One of the coolest parts of Giants camp every year is that players and the media never quite know who is going to walk through the door at the start of any given week.
Willie Mays, Felipe Alou and Barry Bonds are regulars, and last year Bruce Bochy visited on the way to World Baseball Classic training. Many of the standouts from the title teams fly in for a few days every spring, including Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong, and guys like Jeff Kent and Rich Aurilia represent the previous generation. It's a part of camp Gabe Kapler loves, but he doesn't anticipate many, if any, visitors this year.
"We're going to keep talking about it," he said earlier this week. "We'll look at every opportunity to make that happen. We just have our tiers and protocols we have to be cognizant of as well."
The tier system rules camp, restricting movement for anyone who is not a player, coach or regular staffer, and it doesn't really make sense for Forever Giants to make the trip even if they're comfortable with traveling. But at least one plans to head to Scottsdale at some point. The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported that Bruce Bochy will visit with minor leaguers in April. Bochy has had both vaccine doses and told Baggarly he's feeling great.
Speaking of the topic that's dominated the world for nearly a full year now, Kapler has said repeatedly that "everyone we expected to be here is here on time." Asked which players are missing, he said that, as with last summer, there are things he can't discuss because of COVID-19 protocols. It's clear at least one player has been quarantined.
It can get awkward when someone is missing and Kapler can't provide info, but he did clarify that Brandon Belt was out earlier this week with a non-COVID illness. A few fans had noticed that Belt was absent from the hype video the team put out on photo day, but Belt was back in the building Friday.
Here are some other notes from the last week of action before games start ...
--- Tommy La Stella and Wilmer Flores are the first options at first base if Belt (heel surgery) misses any time at the start of the year, but that could also open up a few more at-bats for Darin Ruf, who doesn't have many avenues right now. Kapler said Ruf is someone who "can get the job done for us" at first and in left field.
Ruf is coming off a solid first year back in MLB but hasn't been talked about much thus far. Austin Slater is ahead of him on the outfield depth chart and the Giants are pretty excited about what they've seen from LaMonte Wade Jr. Right now Ruf looks like a late-innings bench bat unless the universal DH returns, which is doubtful.
--- On a Zoom with reporters, Sam Long, who grew up rooting for the Giants, said he had a cool moment earlier this week during bullpen sessions. He was standing near the mounds waiting for a catcher.
"Buster looked over and said my name and I got some butterflies going," Long said. "It was pretty cool. It's something that you definitely dream of, something like that."
If you missed it, I took a look at Long's journey to the Giants. He's one of the better stories in camp so far.
--- Long will pitch Sunday, along with a group of guys who are trying to force their way into the opening day conversation. Conner Menez will start, followed by Long, Jay Jackson, Zack Littell, Sam Wolff, Jimmie Sherfy and Tyler Cyr in some order. The game will be seven innings, and while it's not airing locally, MLB Network will replay it Sunday night.
--- You might have noticed the Giants have scooped up an incredible number of experienced relief options, which means that at the very least, Triple-A Sacramento's bullpen is going to be loaded. One guy who might be headed there is right-hander Silvino Bracho, a longtime Diamondback who was in the Zoom Room on Thursday. Bracho is in the competition for a big league spot, but he admitted he's a touch behind because he took about three weeks off from throwing after winter ball and he's still somewhat on the way back from Tommy John.
Bracho made 92 appearances for the Diamondbacks over five seasons, showing off pretty good command with about a strikeout per inning. He said he was throwing 93-96 mph in winter ball, although he's been 90-92 in early bullpen sessions as he works his way up.
Bracho said the Giants were on him early and he got scouting reports from minor league coach Lipso Nava, his winter ball manager, and friend/former Giant Albert Suarez (throwback!), who is now pitching in Japan. "He said (the Giants) are great, and the people are great," Bracho said.
--- Right-hander Aaron Sanchez hasn't been seen during live BP sessions and Kapler said "we're just kinda building him up slowly." Sanchez is just two weeks removed from a showcase for scouts. It's a situation worth watching in March, as Sanchez has a rotation spot but not all that much time to build up to the 90-100 pitch range.