Why Giants' Bruce Bochy is ready to savor final week before retirement

Why Giants' Bruce Bochy is ready to savor final week before retirement

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few hours before they were due at Oracle Park on Tuesday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy and equipment manager Mike Murphy hopped in a car and headed for South San Francisco. They've worked together for 13 years and wanted to share one last breakfast together.

But for Bochy right now, there's nowhere in or near this city that offers peace and quiet. 

"There were people coming up to me and thanking me," he said Tuesday. "It's not me, it's everybody (who accomplished all this). But these people are coming up and thanking me for my time here and helping bring championships. Again, it's overwhelming.

"People just wanted to say thanks. That's pretty cool."

Bochy has spent seven months trying to downplay his decision to retire, but this city won't let him fade away without a massive sendoff. There are signs in every corner of the ballpark stating "Thank you, Boch!" The message is on bus stops around the city and on pins being worn by just about every Giants employee Bochy sees. The name placards in the clubhouse were all changed, and they now feature a player's name, number and that "Thank you, Boch!" message. 

After reluctantly talking about this for months, Bochy seems finally ready to embrace it. He knows this will be the most emotional week of his career. 

"I'll have some emotions running through me -- there's no getting around that," he said. "I'm looking forward to watching our guys one last time against Colorado and L.A. I'm going to keep myself busy so I don't think about it too much. I'm going to enjoy this last week. I know it's going to be really busy."

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Bochy said there's nothing in particular he hopes to accomplish this final week. He had long talked of letting Pablo Sandoval play all nine positions in a game, but that possibility floated away when Sandoval had Tommy John surgery (Bochy did say Sandoval was so intrigued by the possibility that he joked about delaying the procedure).

It'll be business as usual once the games start, but the rest of this week will be about celebrating a man who brought three World Series titles to San Francisco. 

"All of this blows me away," Bochy said. "I'm thankful and appreciative. I plan to savor this week like no week I've ever had."

Giants catchers have a blast with familiar drill that included a new twist


Giants catchers have a blast with familiar drill that included a new twist

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants have tried to make their workouts shorter and more efficient, allowing players a little extra time every day to hang out with their families or hit the golf course. But for one group, the day can still be a hell of a grind. 

Nobody works harder in camp than the catchers, who report on Day 1 with pitchers and spend hours catching bullpens between their own drills. When they're done with all the heavy lifting, they get their turn to hit in the cage, using up whatever energy the early afternoon sun hasn't zapped away. 

But on Wednesday, the six catchers in Giants camp got a few minutes to laugh. New bullpen coach Craig Albernaz led a drill that on the surface looked very familiar. Every spring, catchers work on tracking and gloving pop-ups shot into the bright sky by a pitching machine. But Albernaz mixed it up this time, putting the catchers into teams of two and making them share one glove as they chased pop-ups:

"Man, it was a blast," non-roster invitee Chad Tromp said.

Tromp, who came over from the Reds, said he had never done the drill that way before. Neither had Rob Brantly, a veteran who has been in the big leagues with three organizations since debuting in 2012. Brantly said it was a lot of fun, but pointed out that there was a method to the madness.

"It's just a fun drill that you do but you build a relationship with the other guy," he said. "You immediately start strategizing."

Brantly was paired with fellow non-roster invitee Tyler Heineman, with Tromp joining 20-year-old Ricardo Genoves and Buster Posey teaming up with Joey Bart. They had a very interested observer as the drill got more intense. Gabe Kapler walked over to watch and said he appreciated the drill because guys were competing and communicating. 

Those are two themes of camp, and they were on full display as catchers threw a glove back and forth. Tromp and Genoves caught the most pop-ups and won the mini competition, which was a welcomed break from monotony for the group and ramped up the intensity on a hot day in Scottsdale. 

"There's a lot of pressure," Tromp said, smiling. "You have a second guy and you have to tell them where to go and where to look. It's something we don't usually do and it puts you in a panicked situation pretty quickly." 

Heliot Ramos isn't in big league camp, but he still may get some time with Giants

Ali Thanawalla

Heliot Ramos isn't in big league camp, but he still may get some time with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the Giants announced their first round of non-roster invitees last month, there weren't any hugely surprising names on the list. The biggest questions might have been about a couple of top prospects who would not be in camp.

Joey Bart and Sean Hjelle were among those invited, but the Giants did not include Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop, who generally get ranked with Bart and teenager Marco Luciano in the top four on prospect lists

Ramos (2017) and Bishop (2019) are former first-round draft picks, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the organization doesn't have a blanket policy of inviting first-round picks to camp the next year. Instead, as the Giants put together a spring roster, they worried more about having coverage.

They have plenty of outfielders in camp fighting for spare at-bats and reps, but you always need six catchers early on and that can be hard to find. That's one reason Bart was in camp last year a few months after his own draft and Ricardo Genoves, a 20-year-old catcher who hasn't played above Low-A ball Augusta was added as a non-roster invitee this time when Aramis Garcia got hurt.

"It's different with catchers, fairly or not," Zaidi said. "You need six guys in camp and that creates the opportunity a little earlier. For Joey, it was also about giving him a camp with (Bruce Bochy) and with Boch's catching history. I think there are extenuating circumstances."

Ramos spent nearly all of 2019 with Bart. They started the year together in San Jose and got promoted to Double-A Richmond at the same time before playing together in the Arizona Fall League. While Ramos will be in minor league camp this spring, Zaidi said the Giants might try to bring him over for some Cactus League games, and he said the 20-year-old center fielder "absolutely" will have an opportunity to reach the big leagues this year. 

"We had guys last year work their way through two or three levels of the minors leagues so it's certainly something that he could do," Zaidi said. "I think both with him and Joey, just the injuries kind of slowed them down a little bit and maybe backed up their timetable for when they could potentially get to the big leagues this year, but we've talked about promoting guys aggressively when they kind of perform up to levels that warrant a promotion, and that'll be the case for both those guys."

Ramos dealt with a knee injury early last year but still put up a .306/.385/.500 slash line in San Jose. He had a .242/.321/.421 line in the much tougher Eastern League. Overall, Ramos hit 16 homers in his second full professional season and showed the kind of improved plate discipline the new regime has demanded of all prospects. 

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The Giants should have plenty of opportunities later in March to bring Ramos over as a bench option in Cactus League games, and there's one player in particular who will be fired up to see him. Bart said he has formed a special bond with Ramos.

"He's really good, really good. I wish he was here but I know he'll be around," Bart said. "That kid is very special. I wouldn't say that about a lot of guys. If I see a guy that's really good it really opens my eyes. I don't say that about a lot of guys. He's strong, he hits the ball so far and so hard and he really doesn't even know what he's doing.

"The kid is just so strong and he's getting to be a lot smarter of a player. He's got great instincts, and that's something you can't teach."