Why Jeff Samardzija is set to lead Giants' starting rotation in 2020

Why Jeff Samardzija is set to lead Giants' starting rotation in 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When people talk about the remaining "core Giants," they're bunching Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford together. Perhaps, depending on one's viewpoint, Evan Longoria also fits into that group. 

Jeff Samardzija never gets that designation, but when he walked into Scottsdale Stadium at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday with a heavy bag slung over his shoulder and an equally big smile on his face, he certainly qualified. Samardzija is sneakily beginning the fifth and final season of a lucrative contract he signed after Giants starters flamed out in 2015. His 106 starts for the Giants are more than the rest of the projected rotation combined. 

Samardzija has spent back-to-back offseasons working out in San Francisco and spent more time with new manager Gabe Kapler than just about any Giants player. At 35, he enters camp as one of two candidates to start Kapler's first Opening Day in San Francisco, along with Johnny Cueto. With Madison Bumgarner now with the rival Arizona Diamondbacks, the two are ready to serve as the rotation's leaders. 

"Me and Johnny's job is to take care of the pitching staff and to do the same exact thing that Hunter and Pablo and Buster and those guys need to do with the position players," Samardzija said. "It's a big onus we have to bring those guys along fast. We don't have time to mess around. There's no learning curve opportunity there. We need to go and we need to go right out of the gates, and it rests on our shoulders to bring those kids along as fast as possible."

In the midst of a 13-minute State of the Shark session Tuesday, Samardzija became the rare Giants employee to utter the word "rebuild" out loud. But he doesn't want to view this season as a lost one for veterans. If anything, this is his best chance to compete in three years. 

Samardzija's 2018 season was wrecked by persistent shoulder soreness, which led him to alter his routine and spend the next offseason in San Francisco, where he went through tedious winter workouts. Last spring, Samardzija had to grit his teeth and listen to his bosses talk about the need to lessen his workload and turn a man who prides himself on being a workhorse into a five-inning pitcher. 

Ultimately, Samardzija won out. He threw 181 1/3 innings and went at least six innings in nine of 14 starts after the All-Star break. They were quality innings, too. Samardzija's 3.52 ERA was his lowest in five years. 

On Tuesday, Samardzija checked into camp with a healthy arm and a desire to run it back. He admitted he wasn't nearly this confident a year ago. 

"I'm a step ahead, for sure. There was a lot of uncertainty going into last year and to be honest I didn't feel great last year in camp," he said. "I remember talking with my brother and my wife at different times and I was just really unsure if we were going to get out of the gates last year."

If Samardzija bolts out of the starting block this season, as early as Opening Day, he could find himself in an uncomfortable but familiar spot. The Giants are counting on him to be a leader, but they also know he could end up being one of their better trade chips in July. Samardzija is entering the final season of that $90 million contract. He would be owed only about $6 million after the trade deadline, and there's never a shortage of contenders looking for starting depth. 

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On his first day of the 2020 season, Samardzija said he's not worrying about where he'll spend the final day. 

"Since me and Kap have been talking, our big focus has been the start of the season," he said. "A lot of what happens in the future will be determined by the first two or three months of the season. If we go all-in with these young kids with the veterans that we have here and believe in the dream of getting in the playoffs and making a run after that, then all things change. 

"You can have plans and look forward but a lot of things change in this game over the course of a week, a couple of months."

Giants' Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper tell hilarious Will Clark sushi story

Giants' Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper tell hilarious Will Clark sushi story

Not everyone has a taste for sushi, especially Will Clark.

The Giants legend is the guy who simply orders a steak at dinner -- he’s simple and to the point.

Giants broadcasters Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper told a funny story in a recent interview with Giants reporter Amy Gutierrez from a night out at dinner with "The Thrill."

Clark glanced at the menu at the sushi restaurant and was nice about it of course, but it wasn’t his cup of tea. Where Clark is from in Louisiana, they refer to that type of food as “bait.”

That's fair. 

The Giants announced they will retire Clark’s No. 22 jersey this season -- and rightfully so.

His sweet swing and swagger made him one of the organization’s most well-known players to ever wear orange and black.

[RELATED: PlayStation, Zoom helping Giants work in hiatus]

Clark is a six-time All-Star selection, a Gold Glove Award winner and two-time Silver Slugger Award recipient across his 15-year career, eight of them with the Giants.

A great career, just perhaps no salmon for him in the future? 

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Why Giants' Alex Dickerson finally can play MLB The Show once again

Why Giants' Alex Dickerson finally can play MLB The Show once again

While baseball continues to be on hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic and MLB comes up with wild, "Looney Tunes" hypotheticals to start the season, players all across the majors are testing out their thumbs. 

This might be the most professional baseball players ever have played the video game, MLB The Show. Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson is among the many players getting on the sticks in the latest iteration, MLB The Show 20. 

"That's always kind of been my go-to ever since I was a kid," Dickerson said Wednesday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show."

This is an odd time for Dickerson for many reasons. Somehow his video game habits have even gone haywire. 

Yes, he always has been a big fan of gaming. But, he usually has to stay away from MLB The Show. 

"The one of thing I've always avoided is MLB The Show, because the game has gotten too realistic, that if I play it in-season and I'm struggling to pick up curveball down or something, I go home and just re-live the experience of not being able to pick it up," Dickerson said. "So that just frustrates me." 

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That's a totally understandable reason to stay away from the game. Luckily for Dickerson, he put up video game-like numbers in late June and July last season after joining the Giants in a trade from the San Diego Padres.

From June 21 through July 30, Dickerson hit .386 with six homers and a 1.222 OPS over 19 games. With baseball on break, he's back to playing the game and certainly could be once again in the future if he has another hot streak like last season. 

"I've actually been playing it because I miss baseball so much," Dickerson said. "But yeah, I tend to cut that game out as soon as I'm actually playing."

[RELATED: Giants, fans got Oracle Park's design right, and here's why]

Players aren't the only ones firing the game up, too. Even Giants manager Gabe Kapler is finding ways to learn through MLB The Show. Dickerson isn't surprised, either.

"I can definitely see how he can use it to his advantage," Dickerson said.