Alex Pavlovic

Pablo Sandoval helped recruit free agents Solarte, Parra and Rivera


Pablo Sandoval helped recruit free agents Solarte, Parra and Rivera

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On the surface, it appears that the Giants are getting a bunch of old Padres together. Drew Pomeranz. Rene Rivera. Yangervis Solarte. Cameron Maybin.

Put perhaps the real link among most the free agent additions is a player who has years of experience facing the Padres.

Solarte, who checked into camp Sunday, said he spent the offseason working out with Pablo Sandoval at the Bommarito gym in Miami. Parra and Rivera also worked out there, along with Dereck Rodriguez, Sandoval’s prized recruit last offseason. Manager Bruce Bochy said Sandoval encouraged him to add his workout partners, all of whom are here on minor league deals, as Rodriguez was last spring.

“He was in my ear. Pablo was in my ear,” Bochy said. “We had the (Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards) three weeks ago, but even before that I talked to him and he said he was working with those guys and they’re available.”

Of all the players added recently, Solarte might have the best odds of making the team. He hit 17 homers last season and can play all four infield spots as well as left field, and that could make him a good partner for Sandoval as backup infielders. 

Even with a strong track record, Solarte, 31, had to wait until February to find a job. He said he doesn’t mind that it didn’t come with a starter designation. He knows he’ll get plenty of time if he makes the team. Asked about the state of free agency, he used a common phrase, except in Spanish: "He who laughs last, laughs best," he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. 

“You all are aware of the situation with free agents, and just like you guys talk about it, we think about it," Solarte told reporters. "I knew that eventually I would be on a team."

Sandoval hoped all along that it would be the Giants, in part because it'll be a reunion. He played Little League with Solarte in Venezuela, and later they played with Parra on a youth national team. Sandoval enjoys being Director of Recruiting, but at times he didn't need to say much. He said Solarte, Parra and Rivera all liked the Giants already, having played at Oracle Park and faced the Giants while in the division with other teams. 

Still, at times there were questions, and Sandoval was happy to answer them. He said the Giants have added good players, but also personalities that will enhance the clubhouse. 

"These guys are going to have fun," Sandoval said. "We're loose and we're going to have fun here, but the team is also going to respect the game and play it the right way."

MLB rumors: Bryce Harper talks 'heating up'; Phillies seen as favorites


MLB rumors: Bryce Harper talks 'heating up'; Phillies seen as favorites

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants will hold their first full-squad workout Monday, joining teams across Arizona and Florida. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned as camps really get going, but perhaps there will finally be some movement with one of the star free agents.

According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, “things are heating up with Harper.” Heyman tweeted that the Phillies are the favorite, but “word remains that nothing’s done yet. Will be a long-term deal.”

Heyman later added that Harper is still talking to other teams besides the Phillies. 

The Phillies have been viewed as the favorite for Harper most of the offseason, especially after ownership vowed to spend “stupid” money early in the winter. But when the Giants jumped into the mix two weeks ago, many around the game viewed them as a choice on par with the Phillies.

If Harper is intent on a long-term deal, the Giants would be a poor fit. Under Farhan Zaidi, they don’t want to give out the kinds of contracts that have crippled their flexibility moving forwards.

[RELATED: Giants continue discussing trade options as they wait for Harper]

When Zaidi took over, no team had more future payroll already tied up than the Giants. Team executives did not make an initial offer in their meeting with Harper earlier this month, but it's unknown if they have circled back.  

If the Harper talks are coming to an end, that would seem to be news to the Giants. A source said Sunday that they've heard nothing new on that front. 

Shaun Anderson starts important spring as Giants' top pitching prospect


Shaun Anderson starts important spring as Giants' top pitching prospect

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The stars in the Giants clubhouse are not looking towards future seasons, despite what has been signaled by management most of this offseason. But the two faces of the franchise certainly helped out some future Giants this week. 

On Tuesday, Madison Bumgarner walked up to top prospect Joey Bart and told him he would be catching Bumgarner’s first bullpen session of the spring. It seems no coincidence that a day later Shaun Anderson, the top pitching prospect in the organization, was approached by Buster Posey and told that his first bullpen session would be spent throwing to the best catcher in baseball.

There’s a decent chance Bumgarner and Bart will never work together in the big leagues, but if all goes according to plan, Posey could help indoctrinate Anderson, a polished 24-year-old right-hander, sometime this summer. That process started Wednesday.

“The adrenaline was definitely going when I got out there,” Anderson said a few days later, smiling. 

Anderson was excited to be working with Posey, but more than anything, he was just thrilled to be on a mound in big league camp. This is the biggest spring of his life, and after a strong 2018 spent in Double-A and Triple-A, Anderson should be the next Giants pitching prospect to reach the big leagues. 

Anderson, 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, sits in the low 90s from the right side with good sink, and has a good slider honed during his days as a college closer. The Giants sent him into the offseason with the goal of working on a changeup that’s also a plus pitch at times.

Anderson would like more consistency from that third offering, which he started throwing more last year as he posted a 3.45 ERA in 25 starts at Double-A Richmond and 4.18 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Sacramento. Overall, Anderson struck out 127 batters in 141 1/3 innings and walked just 33. 

The season was a continuation of the solid work Anderson did when he came over from Boston in the middle of 2017 in the Eduardo Nuñez trade, and it was impressive enough that the Giants nearly called him up last August. They had Anderson ready to make his debut when they traveled to New York, but the roster situation changed and he instead was shut down at the end of August. 

Since then, the big league roster has changed. The Giants are relatively deep with their rotation. Jeff Samardzija is back from a shoulder injury and Drew Pomeranz and Derek Holland signed in January, so the Giants are six-deep before you even get to familiar names like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach.

Still, the staff is eager to get a look at Anderson in Cactus League games. 

“He’s knocking on the door, isn’t he?” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s coming off a good year. We’ve got great reports on his makeup, his stuff, so I look forward to watching him pitch here.”

The road to the big leagues could become shorter if the Giants decide to use Anderson in a different role. Members of the front office are split on whether his future is as a starter or a reliever. If the Giants need bullpen help before a rotation spot opens up, it certainly wouldn’t be an adjustment.

Anderson was the closer at Florida because the staff was loaded with future top picks who became future top prospects -- guys like A.J. Puk, Dane Dunning, Alex Faedo and Brady Singer. He said he would happily move back to the bullpen if asked. 

“If that’s what it takes to win, I’m all for it,” Anderson said. “Whatever helps the club win, that’s what I’ll do, whether it’s starting or relieving.”

For now, Anderson will remain a starter, and he’s hoping to soak up as much as he can while in big league camp for the first time. His work with Posey was a good start. 

“The insight he had was really great to hear,” Anderson said. “He was just talking about pitching in a different climate and how your ball is going to react to that, how your breaking ball reacts to that and how you should prepare.”

Anderson already has embraced a new climate once. Before the trade, he had never been further west of Arizona. Some of his San Jose Giants teammates were amused by that, and noted that he fit right in with shaggy blonde hair that since has grown out even longer. 

[RELATED: Johnny Cueto drops 20 pounds, prepares for big step in rehab process]

“But I was honestly pumped for it,” he said, “Because California is sweet.”

Anderson will start his season in the state’s capitol, and if all goes according to plan, he’ll finish it once again throwing to Posey.