Giants

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament. 

Giants see plenty of positives from two rookies against rebuilding Padres

Giants see plenty of positives from two rookies against rebuilding Padres

SAN DIEGO — Petco Park has been a house of horrors during much of the last two seasons, but for two Giants rookies, the first visit here was a positive one. 

Left fielder Chris Shaw reached base seven times in the three-game series, continuing a mini surge. First baseman Aramis Garcia hit a solo homer in Wednesday’s 8-4 loss to the Padres, his third in 30 big league at-bats. Those would have been positive developments at any time of the year, but against the rebuilding Padres, they perhaps gave the Giants a bit more hope going forward. 

For two consecutive seasons, they have finished behind the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks. The Dodgers look poised for a sixth consecutive NL West crown and have the farm system and financial power to keep a contender on the field for years to come, but the other two will face difficult decisions in future winters as Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and other contributors hit free agency. The general consensus around the game, though, is that the NL West won’t necessarily get weaker. The Padres are viewed as having the best farm system in baseball, and they could become interesting as soon as next season. 

The Giants got their first look at the latest star Padres prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia. The 22-year-old didn’t do much damage against Giants pitching, but he has three homers in his first month in the big leagues and is touted as a future star. Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego’s top prospect, is injured but should be up early next season. Luis Urias, also listed on the top 30 on many prospect lists, came up this month but was injured and didn’t face the Giants. Those are three of nine Padres prospects listed on many top 100 charts. 

This is a group that appears at least a year away, mostly because the pitching depth the Padres have is at the lower levels of the minors. But at some point, likely 2020, the Giants will have another significant road bump in the division, and they’ll need their own youth to compete. 

Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos and others should be here or getting close in a couple of years, but the class that went through Triple-A this season is the first line of defense. 

The Giants would have loved to watch Steven Duggar patrol the massive center field here for three days, but Shaw and Garcia did just fine with their own defensive challenges. If a fan had not interfered Tuesday, Shaw likely would have robbed Franmil Reyes, another young Padre, of a two-run shot. Garcia saved Evan Longoria from an error Wednesday with a nifty scoop. 

“He did a nice job, didn’t he?” manager Bruce Bochy said of his catcher-turned-first baseman. “To go oppo here, that’s impressive off a tough pitcher. He did a nice job for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience at first base. He threw out pretty good at-bats, too. He looks comfortable.”

Both Shaw and Garcia do at the moment, and while they’re almost certainly ticketed for Triple-A at the start of next season, they’re showing that they’re capable of contributing at this level, a nice boost late in a lost year. The Padres are coming, and the Giants will need their own young standouts to avoid getting passed.

Giants fail to sweep Padres after Chris Stratton's strange second inning

Giants fail to sweep Padres after Chris Stratton's strange second inning

BOX SCORE

SAN DIEGO — This was not your normal Giants-Padres game. It wasn't a good night for the visiting team, either. 

The Giants gave up a pair of big homers and lost 8-4 at Petco Park. Giants starting pitcher Chris Stratton allowed five early runs and the Padres put it away when Freddy Galvis crushed a Ray Black fastball for a three-run homer in the eighth. 

The Giants failed to get a sweep after two good performances here the first two nights. Before they head to St. Louis, here’s what else you need to know about the last night in the Gaslamp District … 

— The second inning was a strange one for Stratton. He picked up his first career extra-base hit in the top of the inning, lining a double over right fielder Franmil Reyes to clear the loaded bases. But in the bottom of the inning, the wheels came off. Stratton allowed five hits, with much of the damage coming on a homer by Wil Myers. Gorkys Hernandez got him out of the inning with a leaping catch at the wall.

— Giants rookie catcher Aramis Garcia went the opposite way in the eighth and dropped a fly ball right on the padding of the fence for his third homer. Garcia has been a bit of a standout defensively, too. He impressed while catching, and he had a nice scoop at first Wednesday to keep an error off Evan Longoria’s line. With Brandon Belt out for the year, Garcia should see daily at-bats the rest of the way. 

— Chris Shaw, Giants rookie left fielder, continued his breakthrough at the plate. He drew a walk in his second plate appearance against lefty starter Robbie Erlin and then pulled a single to right on a 98.7 mph from right-handed reliever Robert Stock. Shaw reached base multiple times in every game this series. 

— Giants rookie infielder Abiatal Avelino got his third big league at-bat. He grounded out to short as a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning.