Giants

Will Smith nearing return to big leagues: 'It's nice to be back under the lights again'

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AP

Will Smith nearing return to big leagues: 'It's nice to be back under the lights again'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Will Smith is generally in a good mood, but the smile was a bit bigger as reporters surrounded his locker on Monday afternoon. 

Smith has spent the last couple of weeks in the minor leagues but the long recovery from Tommy John surgery is nearly over. He will pitch in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, clearing the final hurdle in his rehab schedule. He will then pitch on Sunday. After that ...

"May 1. May 1, yeah," he said. "May 1."

That's the target date the Giants identified long ago and Smith is on track to be activated that day after missing all of last season and the first month of this one. In five rehab appearances, he has struck out nine over 4 2/3 innings. The reports on his velocity are good and he said his arm feels great.

"As long as these next outings go well we'll be back up here," he said. "It feels good. It feels really good. It's nice to be back under the lights again."

It's easy to forget now, but the Giants paid a steep price in prospects to acquire Smith at the 2016 deadline, hoping he would become a key part of the bullpen. He closed that season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances before contributing to the troubles in Game 4 of the NLDS. 

If Smith is back to form, the Giants would have one of the better left-handed combinations in the game. Tony Watson has been the best pitcher in the bullpen, and Bochy said he'll appreciate having the flexibility to use Smith or Watson in different roles. It's possible that Smith's presence could allow Watson to enter in the seventh to face a tough lefty like Cody Bellinger or Bryce Harper. 

Having both also will allow Bochy to have a reliable lefty for the eighth every night of the week. There have been times this season where he has been worried about overusing Watson. 

--- Elsewhere in the bullpen, Mark Melancon will play catch on Thursday. Melancon has not thrown since being shut down at the end of spring training and he had an injection in his pronator nearly two weeks ago to try and eliminate persistent irritation. 

--- Brandon Belt said he did not watch the full 12-minute version of his epic at-bat Sunday. 

"I have too much stuff to do," he said. 

He did, however, watch the sped-up replay. 

What the next 25-26 games will tell us about the Giants and A's

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USATSI

What the next 25-26 games will tell us about the Giants and A's

The schedule is always a treacherous way to decide the future of a baseball team. Teams get hot and grow cold again based on much more than the color of their uniforms and whether they cab or drive to the ballpark.

But it can be reasonably inferred that the San Francisco Giants were eager to reach this part of their season, in which 20 of the 26 games between now and the All-Star Break would be played in their relatively clement Third Street digs . . . and that the Oakland Athletics would be just as dismayed to hit the same stretch, since 20 of their last 25 would be played away from home – in San Diego, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston and San Francisco.

But even if you throw out the last three for each team given that there are no hotels involved, these are still long stretches without schedule balance.

For the A’s, who are average in every way imaginable (20-20 at home, 16-16 away), this stretch could eliminate them from their thin hopes of a playoff spot, if only because Boston, New York, Houston and Seattle seem to lose so rarely, and a struggle between now and July 15 could cause their already daunting 10-game gap with the postseason spots to grow beyond their ability to control it.

For the Giants, on the other hand, their deficit is a much more manageable 4 ½ games with Arizona in the NL West and four with Washington for the second NL Wild Card. Moreover, their health shortfalls are supposed to end soon, with both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to return before the break.

But oddly, the Giants are racing toward rope-cutting time, in which they have to decide if (a) they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline, and (b) what they want to buy and what they have to sell. That is why this next stretch could well determine their fate just as much as Oakland’s.

San Francisco hasn’t been healthy at all this season (only two teams have spent more disabled list days so far than the Giants), but nobody cares. Every team has injuries, and every team deals with them. In short, life is cruel, and then the body part replacements come.

But the Giants have been kicking the rebuilding can down the road for awhile now, and this next stretch – against Miami, San Diego, Colorado, at Arizona and at Colorado, then St. Louis, the Chicago Cubs and finally Oakland – will very likely solve their most pressing conundrum.

Specifically, whether it’s worth it to draw from an already-thin prospect list to chase a veteran or two who could propel them into October, or whether it is better to bag the whole attempt and try to go with a full remodel.

The Giants haven’t rebuilt their rosters for a decade now, and said rebuild was an unqualified success, if judged only by rings and parades. But that time is again upon them, as much as they like to claim otherwise, and the matter of when that rebuild should commence will be settled to some extent by these next 26 games.

At least that is how the Giants would like to frame it. Both Arizona and Los Angeles could fall off the earth’s mantle and come back to the Giants, or one of them could heat up and render the whole exercise moot. Things change all the time in baseball, and they don’t follow a linear path. It’s kind of like WAR (wins above replacement, that is, rather than the other one). It all depends on the formula you use.

Mike Krukow reveals why Giants 'were not too happy' on Sunday in LA

Mike Krukow reveals why Giants 'were not too happy' on Sunday in LA

With every major holiday that occurs during the season, all MLB teams have their jerseys and hats tweaked to feature the colors associated with the holiday.

On Memorial Day, it's camo. On Mother's Day, it's pink. On the Fourth of July, it's red, white and blue.

For Father's Day, it's light blue, and that made for a slightly awkward situation Sunday in Los Angeles as the Giants' black hat was replaced by a light blue hat. Shirts underneath the jersey had to be light blue.

Appearing on KNBR 680 Monday morning, broadcaster Mike Krukow was asked about the Giants' wearing blue against the Dodgers.

"What is up with that? Serious business. And the boys were not too happy about that," Krukow said before the phone connection cut out.

Why do MLB teams wear blue on Father's Day? It's to raise awareness for prostate cancer and raise money for research to fight the disease.

So the Giants may not have been thrilled about wearing the color of their arch rival, but it was for a good cause.

After beating the Dodgers on Sunday, the Giants are back home Monday where they open a 10-game homestand against the Marlins.