Aramis Garcia

Camp Observations: Could the Giants successfully carry three catchers?

Camp Observations: Could the Giants successfully carry three catchers?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy sat down in the dugout, looked around at beat reporters in front of him, and smiled. 

“It’s great to see you guys,” he said. 

Bochy may feel differently in a month, or three, or by September. We will wear him down. But on Day 1, there’s no taking the bounce out of a manger’s step. The first day of the spring always brings hope, no matter your situation, and the Giants got underway shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday when Ty Blach hopped up the dugout steps and onto the field. The rest of the team soon followed. Here are three observations from a day that started with yet another roster move … 

Three catchers?

Buster Posey didn’t appear limited during the first workout, but running is still a tricky issue after hip surgery and Bochy said we’ll see some adjustments to Posey’s schedule later on. 

“Once we get a little closer to games and maybe the workload is picked up, we will monitor him,” Bochy said. “He feels great right now.”

Posey was in a hitting group with Rene Rivera, Stephen Vogt, and Joey Bart, who was the focus of today’s main story. Vogt looked healthy while hitting but is behind with his throwing. Bochy anticipates him in games the second week of March, and Vogt could be ready for Opening Day. That could put him on the roster. Bochy said there’s a real shot that the Giants carry three catchers early on given Posey’s situation, and Vogt provides a different look as a left-handed bat. 

Don’t Forget Garcia

You might remember September as the month the Giants lost just about every single night. Aramis Garcia prefers to remember it as the month he made a statement, batting .286 with four homers. Now, Garcia also struck out in nearly half his at-bats, part of the reason Bochy said Wednesday that you prefer to have young players playing every day and getting needed at-bats. 

But Garcia provides pop off the bench and showed that he can more than handle himself at first, so he’s in the mix. 

“We’ll stay open-minded,” Bochy said. 

There’s nothing Garcia can do about the flood of veteran catchers who have come into camp, but he came in looking to be in tremendous shape, and he said he’s ready to play more first base over the next six weeks if asked. Bochy said that’s a possibility. 

Few complications

Most of the position players are at Scottsdale Stadium already even though they don’t have to report until next Monday, and Johnny Cueto was the only significant pitcher who didn’t make it in by Tuesday’s first workout. Cueto, recovering from Tommy John surgery, had a personal issue to take care of but will be here Thursday, Bochy said. The personal issue is not, we're told, related to his horse, Popeye, who passed away Tuesday.

Two other pitchers will be late: non-roster invitees Jandel Gustave and Carlos Navas. The Giants went after Gustave hard when he became a minor league free agent, but he waited until about 10 days ago to sign. The front office was pretty psyched to get the 26-year-old right-hander. 

Buster Posey disappointed Giants didn't re-sign good friend Nick Hundley

Buster Posey disappointed Giants didn't re-sign good friend Nick Hundley

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pitchers and catchers report first, and on that initial day on the field, most of the attention is usually on the large collection of starters and relievers taking turns on the bullpen mounds. 

But when the Giants stroll out of the clubhouse shortly after 10 a.m. on Wednesday, all eyes may be on the men getting ready to strap their gear on. Buster Posey has been running this drill for a decade, but for the second time in his career he’s coming off a major injury, and the Giants plan to ease him in.

Joey Bart, last year’s top pick, will be with big leaguers for the first time. In between those two is a large and varied group battling to back up Posey. 

It’s a wide open race, mostly because of who won’t be there Wednesday morning. The Giants did not sign Nick Hundley to a third straight big league contract, and he inked a deal with the A’s on Monday. As Posey leads a contingent at Scottsdale Stadium, Hundley, his trusted backup the last two years and a Willie Mac Award winner in 2017, will be 20 minutes away in Mesa. 

“I was disappointed,” Posey admitted Tuesday when asked about the Giants not bringing Hundley back. “Nick is one of my all-time favorite teammates and one of my best friends. I think that he brings so much on a daily basis. We would have loved to have him back, for sure.”

Giants officials have not spoken publicly since Hundley signed elsewhere, but it’s not hard to connect dots. Farhan Zaidi values flexibility on the field — Hundley only plays catcher — but also off of it. Aside from Aramis Garcia, the rest of the catchers in big league camp are here on minor league deals, so none are locked in as the backup on Day 1. Garcia has minor league options remaining, so he can be moved back and forth from the majors to Triple-A during the season if the Giants are so inclined. 

Garcia is the only catcher other than Posey on the 40-man roster, although that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the current frontrunner. Cameron Rupp, 30, brings power from the right side. If Stephen Vogt can get fully healthy, his proven left-handed bat could give him an edge. Posey said Tuesday that he’s always “been a fan of him, too.” 

Rene Rivera, another well-traveled veteran, will get attention, in part because he walked into camp with platinum hair and in part because the Giants know him well. The 35-year-old has gotten some big hits off the Giants. 

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“The good thing is he’s not going to beat us like he normally does,” Posey said. “It seems like he always destroys us.”

The Giants still may add catching depth, but already, they have put together an interesting group. As Posey gets healthy and Bart soaks it all in, the rest will take part in one of the better competitions in camp.

Giants set to open spring training with plenty of positional battles


Giants set to open spring training with plenty of positional battles

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants on Monday morning were part of a pair of transactions that seemed odd on the surface. While Stephen Vogt is preparing to take a physical and sign a minor league deal with the organization, Nick Hundley signed a similar deal with the A’s

Why not just bring Hundley back? Farhan Zaidi wants flexibility, on the field and off, and that made Hundley a less-than-ideal fit. Signing him for a third straight year would have locked the Giants into their catchers on Feb. 11. With the group currently in place, it would be a shock if any catcher spends the entire season backing up Posey, as Hundley did. 

It’ll be a different kind of camp for the Giants, and as they look to become younger, more athletic and more versatile, we might see some roster permutations that would have looked out of whack under the previous regime. As players prepare to take the field at Scottsdale Stadium for the first time, here’s a look at some of the competitions that should heat up … 

Outfield: Assuming Steven Duggar doesn’t have any setbacks, there are two starting spots to be won here, in left and right. Bryce Harper certainly could take one of them, and even if he chooses another team, the Giants likely will add a veteran. But they traditionally go with five outfielders, so currently there may be four spots up for grabs. The Giants really would like to take a long look at Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick who must make the roster or else he must be offered back to the Astros. Mac Williamson is out of options and has the longest track record of big league success. He’s currently a favorite to start in one of the corners and could land in the starting lineup even if Harper is added. 

Backup catcher: Buster Posey expects to be ready for Opening Day, but he’ll be slow-played in April, so this is an important spot. Aramis Garcia is the frontrunner after a nice September — remember, he can play first base, too — but there are plenty of veterans who will be given a shot this spring to win the job, which would allow Garcia to get more minor league at-bats. Cameron Rupp has had big league success and Vogt, if he can get his shoulder back to 100 percent, is a two-time All-Star who can play first and has dabbled with the outfield. Rene Rivera was signed Friday and the Giants still could add another veteran to the mix. 

Fifth starter: Madison Bumgarner will start Opening Day and it’s a pretty good bet that Drew Pomeranz and Derek Holland will follow in some order. If Jeff Samardzija is healthy, he’ll be in the rotation, but the Giants could ease him into the regular season. That leaves Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, both of whom had long stretches of dominance as rookies. On merit, they deserve to be in the rotation at the end of camp, but Zaidi has been open about limiting their innings early on. One could end up in the bullpen, or perhaps back in the minors for a few weeks. 

Last spots in bullpen: Did you remember that Josh Osich, Roberto Gomez and Pierce Johnson made the Opening Day roster last season? There’s always a surprise with the bullpen, and the Giants have plenty of candidates in camp fighting for that spot on the line in San Diego.