Conner Menez

Giants' first round of spring roster cuts include surprising names

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Giants' first round of spring roster cuts include surprising names

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants had such a crowded camp this spring that they had to bring extra lockers in and stick them in the center of the clubhouse, but on Friday they cleared out the room a bit.

The staff optioned seven players to Triple-A Sacramento and reassigned an additional 10 to minor league camp, leaving 55 still on the spring roster. 

There were no big surprises on the reassignment list, but there were a couple with the optioned players. Most notably, Jandel Gustave seemed to have a good shot at making the bullpen, but he was sent out. The others optioned were Melvin Adon, Abiatal Avelino, Conner Menez, Sam Selman, Chris Shaw and Kean Wong. 

All of those players were expected to start the year in Triple-A, although it does seem a bit early for some -- like Shaw, who has some big league time -- to be sent to minor league camp. The Giants do still have plenty of options to evaluate in camp, particularly when it comes to pitchers and outfielders.

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The 10 players reassigned: right-handers Tyler Cyr, Sean Hjelle, Jake Jewell, Luis Madero, Trey McNutt, Raffi Vizcaino and Sam Wolff; catcher Ricardo Genoves; left-hander Sam Moll; outfielder Jamie Westbrook. 

Some of those players flashed at times in camp, and Hjelle opened eyes with increased velocity in his first outing of the spring. He likely will start the year with Double-A Richmond but could be an option for the rotation later this season. 

Why Four Giants rookies' most nervous moment came off field in 2019

Why Four Giants rookies' most nervous moment came off field in 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After spending more than three years in Triple-A, Tyler Rogers had just a few hours last August to pack up his life and make the drive from Sacramento to Oracle Park. He cleaned out his locker, threw everything in a big River Cats bag and headed home, where his girlfriend, Jennifer, was waiting to help him move. At one point in a frantic packing process, Rogers looked over and saw Jennifer taking stuff out of his team-issued bag. 

"I was like, 'Get out of there! No!" he recalled this spring, laughing. 

Jennifer didn't know it, but her boyfriend was getting ready to propose. The engagement ring was in Rogers' locker when he finally was called up to the show, and he hid it deep in one of his cleats while packing up. As he prepared for the biggest moment of his career, Rogers knew he couldn't wait much longer to get down on one knee and say the most important words of his life.

"That's where I realized I needed to get this done now," he said. "It's hard to hide a ring when you're moving everything."

After 179 Triple-A appearances, Rogers finally made his big league debut on Aug. 27. Later that night, Jennifer posted 10 photos and videos on her Instagram page and wrote "I AM so happy I got to be here for you on this special day!" Two days later, Rogers got down on one knee at a rooftop bar across from the ballpark and asked Jennifer to marry him, becoming part of the coolest trend of the 2019 season.

Four Giants rookies made their big league debuts last season and then proposed to longtime girlfriends. Rogers was followed by Mauricio Dubon in October, Conner Menez on Christmas Eve and Logan Webb the first week of January. 

They all learned the same lesson. The nerves you feel digging into the box for the first time or preparing to throw your first big league pitch are nothing compared to the feeling in your stomach when you're waiting for the right moment to ask the love of your life to marry you.

"Oh, I was definitely more nervous for proposing. Definitely," Dubon said. "I've played baseball before. I've never asked that question before."

Rogers said he was more nervous to propose because he was doing it in front of both families. Menez felt "happy adrenaline" during his July debut against the Mets, but as he prepared to ask his girlfriend, Breanna, to marry him at a holiday light show in her hometown of Boise, Idaho, his heartbeat raced while he tried to remember a short speech he had written. Webb spent much of his big day walking around the Domaine Chandon winery in Napa Valley looking for the perfect spot to drop to one knee in front of his girlfriend, Sharidan, and both sets of parents, who knew what was coming. 

"She texted me and was like, 'Why are you acting so weird?' She had no clue," Webb said, smiling. "I thought for sure she knew. I was so nervous I could barely get the words out. I tried to say something before but I was way, way too nervous. I was trying to break the ice. I was trying to say something and finally, I was like, you know what, I'm getting on one knee. She was very shocked."

Like the other three, Webb is an elite athlete, and perhaps his training helped him as the nerves kicked in. Pitchers rely on deception, and Webb slyly tried to move the ring around in his pocket so Sharidan wouldn't notice it as they took pictures before the proposal. Menez had the ring in his jacket pocket and at one point Breanna put her hand on top of it when they were taking photos, but she didn't notice. Dubon, who showed his improvisational skills during a late-season audition at second base, had to think fast during his proposal.

Dubon and his girlfriend, Nancy, love Disney and make the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Disney World in Orlando just about every free weekend in the offseason. For years they had been planning a trip to France because Nancy is fluent in French and wanted to visit. The trip was supposed to happen in 2018, but Dubon injured his ACL and had to rehab. 

After a successful debut season, the couple decided to visit Paris, Rome, Venice and Vatican City. France was the first stop and Dubon carried the ring around for a couple of days as they prepared to visit Disneyland Paris. 

"All of 2019 I was thinking about how I was going to do it, and at the last minute I had to change plans," he said. "In Disney World in Orlando,you wear a bracelet and then take pictures, but in Disneyland in Paris they don't have that, so I had to improvise that part."

Dubon, who has known Nancy since he was 18, figured it out.

With the hardest part over, the four young Giants now will turn their attention to something three other teammates thought about for much of last season. Pablo Sandoval, Reyes Moronta and Dereck Rodriguez all got married in the offseason, and three of the four engaged Giants will say "I do" this November. 

"Rogers and Sam Selman and I were joking that it was the rookie starter pack," Menez said, laughing. "You get called up and you get engaged."

It actually makes a lot of sense. Minor leaguers can grind for years, dealing with constant pressure and uncertainty as they try to live out their professional dreams. A lot of that weight was lifted when the players debuted last year, and it certainly doesn't hurt to have a few weeks or months of big league pay in your bank account when you're shopping for a ring or planning a wedding with the person who was there for every difficult step. A couple of the engaged Giants joked that they've already learned the lesson that the price of any item or venue seems to skyrocket when you mention it's for a wedding. 

Webb and his fiancee are waiting until she finishes school in 2021 to hold their wedding. The other three will be planning as they play this season, and they're grateful to have fiancées who understand how difficult that can be for a player trying to break through in the big leagues. Dubon said Nancy is doing the majority of the planning for their Disney-themed wedding in Honduras. 

"I'm just going to go there and say yes," he said, laughing. "She's good with that stuff and I won't have time to do it. She understands that, and I'm pretty appreciative that she understands."

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Of the three getting married this November, Dubon has the firmest grip on a roster spot. Rogers was dominant in his month in the big leagues and Menez could join him in the competition for a bullpen job. Webb will have his innings restricted a bit, but he should spend most of his year in the rotation. 

This is a big season for all four engaged Giants. They are young and relatively unproven at the big league level, but all hope to be locked in as full-time big leaguers by the end of September. Regardless of how the season plays out, though, they know that the future is bright.

"You can look forward to the offseason even more," Menez said. "You enjoy it anyway, but you now know you're going to get married, too."

Why Giants might decide to experiment with younger pitchers in 2020

Why Giants might decide to experiment with younger pitchers in 2020

The opener officially came to San Francisco last year, but the implementation was short-lived.

Nick Vincent got shelled in one start, and the Giants didn’t use the strategy again, but that doesn’t mean they’re done with it.

Whether it’s an opener, piggybacking starters, or some new model the game hasn’t seen yet, you can bet the Giants are discussing creative ways to use their young pitching staff in 2020.

One year after he made waves at the Winter Meetings by mentioning the positives of an opener, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi brought up another possibility when asked about MLB adding a 26th player to rosters and enforcing a three-batter minimum. 

“I think pitchers are understanding the rules are changing. They’re more open to less conventional roles and they’re understanding that strategies may evolve,” Zaidi said.

“Obviously we did a little bit of that last year and had some conversations with guys. There’s always been a notion that the kind of hybrid starter-reliever -- the 100-, 120-inning guy who maybe goes three innings 30 or 40 times a year -- as the game evolves, that might become more of a niche. I think with some of these rule changes you might see more of that. 

“That’s a nice role for young starters to get their feet wet in the big leagues but it also might be a nice long-term role for some of these guys to have that skill set.”

The Giants seem well-positioned to experiment, and the organization actually has had plenty of previous conversations about a hybrid. When Tim Lincecum started to struggle late in his career, there was talk that he could excel as a 120-inning reliever. Last year, the Giants discussed using Drew Pomeranz after an opener. He ultimately was moved to the bullpen and found success in shorter stints.

The current roster has plenty of options. 

Logan Webb has the potential to be at the top of a rotation, but the Giants will limit his innings after a suspension wiped out much of his 2019. If Webb is in the opening day rotation, he could be set for shorter starts. 

In Andrew Suarez, Dereck Rodriguez and Conner Menez, the Giants have three young pitchers who have experience starting and relieving. Newcomer Trevor Oaks, a 26-year-old claimed off waivers, also has been a starter in the minors. 

The most interesting case might be right-hander Shaun Anderson, who a year ago at this time was the organization’s top pitching prospect.

As a rookie, Anderson had trouble getting deep into games. He eventually was moved to the bullpen, where he showed some flashes of being a potential closer. But the Giants aren’t committing just yet to putting Anderson in the late innings full time.

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“I met with him at the end of the season and he expressed his willingness to do either,” Zaidi said. “He’s obviously got experience doing both. Our plan is probably going to be to stretch him out early in spring training and then make an assessment on how the rotation is stacking up.”

That’s traditionally how teams handle all potential starters in spring training, and you can expect Anderson and others to train for lengthier outings. Ultimately, given the state of the franchise and the desire to experiment, they might be headed for new roles.