Versatile Yangervis Solarte shows Giants he can add to outfield depth


Versatile Yangervis Solarte shows Giants he can add to outfield depth

When the Giants signed veteran Yangervis Solarte to a minor league deal this offseason, it was another sign of versatility that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi covets on his roster. 

The thought, though, was Solarte could be slotted in all around the infield as a powerful backup and platoon player. On Monday, he reminded the Giants he can do even more than that. 

Solarte played six innings of left field in the Giants' 8-2 spring training loss to the Dodgers. He didn't have a chance to record any outs, but he did chase down two doubles and a triple. 

"He looked all right," manager Bruce Bochy said to reporters, via "In early work, he looked comfortable. He's all for it, and that's the big part of it."

The move to the outfield was his first work of action since 2014. In that season, Solarte played seven games in left field for the Padres and had one error. The ability to add depth to the outfield will help both himself and the team. 

Around the infield, the Giants are bringing back the same starters as last season -- Brandon Belt at first base, Joe Panik at second, Evan Longoria at third, and Brandon Crawford at shortstop. But the outfield remains a mystery. 

Steven Duggar is set to man center field, and could be the Giants' leadoff hitter. After that, the corners are up for grabs with young players trying to prove themselves and veteran Gerardo Parra. Solarte could certainly find plenty of playing time. 

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Last season, the 31-year-old switch-hitter hit 17 home runs, which would have led the Giants. He also played all four infield positions, and Bochy has taken account for the importance of his versatility. 

"Those guys are so important," Bochy said. "Guys that give you versatility. If they're going well, then you find different places to keep them out there and spots to play, obviously, to rest guys. That was a big signing for us."

Giants scout compared Mark McGwire to better Dave Kingman as prospect

Giants scout compared Mark McGwire to better Dave Kingman as prospect

It was clear when watching Mark McGwire at USC that he was set for stardom in the big leagues. McGwire was an eighth-round pick in high school but then dominated for the Trojans. 

When Giants scout George Genovese saw McGwire play in March of 1984, he was blown away.

"This boy has outstanding power," Genovese wrote in his official scouting report. "... I feel he will be a good power hitter as he makes good contact and hits to all field with power. He is a tough out at the plate and it takes a good curve ball or excellent pitch to get him out." 

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As's Matt Kelly notes, Genovese even saw a better version of a former No. 1 overall pick -- Dave Kingman -- in a young McGwire.

"As much power and better contact at the plate than Dave Kingman," Genovese wrote.

McGwire wound up hitting .387 with 32 home runs, 20 doubles and 80 RBI at USC in 1984. And the Giants had a chance to select McGwire with the No. 9 pick in the '84 MLB Draft. Instead, they took outfielder Alan Cockrell, who had nine at-bats in his MLB career and never played for San Francisco.

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The A's grabbed McGwire one pick later at No. 10 overall, and he became an instant star. The powerful first baseman hit a then-rookie record 49 homers for the A's in 1987 on his way to winning AL Rookie of the Year. 

McGwire finished his career with 583 long balls. Kingman, who started his career with the Giants and ended it with the A's, hit 442. And Cockrell had two career hits ... none went over the fence.

Giants coaches believe players can get ready for shortened MLB season

Giants coaches believe players can get ready for shortened MLB season

For a few weeks now players have been eyeing the first week of July, hopeful that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association find a compromise that gets the game back on the field sometime around the time fireworks are scheduled to go off.

But every day that passes without a deal is one less day for the staff to potentially get players ready. At some point, that might lead to tension as teams look at the calendar, but for now the Giants still believe they have plenty of time to prepare for a shortened season. 

On last week's "Chalk Talk at Home," pitching coach Andrew Bailey and hitting coach Donnie Ecker said they're confident that Spring Training 2.0 can get their players ready in about three weeks. 

"I think it depends on where these guys are coming in," Bailey said. "I think we can do it in the three-week timespan. We may not be seeing a full workload, 100 pitches or whatever you see. I think that we still have to do some buildup there, but we can definitely get guys ready in that timeframe and be a little bit cautious with back-to-backs and different things and monitor (them). Ideally, the longer the better, for sure, on the pitching side of things."

Ecker said the hitting coaches -- himself, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind -- are looking at a similar timeframe, although they do have more wiggle room. 

"I think we need a lot less time from a physiological standpoint than pitchers do," he said. "The three week (schedule) is kind of a sweet spot for us to get enough live at-bats in."

While it takes some work to get your timing down, the Giants should have more than enough time to get their lineup ready. Buster Posey has often gone into a season with just a couple dozen at-bats under his belt, and the veteran-filled lineup is full of players who won't need much more than that if they're able to play games in their second spring. Pitching machines are so advanced these days that players are able to take unlimited hacks against machine-thrown breaking balls or 100 mph fastballs. Many of the team's veterans have posted clips on Instagram where they're hitting off machines at home. 

It's a bit more complicated for pitchers, but Bailey said he is starting to get calls from players who live in areas that have opened up to the point that you can throw live BP sessions and simulated games against hitters. The analytics staff put together a questionnaire that allows the Giants to track and log throwing programs on a daily basis. 

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Bailey is leaning on over-communicating, and the message from the staff has been to over-prepare if possible. Ideally, the Giants would like their pitchers to come in more stretched out than they normally would, giving them flexibility when games start. 

"We'll just get creative with our staff, our usage and make sure that their workloads are okay and healthy," Bailey said. "I think obviously winning is at the forefront of everybody's mind, but keeping our players healthy for 2020 is a priority of ours as well."

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