Giants

Why Giants are excited about South African-born prospect Kieran Lovegrove

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Why Giants are excited about South African-born prospect Kieran Lovegrove

You probably missed it, but the Giants made an under-the-radar move late in November that has boom or bust potential. 

Across the minor-league transaction wire, the Giants signed 24-year-old reliever Kieran Lovegrove, a move that can bring major results in the future. Just ask president of baseball operation Farhan Zaidi. 

“He’s a terrific arm, a terrific prospect," Zaidi said Wednesday on KNBR. 

Lovegrove was born in South Africa and was the Indians' third-round pick out of Mission Viejo High School in 2012. This past season was his best to date and he even suited up for Team World in the Futures Game. Mostly pitching in Double-A with three innings at Triple-A and 10 games at Advanced Single-A, the 6-foot-4 right-hander went 4-0 with a career-best 2.73 ERA in 41 relief appearances. 

Ever since being drafted, Lovegrove has had a hard time with his control. Throwing a fastball that sits at 95-96 mph and can touch triple digits, it sometimes has a mind of its own. 

“My fastball is a four-seam, but something about the way I pronate makes it two-seam at times,” Lovegrove said to FanGraphs last month. “When it’s down, it registers as a sinker at 2,500 (RPM). I wish I knew why it does what it does, but it’s working for me right now, and that’s what matters.”

As Lovegrove is coming off his career-year where he struck out 10 batters per nine innings, Zaidi believes the past is the past and his new acquisition will build off the momentum he created in 2018. 

“He’s on the uptick, he’s had some injury issues, but we’re really encouraged by what we saw last year," Zaidi said. "There was a lot of competition for him, so we were excited we were able to land him.” 

The Giants are yet to make a big move this offseason as perhaps the top two arms are off the market in Patrick Corbin (Nationals) and Nathan Eovaldi (Red Sox). But as Zaidi spoke on Lovegrove, he hinted at what his focus may be right now to boost the Giants' roster.

"One of the things I think we need to use is our ability to recruit pitchers as free agents because they know that this is a terrific park to call your home park if you're a pitcher," Zaidi said. "Even pitching in the NL West, I think is generally advantageous.

"That’s one platform that I think we really need to use, not just with a minor-league free agent like Lovegrove, but all the way up to the major league level.” 

While Corbin and Eovaldi are gone, the Giants have their eyes overseas as they've heavily scouted free agent Yusei Kikuchi. Whether it's a minor-league free agent like Lovegrove, a big name in free agency, or searching the trading block, Zaidi sounds like he's looking to take advantage of AT&T Park and building a top-notch starting rotation. 

Giants to pay more funds to event-based workers in coronavirus hiatus

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USATSI

Giants to pay more funds to event-based workers in coronavirus hiatus

It's unclear when games will return to Oracle Park, but the Giants announced a program Wednesday that will help keep stadium employees afloat while the sport is shut down by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The program, announced by president and CEO Larry Baer and vice president and general counsel Jack Bair, has two tiers and will cover about 2,600 employees who work at Oracle Park during games and events. Baer additionally said all full-time Giants employees will remain employed and have been working from home. 

Major League Baseball had previously announced that all teams would pay $1 million each to help pay ballpark employees, and the Giants' ownership group and executives are chipping in an additional $700,000. It will be distributed in two ways.

The first part of the program covers event-based employees who technically work for a third party, such as the 900 Bon Appetit workers who handle food and catering at Oracle Park. Those employees will get a one-time grant of $500. The Giants expect about 2,000 workers to request this grant. 

The second part covers event-based staffers and will provide an additional $100 to $250 per month depending on length of employment and how many hours were worked during the 2019 season. This primarily benefits people like ushers, security guards and maintenance workers, along with game-day workers like the scoreboard operators and the group that tosses t-shirts into the stands. 

"They are in many ways, in our view, really the backbone of what we're doing," Baer said of the collective group. "They're the people that work hard, work diligently and serve our fans, which is the lifeblood of our sport and our business. Without games, obviously many of them will encounter hardship."

The majority of event-based employees had a second job elsewhere, though many work at places like Chase Center, which also has been shut down. The Giants have encouraged everyone covered by their program to also apply for unemployment benefits. They have confirmed with local and federal government officials that these supplemental payments won't impact unemployment eligibility. 

"The benefits that we're offering, in addition to unemployment, should roughly equate to what people would have made if games were played, and in some cases it could be more," Bair said. 

None of the newly announced funds came from players, but Baer said some have expressed an interest in working on their own programs and he intends to reach out to them. When the players do return to Oracle Park, it should look different. 

Some work continues on the Mission Rock development since it has been included in the "essential work" description given by the city because some of the project is dedicated to affordable housing. Workers in what used to be Lot A are practicing social distancing and wiping down equipment as they work. 

[RELATED: Kruk and Kuip recall legendary Kershaw-Bumgarner battles]

Baer also said construction on the bullpens and outfield walls has been stopped but will restart when the Giants are given the all-clear by the city. 

"We have timelines available and when we have a game at Oracle Park, we would have enough lead time to perform that work," Baer said. "Much of that work had been done already."

Giants broadcasters recall Madison Bumgarner-Clayton Kershaw battles

Giants broadcasters recall Madison Bumgarner-Clayton Kershaw battles

Programming note: Watch the re-air of Madison Bumgarner's first home run off Clayton Kershaw tonight at 8 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area.

When Madison Bumgarner is on the mound, he’s unstoppable. Things don’t change when he approaches the plate, either.

The Giants-turned-D-backs ace hit 19 home runs in his career, two of which came against Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw.

“When Madison Bumgarner took the mound at Dodger Stadium, or at Oracle Park, and he’s facing the Dodgers, and it usually was [Clayton] Kershaw, it was always an event,” Giants broacaster Duane Kuiper told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Amy Gutierrez. “And you knew it was probably going to be a one-run, two-run, low-scoring game until the eighth or ninth inning.”

On Wednesday night, the re-air of MadBum’s first home run off of Kershaw will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Bay Area. It’s a matchup and a battle that has commenced for more than a decade, both on the mound and in the batter's box. 

Kuiper compared what Bum could on both sides of the ball to that of 15-year veteran Donnie Robinson, who was a former teammate of Mike Krukow’s.

“Yeah, Donnie Robinson, ‘The Caveman,’ was a great hitter,” Kuiper said. “And he was a great pitcher.” 

Still, Bumgarner was a different breed. He was intimidating, just as Kershaw was. When a hitter would face him, he would feel the presence of the three-time World Series champion, as would everyone in attendance and watching from home. 

[RELATED: Looking back at the 19 homers Giants have hit off Kershaw]

When Bumgarner and Kershaw would square off, the two had that demeanor about one another that would create something dynamic out on the field. It was a head-to-head matchup you wouldn't want to miss.

"I loved it. I loved every pitch of every one of those games," fellow broadcaster Mike Krukow said.

"It always meant more. To me, it was a playoff game. It was between Kershaw, and it was between Bumgarner. And each guy as competitive as they were, they wanted to be the best on that given day."

Check out Kruk and Kuip's full comments in the video above.