Why Giants' Tyler Beede viewed rookie season as promising career start

Why Giants' Tyler Beede viewed rookie season as promising career start

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tyler Beede's final act as a Giant in 2019 was a disappointing one. The rookie right-hander walked off the field with a trainer on Sept. 26 after his oblique flared up, ending his season. 

The record books say Beede's rookie season was a struggle. He finished with a 5.08 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 24 appearances, 22 of which were starts. But if you dig into the game logs, you see why the Giants are so excited by what they saw from Beede in 2019, and why they stuck with him throughout the second half and plan to have him in their rotation next season. 

Beede had a few rough ones that wrecked his ERA, but he also had eight starts in which he allowed one run or none. There were some serious gems mixed in, including eight shutout innings against Jacob deGrom and the Mets where Beede became just the fourth Giant in the last 30 years to throw eight innings in fewer than 90 pitches. About three weeks before that start, Beede allowed one run over seven innings in San Diego just three days after his stepfather passed away. 

Those starts both came in July, but it was the one in late September that had the promise to be the best start of Beede's career. He struck out seven Rockies in 3 1/3 no-hit innings before getting hurt. 

So, overall, was it a good season or bad one for Beede? He answered that question on this week's Giants Insider Podcast

"You can look at it so many different ways," Beede said. "Numbers are numbers, but overall, the big picture, it's for me a super-successful year. Just being able to not only have 31 starts, but the majority of them up here in the big leagues -- a lot of successful starts, a lot of good learning experiences, and a lot of things to improve on. But the progress I made this year compared to last year, it's pretty incredible.

"I'm proud of the progress that I made and knowing the progress that I made this year, it only motivates me to continue to improve and build on this year and be ready to go next year."

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A year ago, Beede was coming off a season where he disappointed when given a big league chance and was moved to the bullpen in Triple-A. But in that final start this September, he found a huge building block for the future. The Giants slightly altered Beede's approach down the stretch, and he said that against the Rockies he focused on pitching up and down in the zone with his fastball and playing his big curveball off of that. When those two are working, he can mix in a good changeup and slider that he brought back out of the bag during the summer. 

If Beede can put it all together, he has the stuff to be a frontline starter. That's why the Giants stuck with him through the down times, and he discussed that -- along with more from his rookie season and his offseason plans -- on the podcast. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here.

Giants' Jeff Samardzija hopes to carry heavy workload in short season

Giants' Jeff Samardzija hopes to carry heavy workload in short season

For months, Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija tried to simulate the workload of a normal baseball day. Without games at night, that meant adding hikes to his schedule in the mornings, throwing as much cardio as possible on top of normal throwing and lifting sessions. Samardzija was in the Phoenix area until flying to San Francisco two weeks ago, and on a Zoom call with reporters early in camp, he smiled when asked where he would find those morning hikes. 

"My baseball career has allowed me to have a nice house of elevation, if you will," Samardzija said. "There are plenty of hills and mountains to walk. I just go out my front door and just go up. You keep hiking until you get tired. Usually when you get to that ghost house that's at the top of my subdivision that nobody lives at and hasn't lived at in 20 years, it's about time to turn around and head back."

Those treks up the hill were supplemented with two more traditional baseball training methods. Samardzija would meet up with Trevor Cahill, Tyler Anderson and Drew Smyly three times a week to throw in a park, and when the Scottsdale Stadium fields opened up to local players in May, the veterans were there five days a week. Samardzija continued to do the tedious daily shoulder lifts and stretches that helped him move past an injury-riddled 2018 season, and he stayed sharp by facing Hunter Pence, who rented a house in Scottsdale during the hiatus, in live BP sessions. 

"I faced Hunter a lot this quarantine," Samardzija said. "Take what you want from that. Hunter is a lot of fun to face, but he's super positive, so you don't ever really think you did anything bad."

Samardzija is getting better feedback now that he's back at Oracle Park. He has pitched in intrasquad games with the coaching staff and front office watching and tracking every pitch, and he's likely to face the A's in one of two exhibitions the Giants have set up for early next week. Then, it's an opening weekend date with the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

When you listen to Gabe Kapler talk about this ramp-up, you picture Samardzija throwing three innings at Dodger Stadium and turning the ball over to the bullpen. But when you listen to Samardzija, you realize that he's not anticipating any early pitch counts or caution.

"I think that's the problem we're at right now with the game when it comes to pitching," he said. "It's just got to be individual guys on an individual basis. How did they look in their bullpens? How did they look in their live BPs and in a given game? 

"It's got to be an individual basis. To lump everyone into one category is wrong, and I know that's what's happening (in the game). It's just going to be all hands on deck and give us what you can."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

For Samardzija, this is a familiar conversation. When he reported to camp last spring the talk was about how the Giants would ask for quality from him, not quantity. Early on, with Samardzija coming off a 2018 season wrecked by shoulder issues, he was quite often limited to five innings by Bruce Bochy. But by the end of the year Samardzija's game log more closely resembled past seasons, and he ended up throwing 181 1/3 innings. 

In that sense, history is on Samardzija's side. He genuinely does not care for most stats, but it's important to him that he carries the load expected of a starter, and you can bet that'll be an ongoing conversation with the staff. The Giants want to be careful with their veterans, but Samardzija is confident he'll be built up by his first start. 

"I personally think that if things go as planned with the way we've been building up, to be at 75-85 pitches to start the season is not a stretch," he said. 

With nine days remaining until the opener, the starting pitchers aren't yet close. Samardzija and Kevin Gausman pitched two innings apiece in a camp game on Sunday. Drew Smyly completed three. 

Kapler has said the staff is airing on the side of caution, noting research that shows a slow ramp-up for pitchers helps keep them healthier. He will lean on communication over the coming week, though, and perhaps Samardzija will have some sway there. 

"Nobody knows themselves better than Jeff Samardzija," Kapler said after the right-hander's most recent outing. 

[RELATED: Posey's leadership will be missed but won't be forgotten]

There's a lot at stake for Samardzija, and for his fellow starters. Gausman and Smyly also will be free agents at the end of the year, and all would be well served by showing durability during this strange year. 

That always has been Samardzija's calling card, and perhaps the Giants should take his public statements seriously as they try to play through a pandemic. As veterans continue to opt out and stars express concern about what MLB is trying to do, Samardzija has spoken forcefully about his commitment to this 60-game season. 

He checked into camp and said he's eager to carry a heavy load, no matter how many safety measures he has to jump through every day just to get on the mound. 

"We need to make sacrifices this year," he said. "It's going to be a big word this year. We have a job to do. They're paying us to do our job, that we fought for to be fully paid, and to go out there and do our job."

Gabe Kapler breaks down three Giants catchers vying for starting job

Gabe Kapler breaks down three Giants catchers vying for starting job

The Giants have Buster Posey under contract for another year, and with Joey Bart and Patrick Bailey in the system, they feel they'll be set behind the plate through the end of the decade, at least. There might not be an organization in all of baseball with more catching depth if you account for all levels.

And yet, nine days from the opener, the Giants do not have a starting catcher. 

They don't even have a healthy and active catcher on their 40-man roster, as Posey has opted out of the season and Aramis Garcia is recovering from hip surgery

What was once a heated two-man duel to be the backup has turned into a three-man competition for two jobs. The organization that has for so long prided itself on catching stability may not even have a set starter this year, with Rob Brantly, Tyler Heineman and late-riser Chadwick Tromp battling for two jobs. In the wake of Posey's decision, manager Gabe Kapler has tried to stay positive.

"I think it's clear right now that we have three catchers who are putting their best foot forward and giving themselves the best opportunity to be evaluated," Kapler said. "All three of those guys have different skill sets that they bring to the table."

But, Kapler added, the Giants may not have the same two catchers "a month down the road."

Bart looms as one potential option, but for now, Kapler and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi have made it clear they need to see further development. Bart is not a candidate to stand on the line at Dodger Stadium next Thursday, but these three are. Here are the scouting reports Kapler gave on the non-roster invitees vying to replace Posey:

Tyler Heineman

The 29-year-old played in five games last season with the Marlins and signed as a minor league free agent. In that limited cameo, he had a homer off Zach Wheeler and double off Jacob deGrom. 

"Heineman, we identified as obviously a switch-hitting catcher -- those guys are always valuable -- who could do damage against velocity," Kapler said. "You always want to have a hitter on your roster or several hitters on your roster who can catch up with high-velocity fastballs because they're more prevalent around the game. That's one of Tyler's strengths. Obviously the flexibility of having a switch-hitter is important. He's also got exceptional recall. He's a good game-planner and we're really, really confident that he's going to be able to implement our pitching staff's game plans and have good recall around those, which is really important. If a pitcher is working on a specific pitch or has a specific way we want that pitcher to attack an opposing hitter, we want Tyler to be able to lead that charge and get that pitcher back on track, and he's got that sort of skill set."

Rob Brantly

The most experienced of the bunch by far, Brantly, a left-handed hitter, got 323 at-bats for the Marlins in his first two seasons and resurfaced with the White Sox in 2015 and 2017. Brantly has spent most of his career in Triple-A. Kapler got to know him last year in Philadelphia, although Brantly got just one big-league at-bat. 

"Brantly I have a lot of familiarity with from my time in Philadelphia. He's a really good at-bat against right-handed pitching, in particular, he sees pitches and really understands the strike zone well," Kapler said. He understands the strike zone well on the offensive side but also on the defensive side. He's got high energy and he's upbeat and is as positive as any person you'll be around. He's really made the clubhouse environment better."

Chadwick Tromp

The newcomer to the race, Tromp was a late addition to Summer Camp but is making a late charge. He was coming off an injury last year and played just 26 games in Triple-A for the Reds, but the Giants liked what they saw. Tromp hit two homers in a camp game on Sunday, opening some eyes. 

[RELATED: Posey's leadership will be missed by team in 2020]

"I think it's been clear over the last couple of days that he has the ability to drive the ball," Kapler said. "That's evident. I think we're all seeing that. I think the bat speed is real, I think that's something we need to be paying close attention to. It's notable that we feel like he's going to be good against left-handed pitching. In the past, he's had pretty even or even reverse splits, but I don't think we have enough of a feel for what he will do with major league pitching. We'll continue to evaluate.

He's a very good leader behind the plate and is already developing a comfortable but strong rapport with the pitchers. I think pitchers are comfortable with him, but I also think they respect him. He has strong opinions and is vocal about those opinions and he has done a nice job of leading with his words and his body language."