Eddie DeBartolo

What you need to know about Giants' non-roster invitees to big league camp

What you need to know about Giants' non-roster invitees to big league camp

In 2012, the Giants put out a press release that highlighted the inclusion of top prospects Gary Brown and Joe Panik on their list of non-roster invitees. If you dug deep in that release, you found the names of two others who weren't at all known in the Bay Area but would play a key role in championship runs. 

Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias were non-roster invitees that year. Ryan Vogelsong, Andres Torres and Santiago Casilla count as other success stories from the championship years, and even this version of the Giants has found some non-roster gold. Dereck Rodriguez was an unknown in camp two years ago. Donovan Solano was a non-roster invitee last spring. 

You already know all about Joey Bart and probably Sean Hjelle, but the odds are good that at least a couple of the others announced Monday will become contributors for the 2020 Giants. At the very least, given the level of roster churn under Farhan Zaidi, you're likely to see quite a few of these guys get a shot of some sort this season. Here's what you need to know about the 18 guys invited to camp on Monday ... 

Joey Bart

He needs no introduction. Bart is the organization's top prospect and one of the best prospects in baseball, period, and the Giants are eager to get him to the big leagues after a strong 2019 and a brief demolition of the Arizona Fall League.

Bart should be the story of camp, and given that Buster Posey usually sees just a couple dozen spring at-bats, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Bart behind the plate every other game in the Cactus League. Bart should start the season in Triple-A but it won't be long before he's in San Francisco. 

Tyler Heineman

The 28-year-old actually scooped the Giants on Monday, announcing his signing on Twitter. 

Chad Tromp

A 24-year-old from Aruba, Chadwick Tromp had a .286/.389/.610 slash line in 26 Triple-A games last year with seven homers. He was slowed by shoulder surgery in 2018, but he's young for an available catcher and has flashed improved plate discipline as he has reached the upper levels of the minors.

The Giants don't have any catching depth behind Buster Posey, Aramis Garcia and Bart, so there's a real opportunity for both Heineman and Tromp to compete with Garcia but also lock up a Triple-A job. 

Cristhian Adames

The versatile infielder played 10 games for the Giants late in the year, going 7-for-22. He was outrighted to Triple-A after the season and signed a minor league contract, just like ... 

Zach Green 

The corner infielder was placed on the 60-day DL in early September with a hip injury, which cost him a shot at a call-up but also got him a month's worth of service time and big-league pay.

The Giants signed Green and Adames at the same time in November, providing some infield depth. The 25-year-old hit 25 homers in 297 plate appearances in Triple-A but went just 2-for-14 in the big leagues. Right now, he doesn't have much competition behind Evan Longoria. 

Drew Robinson

The Giants signed the 27-year-old back in October. Robinson has played every position but pitcher and catcher in the minors. 

Joey Rickard

The 28-year-old made 26 appearances for the Giants last season but was non-tendered in early December. The staff liked Rickard's defense last year and he could again have a path to outfield time given how left-handed the current outfield mix is. 

Jamie Westbrook

Taken by his hometown Diamondbacks in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, Westbrook has a .280/.334/.431 slash line in seven minor league seasons. He's a right-handed hitter who had 16 homers and a .358 OBP across two levels last season. 

Matt Carasiti

The right-hander made his big league debut for the Rockies in 2016 but has bounced around, including a year with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

Carasiti got back to the big leagues with the Mariners last year, starting five games as an opener and relieving in six others. He had a 4.66 ERA in the big leagues and a 3.53 ERA in the minors. 

Tyler Cyr

This completes a nice comeback for the Bay Area native. A right-hander who was in camp two years ago, Cyr was set back when he needed surgery to repair an elbow fracture.

He missed most of the 2018 season but came back last year to post a 1.97 ERA in 38 appearances, with more than a strikeout per inning. Still just 26, Cyr looks to be back in the bullpen mix he was about to join before he got hurt. 

Rico Garcia

The Giants picked up the right-hander early in the offseason but then non-tendered him. The 25-year-old had a 4.24 ERA and 9.5 strikeouts per nine as a minor league starter and made two late-season appearances for the Rockies. 

Sean Hjelle

Perhaps the biggest news out of Monday's non-roster announcement was Hjelle's inclusion. A second-round pick in 2018, Hjelle will draw a lot of attention. He's the organization's best pitching prospect and he also happens to be 6-foot-11.

Hjelle repeats his delivery well and has a good feel for pitching, and he cruised through Low-A and High-A last season before getting knocked around a bit in six Double-A starts. Overall, Hjelle had a 3.32 ERA in his first big league season. He should start this year in Double-A, but the Giants want to be aggressive with their best prospects and Hjelle could reach the Majors this year. 

Trey McNutt

A 30-year-old right-hander who pitched in an independent league for two years, McNutt was with the A's organization last year. He's currently tearing up the Mexican Winter League, with 24 strikeouts and one run allowed in 15 2/3 relief innings.

McNutt has a fan in Matt Daniels, the organization's coordinator of pitching sciences: 

Sam Moll

The only left-hander on the list, Moll had a 2.39 ERA as a reliever for Richmond and Sacramento last season. Moll was taken in the third round by the Rockies in 2013 and made 11 appearances for the A's in 2017. 

Carlos Navas

The 27-year-old made 15 appearances for Sacramento last season, posting a 5.08 ERA as a swingman. 

Andrew Triggs

The 30-year-old has started games each of the past three seasons for the A's, and he has a 4.53 ERA in 45 big league appearances. The Giants have plenty of pitchers already in the mix for rotation spots, but they're thin at the Triple-A level. 

[RELATED: Why Hjelle stood out to former Giant Ryan Vogelsong]

Raffi Vizcaino

Signed out of the Dominican Republic, the 24-year-old has been in the organization for seven years. Vizcaino pitched well out of the bullpen for San Jose and Richmond last season, although walks have always been an issue.

Sam Wolff

The right-hander had flexor tendon surgery while in the minors with the Rangers in 2017 and was included in the Matt Moore trade while rehabbing. Wolff missed time last year, too, but he had a 1.78 ERA in 25 relief appearances. Wolff has averaged double-digit strikeouts per nine at every stop he has made in the last three seasons. 

How Dwight Clark's idea for 'Letters to 87' caught on with 49ers fans

How Dwight Clark's idea for 'Letters to 87' caught on with 49ers fans

Dwight Clark considered it a shared experience.

He came down with the most improbable, important and well-timed pass reception in 49ers history, but the impact of the play was more than he could have ever imagined.

The story of the NFL would be incomplete without a large section devoted to “The Catch.” But Clark always seemed to feel he was not alone as he leaped and fully extended his 6-foot-4 frame to make a finger-tips grab of Joe Montana’s pass on Jan. 10, 1982.

And, sure enough, the story of many lives would be incomplete without mention of Dwight Clark, too.

“The way he connected with the fans, personally, really brought them together,” Montana said. “Once you met Dwight, it was hard not to like him. His personality was fun, upbeat and jovial -- always.”

Through the years, Clark enjoyed hearing the perspectives and stories of fans -- many of whom had not yet been born when the 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game and went on to the organization’s first Super Bowl.

As Clark battled ALS, he made a request during the final interview of his life.

“I’ve often thought if I could get the word out somehow to get the stories, I should put a book together of the stories that these 49ers fans lived through at that moment,” Clark said on The 49ers Insider Podcast on Feb. 27. “Hopefully, long after I’m gone, 49ers fans will still enjoy that play and that year, that team that started it all off.”

The word got out that Clark wished to receive letters from the public, and his fans did not disappoint. The letters poured in. Some were hilarious. Some were emotionally moving. Some recounted the personal experiences of that day. Others described the wide-ranging impact that Clark’s play had on a life, a family.

Each of the letters conveyed a sense of love and appreciation for Clark as a player but, mostly, as an individual.

Clark died on June 4, 2018. Two weeks earlier, a group of friends visited him at his ranch in Whitefish, Montana. The group sat around Clark’s bed and read letters to him for nearly two hours.

“Letters to 87,” a documentary that explores Clark’s unique bond with his fans, will premiere commercial-free on NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at approximately 8 p.m. (following Giants Postgame Live).

“He really seemed to understand from a fan’s perspective how it felt, what it was,” former 49ers teammate Keena Turner said. “And he seemed to really want the fans to walk away feeling good about the interaction in the moment.

“He felt a genuine love that came, and he wanted to reciprocate. He wanted the fan to understand that it was a shared feeling.”

The impact of listening to the letters was something Clark carried with him. Former 49ers owner and close friend Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. was not in the room that day, but he heard plenty about it from Clark himself.

“He was thrilled,” DeBartolo said. “Getting the letters made him very, very happy. He was sick, but he was just thrilled to know he wasn’t forgotten.”

Ronnie Lott was among the people in Clark’s bedroom on Sunday, May 20, when the letters were read to Clark.

“When he wanted fans to express their feelings, he was trying to capture the same feeling that he had when he did it and how did they feel?” Lott said. “Were they as excited as he was?

“When fans write their letters, there’s a spirit there. There’s a connection. That connection was something we can take for granted.”

DeBartolo seeks information surrounding 49ers' old Redwood City practice field


DeBartolo seeks information surrounding 49ers' old Redwood City practice field

Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo knows all about the history of the organization.

And he recognizes how the stories of Matt Hazeltine, Gary Lewis and Bob Waters relate to the battle Dwight Clark is currently waging against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Hazeltine, Lewis and Waters were 49ers teammates in the 1960s. Twenty years after they played together, they were each diagnosed with ALS within a short period of time. Lewis died in December 1986. Hazeltine passed away in January 1987. Waters died in May 1989.

DeBartolo told NBC Sports Bay Area last week he plans to commission a study to see if there is a higher incidence of ALS within in a one- or two-mile radius of the 49ers’ old team headquarters, where all four men practiced during their careers with the 49ers.

“I have a strange feeling that there have been more cases of ALS outside of that Redwood City facility than we know about,” DeBartolo said. “I’m not even talking about players. I’m talking about civilians who lived in that area.”

The 49ers practiced at 711 Nevada Street in Redwood City from the early 1950s until the team moved into its Santa Clara headquarters in 1988. Clark’s nine-year NFL playing career ended in 1987.

In observance of ALS Awareness Month, NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday re-released the podcast, “One of the Great Mysteries: The Story of Three 49ers Diagnosed with ALS.” The podcast first aired last year.

Waters devoted the final years of his life trying to find answers. He contacted as many of his former teammates as possible in hopes of detecting a pattern. The fertilizer used on the practice field was one of many potential causes of the disease that was widely speculated.

“He led a single-minded, tough, courageous mission to get as much information as possible,” said Dr. Stan Appel, chair of the department of neurology at Houston Methodist. He worked closely with Waters following his ALS diagnosis.

“We never quite resolved why there had been three players amongst a small group that developed ALS."

But DeBartolo’s curiosity has nothing to do with the condition of the practice fields at Redwood City. After all, ALS is a disease without a known cause or cure.

”You can test the field, but what are you going to find? Nobody knows what causes ALS,” DeBartolo said.

Dr. Appel said there is no evidence head trauma causes ALS. But he said he believes repeated hits to the head can "aggravate ALS, even if it doesn't start it."

Clark, who sustained three severe concussions in his NFL career, recently told NBC Sports Bay Area he believes playing football caused ALS.

“I’m not a scientist or a doctor, but I don’t know how it could not have some affect with all these guys who have it,” Clark said.

Sheri Waters expressed disappointment on behalf of her late husband, Bob, that there has not been more progress made in ALS research in the nearly 30 years since his death. She provided the following poignant words for the podcast:

”Bob would be very sad to know that after all his efforts to seek information to help find a cure for this horrible disease, ALS continues to affect these good men. I know that Bob died believing that one day there would be no more ALS. I am still so proud of Bob for his courage and willingness to help others. I wish the very best for the Clark family."