnie."

How Giants' Mike Yastrzemski has turned into star year after close call

How Giants' Mike Yastrzemski has turned into star year after close call

Farhan Zaidi spent much of his first Winter Meetings with the Giants sidestepping questions about how much he may be able to spend on a free agent like Bryce Harper, or what he might do with veterans like Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith. But one night, in his suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Zaidi was asked how the Giants could find their own Max Muncy or Chris Taylor. 

Zaidi smiled as he talked of two of his greatest hits as the Dodgers' general manager. He said the first step for the Giants was obvious.

“We have to, as an organization, have a mindset of giving guys opportunities,” Zaidi said back then. “The Chris Taylor and Max Muncy success stories weren’t just about their acquisition, but it was also about giving them the chance at the big league level and giving them some runway.”

As the Giants return to Los Angeles this weekend with the task of solving Muncy -- who has turned into an All-Star -- in particular, they can legitimately boast that they have found their own version. Mike Yastrzemski drove onto that runway and became a nice addition to the outfield in 2019. Early on in 2020, he has taken the next step, becoming one of the game's best all-around players.

Per FanGraphs, Yastrzemski currently leads the majors with 1.2 Wins Above Replacement, more than halfway to his 2019 total. He is fourth in the big leagues with a .467 on-base percentage and is tied for the lead with 12 runs. Yastrzemski has three homers in 60 at-bats and he's slugging .638. 

This is all a small sample, of course, but the Giants have seen enough in three weeks of swings and swing decisions to feel that the improvement is somewhat real. When Yastrzemski hit two homers, including a walk-off, last week against the San Diego Padres, it was easy to focus on the fact that he finally put a pair of balls into McCovey Cove, or that he had hit them off a righty and a lefty. 

But the coaching staff was thrilled that night because of the deeper meaning of those swings. New hitting coach Donnie Ecker said the staff preaches that hitters should find "multiple solutions" at the plate, and he saw that in that game. Yastrzemski got a changeup down and in from Chris Paddack -- who has one of the game's best -- and pulled it down the line for his first homer. The walk-off was on a 93-mph fastball up and in from Matt Strahm, a tall lefty who stands as far to the first base side of the rubber as he can, giving lefties the impression that he's throwing from behind them. Yastrzemski put that one in the water, too. 

"It's really something you see the top five percent of hitters do," Ecker said. "It's something that in our hitting department we looked at and we checked a really cool box that night. It's just something he can build on and just something that he can use for his future."

Ecker is in his first year working with Yastrzemski, but he's no stranger to his story. While working for the Cincinnati Reds last year, Ecker talked often with catcher Curt Casali, one of Yastrzemski's Vanderbilt teammates and close friends. 

"I kind of got fascinated with his story," Ecker said. "I studied him and you kind of saw the ingredients that got him up to San Francisco, but now once you're around him, I think you just double-click into who he is and we're not surprised to see him performing the way he's performing."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Some of those ingredients, Ecker said, are thoughtfulness, intelligence, maintenance of his body, and a seriousness about his career and getting better. The last one has added another important tool for Yastrzemski this season. 

Yastrzemski is swinging at 13 percent fewer pitches this season. After swinging at 29 percent of the pitches he saw outside of the zone last year, Yastrzemski is down to 18 percent. Above everything else, the new hitting coaches want the Giants to focus on making good swing decisions, and Yastrzemski is doing that early on. 

"It's more of a mental thing, trying to game plan against pitchers, and our hitting staff has been unbelievable with that. They're coming up with plans to help us stay locked in and figure out what we should be swinging at, what we need to be taking," Yastrzemski said. 

That improvement has made Yastrzemski a perfect fit atop the lineup for manager Gabe Kapler, who said he has found that he can move Yastrzemski from first to third in the order, or right field to center field, without the 29-year-old blinking an eye. 

Yastrzemski started three games this week in center at Coors Field, a spot that will always hold special meaning in his career. In Milwaukee last July 14, Bruce Bochy called Yastrzemski into his office and told him he would be headed back to Triple-A. Yastrzemski packed his bags, but when Alex Dickerson's back flared up, he ended up on the chartered flight to Denver instead. He made the most of the lifeline, picking up four hits in the first game of that series and nine in 20 total at-bats while playing every inning of a grueling four-game series. That was only the beginning. 

[RELATED: Kapler breaks down his in-game strategy]

Since that first day in Denver, Yastrzemski ranks 10th in the majors with 3.5 WAR. He has a .382 on-base percentage and 19 homers in 81 games, which is why as the Giants walk into Dodger Stadium tonight, they'll do so behind a 29-year-old who very quietly has turned into a star since getting his latest second chance.

It all started with a meeting in the visiting clubhouse in Milwaukee. Yastrzemski said he hasn't forgotten the message Bochy delivered that day. 

"He said this isn't the last time we're going to see you," he said. "And he wasn't wrong."

Mauricio Dubon got Rockies' attention; Gabe Kapler wants more of it

Mauricio Dubon got Rockies' attention; Gabe Kapler wants more of it

Gabe Kapler brought up the names David Ortiz and Bryce Harper, which is close to as lofty as you can go when praising one of your own young players. He laughed and said he wasn't comparing utility man Mauricio Dubon to either of those guys, both of whom are headed for Cooperstown, but they all do share one trait. 

Dubon wears his heart on his sleeve, and he wants that beat to pulse through his teammates in big games. When he pulled his hands in and shot a three-run homer into the empty seats at Coors Field on Thursday, Dubon stylishly dropped his bat and turned and screamed at his own dugout. He certainly enjoyed his trip around the bases, holding his finger to his lips as he touched the plate, but a few minutes later the Rockies got their revenge. 

A veteran team certainly noticed Dubon's emotions, and when Daniel Murphy swung it right back with a two-run blast, he glared at the center fielder as he rounded second. The Rockies would go on to win 6-4, dropping the Giants to 1-3 on this huge road trip. It was a disappointing finish, but they learned something about a player they picture as a big part of their future. 

"I played with guys who expressed themselves after a big home run. Bryce Harper is like that, every time he hits a big home run or does something great on the field he wants everybody in his dugout to experience that. He wants them to celebrate with him," Kapler said. "I think the same could be said for David. Mauricio has a long way to go but that's his personality. 

"I appreciate Mauricio for the energy and the passion that he brings to the field every day. As long as he's celebrating with his teammates, I support it."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Of course, not everybody does. The game is changing fast, but this still is a sport that doesn't embrace displays of emotion. Murphy made that clear with his grim stare out at Dubon as he touched second. 

Dubon said he didn't see Murphy looking out at him but he was told about it later. In typical Dubon fashion, the whole thing left him smiling.

"I thought it was cool. I thought it was pretty awesome," he said. "I had a lot of emotion knowing where I came from and it's the start of the year and me not playing every day right now, and then me not having a good first two at-bats. It was pretty emotional. I enjoyed it as everybody saw.

"What Daniel did, it is what it is, I guess. It's something that's been going on around the league forever. He's probably trying to get me grounded. I respect him a lot. I respect him a lot. I enjoy what he did, too."

For Dubon, there was no thought about showing up the Rockies. This was simply a release for a young player who entered the day with a .549 OPS and one extra-base hit. Dubon had seen his playing time dwindle, but he showed enough at the plate -- he later picked up another hit -- and in center that he should get back in the mix against the Dodgers, who will start two lefties this weekend. 

Dubon had perhaps his best all-around day in the big leagues, particularly because of where he started it. With Mike Yastrzemski getting a breather, Dubon was in center field, a position he picked up over the offseason and two abbreviated camps. He has impressed in workouts and over the first couple of weeks of the season, but Coors Field is a different monster, with massive gaps to cover as a center fielder. Dubon handled it all with ease, sprinting in to catch one shallow fly ball and getting a good jump on another that he gloved in front of right fielder Hunter Pence. In the second, he added to the highlight reel by robbing Matt Kemp of extra bases. 

Dubon took a perfect route on Kemp's deep fly to right-center, but it kept carrying in the thin air. As his feet hit the track, Dubon made a leaping grab.

"I think what was really impressive was his warning track and his wall awareness," Kapler said. "In that case, particularly not having much exposure to center field, not having much exposure to Coors Field, it's tricky, because you're not exactly sure how many steps you have before you hit the wall. I think he'll tell you that he thought he was a little bit closer to the wall than he was, but that's still a nuanced play. Having played here myself I can tell you it's tricky with the angles and the depth. I thought it was an excellent play."

[RELATED: Zaidi explains why the Giants still haven't called up Bart]

It was a good all-around day for one of the newer Giants, one who has brought some needed juice to the dugout. Kapler said he won't be the one to stifle it. 

"I think that baseball needs and will benefit from players who express themselves," he said. "It needs and benefits from players who are emotional, like Mauricio is."