Giants

Why Gabe Kapler was so excited Giants signed his nemesis Wilmer Flores

Why Gabe Kapler was so excited Giants signed his nemesis Wilmer Flores

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In Drew Smyly, Rob Brantly and Nick Vincent, the Giants have turned to players who impressed Gabe Kapler last season while playing in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. But with perhaps their biggest offensive addition of the offseason, they added a player Kapler knows in a much more painful way.

Wilmer Flores spent the first six seasons of his career with the New York Mets, where he served as a dependable infielder who made headlines for his walk-up song and a raw emotional on-field reaction to a reported trade that fell through in 2015. But as he talked of his new infielder Thursday, Kapler focused on a memory from the first game of a doubleheader in 2018, when Kapler was in his first year with the Phillies and Flores was in his final one with the Mets. 

"I have some experience with him, being in the other dugout," Kapler said. "A couple years ago, in 2018, he hit a walk-off home run in game one of a doubleheader off Victor Arano at Citi Field that broke our hearts. We've seen him do damage in big situations."

Flores has a long history of coming up clutch in big spots, and Kapler is counting on that in the late innings. But the Giants gave Flores the first multi-year deal of the Farhan Zaidi Era -- two years and $6.25 million guaranteed -- because they believe Flores has much more to offer. He will primarily play on the right side of the infield, and while team officials won't say it, it sure seems like the right-handed-hitting Flores is set to steal a few starts away from Brandon Belt at first base. 

"Independent of Brandon, he gives us a really good option at first base and at second base, as well," Kapler said. "We'll explore every possibility and every way to get him in the lineup."

On his first day in camp, Flores said he's willing to play anywhere. The Giants were appealing to him because of their history, but also because they came with a multi-year deal at a time when he had other big league offers. Flores played last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks after signing a one-year deal in late January. 

"Last year I went through free agency and it was a little tough," Flores said. "It was a relief to get a multi-year deal. Next year I'll know where I'm going, so it'll be better."

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Flores can settle in, meet new teammates and spend time with old friends -- Pablo Sandoval was an offseason workout partner -- because he should have more staying power than most on this roster. The Giants plan to play Flores, who slugged .615 against lefties last season, often, which means his clever walk-up song will become a staple at Oracle Park. Flores confirmed that he will still use the theme song from "Friends."

"I love that show," Flores said, smiling. "I have all the DVDs ... I still watch it before I go to bed."

With help from a former Giant, Johnny Cueto still on track for Opening Day

With help from a former Giant, Johnny Cueto still on track for Opening Day

On the fourth day of camp, the Giants put their new Zoom setup to the test. Johnny Cueto sat in front of a camera in the club's new interview room and interpreter Erwin Higueros set up in a nearby conference room where he could pass along reporters' questions to Cueto and then translate his answers. 

But there was no help necessary when Cueto was asked who won his spirited live BP sessions with former Giant Eduardo Nuñez in the Dominican Republic in recent weeks. Cueto answered in English before Higueros could start talking.

"Me," he said loudly, laughing softly.

Cueto went on to explain how Nuñez, a popular Giant who played 126 games for the Giants in Cueto's first two years, became one of his best training partners as he tried to stay ready.

"He would call me and say get ready to pitch to me on Wednesday," Cueto said through Higueros. "I would tell him, you come ready, because I will strike you out. Obviously you can see from the video that he didn't make contact. That contact that he made was just foul balls. I killed him."

Cueto posted four videos of the matchups to his Instagram page, including one that took good-natured jabs at Nuñez's interpretation of the strike zone:

 

As fun as those matchups with Nuñez, now in camp with the Mets, were, they also were important. The last thing Gabe Kapler did before breaking camp was name Cueto his Opening Day starter, and he remains on track to take the ball months later. Cueto said he's ready to do whatever the staff asks of him.

When the sport was shut down in March, Cueto flew back to his home in the Dominican Republic, where he had to self-quarantine for 14 days per the country's rules. He spent most of the next three months at home, saying he didn't want to leave the house because he was fearful of getting COVID-19 and transmitting it to his family. Early on in the Dominican Republic there was a strict curfew of 5 p.m. It later got moved back two hours. 

"It's a very difficult situation, and I'm scared for my family just like everyone else is," he said.

Cueto flew to San Francisco on a private jet last week and passed the initial intake screening. He has been part of every workout at Oracle Park, and he said he doesn't have concerns that would cause him to opt out at this point. 

"I'm already here. I made the commitment," he said. "I flew from the Dominican, which is pretty far away. I'm already here and I'm going to give it my all and see what happens, and whatever decision baseball makes I'm going to accept it."

With help from a former Giant, Johnny Cueto still on track for Opening Day

With help from a former Giant, Johnny Cueto still on track for Opening Day

On the fourth day of camp, the Giants put their new Zoom setup to the test. Johnny Cueto sat in front of a camera in the club's new interview room and interpreter Erwin Higueros set up in a nearby conference room where he could pass along reporters' questions to Cueto and then translate his answers. 

But there was no help necessary when Cueto was asked who won his spirited live BP sessions with former Giant Eduardo Nuñez in the Dominican Republic in recent weeks. Cueto answered in English before Higueros could start talking.

"Me," he said loudly, laughing softly.

Cueto went on to explain how Nuñez, a popular Giant who played 126 games for the Giants in Cueto's first two years, became one of his best training partners as he tried to stay ready.

"He would call me and say get ready to pitch to me on Wednesday," Cueto said through Higueros. "I would tell him, you come ready, because I will strike you out. Obviously you can see from the video that he didn't make contact. That contact that he made was just foul balls. I killed him."

Cueto posted four videos of the matchups to his Instagram page, including one that took good-natured jabs at Nuñez's interpretation of the strike zone:

 

As fun as those matchups with Nuñez, now in camp with the Mets, were, they also were important. The last thing Gabe Kapler did before breaking camp was name Cueto his Opening Day starter, and he remains on track to take the ball months later. Cueto said he's ready to do whatever the staff asks of him.

When the sport was shut down in March, Cueto flew back to his home in the Dominican Republic, where he had to self-quarantine for 14 days per the country's rules. He spent most of the next three months at home, saying he didn't want to leave the house because he was fearful of getting COVID-19 and transmitting it to his family. Early on in the Dominican Republic there was a strict curfew of 5 p.m. It later got moved back two hours. 

"It's a very difficult situation, and I'm scared for my family just like everyone else is," he said.

Cueto flew to San Francisco on a private jet last week and passed the initial intake screening. He has been part of every workout at Oracle Park, and he said he doesn't have concerns that would cause him to opt out at this point. 

"I'm already here. I made the commitment," he said. "I flew from the Dominican, which is pretty far away. I'm already here and I'm going to give it my all and see what happens, and whatever decision baseball makes I'm going to accept it."