Why Kieran Lovegrove signed with Giants after Farhan Zaidi hiring


Why Kieran Lovegrove signed with Giants after Farhan Zaidi hiring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- No team has had more success with minor league free agents over the past decade than the Giants, who put together a priority list every season and then go hard when players are let go by their previous organizations in the fall. 

The front office has generally had success selling minor league free agents on their ballpark, their culture, their coaching staff and, for pitchers, their catcher. But for one of last offseason's biggest targets, the most important factor wasn't even part of the organization until Nov. 6. 

"When Zaidi came on, that was pretty much my decision-maker," right-hander Kieran Lovegrove said. "I was very interested in following him wherever he went."

Lovegrove had a lot of qualities that put him right near the top of the wish list for the team officials who kept everything running smoothly as Larry Baer looked for Bobby Evans' replacement. He's just 24 and is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.73 ERA at three minor league levels, struck out 10 batters per nine innings, and pitched in the Futures Game.

Lovegrove has a mid-90s fastball that ticks higher at times, and the Giants' analytics people and scouts felt there were tweaks he could make to his pitch mix to break through. 

When the Indians failed to put Lovegrove on their 40-man roster, the Giants were aggressive. They felt they had a good shot at landing the California product regardless, but the addition of Farhan Zaidi put Lovegrove over the top. 

"I had kind of heard what he had done in Oakland and then I got to see what he did in L.A. as I followed the way that they helped to develop players and find players that had been told, 'Here's your ceiling and you can't go above that,'" he said. "He took them and it seemed like he would just say, 'Look, I believe you can do more so go out there and do more.'"

Lovegrove had a chance to pass that message along earlier in camp when he met with Zaidi, Bruce Bochy, Curt Young and Matt Herges. He already has made adjustments, leaning on Michael Schwartze, an analyst who was hired a year ago and travels with the team, to alter the way he attacks hitters. 

[RELATED: Kieran Lovegrove stands against racism in Black History Month shoes]

Lovegrove talked about those adjustments on this week's episode of The Giants Insider Podcast, along with a lot more. We touched on mental health, what he has learned from Trevor Bauer, fastball spin efficiency, supporting causes that are not usually affiliated with baseball players, minor league pay issues and much more. 

You can stream the podcast here or download it on iTunes here. 

Giants' latest comeback win reminds Joe Panik of 'October baseball'

Giants' latest comeback win reminds Joe Panik of 'October baseball'

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have been careful not to get too far ahead of themselves during this stunning July run, but they're human. They are just like you at home, although without the ability to tweet Vince McMahon GIFs during rallies. They can't help but think about the big picture. 

A few minutes after another comeback win, Joe Panik couldn't help himself. He started to think of what the 5-4 win reminded him of

"That eighth inning," Panik said, "That's October baseball at Oracle Park."

It was hard to argue. With seemingly half the house rooting for the visiting Cubs, Oracle Park had a raucous back-and-forth vibe on a Monday night. For nearly eight full innings, the visiting fans were having all of the fun. 

But these Giants, one of the worst teams in baseball for three months, all of a sudden can't be put in the dirt. Trailing by two in the eighth, they got a leadoff double from Pablo Sandoval on a pitch that nearly scraped the dirt. Brandon Crawford's single squeezed just between two middle infielders to get the Giants within one. Kevin Pillar just barely beat out an inning-ending double play ball and scored when Austin Slater's drive to deep center climbed inches over Albert Almora's glove. 

Panik put the finishing touches on, slicing a double down the left field line to send the ballpark over the edge. It's been a rough stretch for Panik, one during which he has lost playing time, but he was the hero on this night.

"It feels good," he said. "You want to feel like you're helping the team. I got fortunate to be put in that situation -- runner on second, go-ahead run on. It feels good. These guys have been battling hard, grinding hard. It definitely feels good to help them out and have a productive night."

Panik's three-hit game was his first since May 7 and couldn't have been timed better. He has lost time to Donovan Solano recently and entered the night with just one extra-base hit in his last 20 games.

But Bruce Bochy has kept the faith. He had his longtime second baseman in there for the first game of a huge three-game series.

"Solano, yeah he's in the mix more playing short and second, but Joe, you've got to stay with a guy who has a base-hit bat," Bochy said. 

The final base hit Monday did the trick, putting the capper on a night when the Giants once again got contributions from all over. Drew Pomeranz, recently moved to the bullpen, struck out four in two scoreless bridge innings. Sam Dyson took over the ninth with Will Smith due a day off. He brought some "torture" back, but shut it down.

[RELATED: Rookies provide Giants with flexibility]

Dyson's final out got the Giants to 51-50, putting them above .500 for the first time all season. They're a winning team for the first time since last August 14. 

"I feel great for these guys," Bochy said. "The way they're fighting and battling back ... what a comeback."

Conner Menez, Tyler Beede, Shaun Anderson give Giants more flexibility

Conner Menez, Tyler Beede, Shaun Anderson give Giants more flexibility

SAN FRANCISCO -- About three-and-a-half hours before Monday's first pitch, Madison Bumgarner, Tyler Beede and Jeff Samardzija played catch along the left field line. Shaun Anderson, the night's starter, got ready in the clubhouse. 

For now, that's the rotation. Conner Menez, the fifth member as of Sunday, was optioned back to Triple-A Sacramento to clear a roster spot for reliever Sam Coonrod. 

That's going to be life for the Giants moving forward as they look to gain increased flexibility with the roster. Anderson, Beede and Menez all have minor league options, along with Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, who also are potential big league starters. 

In the past, the Giants have generally had veteran-filled rotations that weren't very nimble, but with two off days coming up, the staff opted for bullpen depth over a fifth starter. 

"We still needed some help in the 'pen," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "(Menez) threw a very nice ballgame, but we still need some help in the 'pen. We've been using those guys a lot."

[RELATED: How revamped minor-league system changes Giants' calculus]

The Giants played four games in three days at Coors Field last week and then three extra-innings games against the Mets. During that stretch, Suarez, Williams Jerez and Ty Blach all came up and then went back down after helping out the bullpen. Beede and Menez have both been optioned back to the minors after starts this month. 

That's what you can do with increased flexibility, and Coonrod can be optioned, too. Bochy indicated it will be this way through the trade deadline. The Giants don't need a fifth starter until the first weekend of August.