Jeff Samardzija

Giants' Jeff Samardzija favors eliminating extra innings in baseball

Giants' Jeff Samardzija favors eliminating extra innings in baseball

Major League Baseball will implement rule changes that go into effect over the next couple of seasons. MLB negotiated these rules with the Major League Players Association. 

MLB.com's own Anthony Castrovince writes in detail about these rules here

The overall theme of some modifications essentially is to speed up the game. Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija actually is in favor of certain aspects of these, per Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group.

I completely understand where Shark comes from when he mentions the longevity of the season. 

You know I love baseball more than anyone, but it indeed is a very long season. I have to write my family and friends an "I'll see you in November" note once the spring starts, and I just cover the sport. 

The 2014 All-Star appears to speak for some of the players -- and he of all people should know. The Giants played in 21 extra-inning games last season, which is more than any other team.

That's a lot of late nights/early mornings at Oracle Park.

We all have bedtimes, sure. But having to measure wins, losses and ties? That could create a problem -- especially if this season in the National League mirrors what it was last season, where every team appeared to be within reach of one another. And to know it could be broken on a possible point-system related to a tie?

I don't know about that. 

[RELATED: Giants encouraged by Samardzija's progress]

He does address the thought could be "a little wild for people," so he's not ignoring what others could say about that. If you follow baseball Twitter, you get where he's coming from. 

The idea of making the ninth inning extra exciting, however? Oh yeah, I can get on board with that.

Imagine finally being around people who look forward to that last inning. Not necessarily because the game is almost over, but in a way, just beginning. 

Jeff Samardzija using reliever's mindset in Giants starting rotation

Jeff Samardzija using reliever's mindset in Giants starting rotation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija was a relief pitcher early in his career, so he knows what it's like to air it out from the start of an appearance. The Giants have him locked into the rotation, but they still want him to take that old approach. 

Samardzija's run of five consecutive 200-inning seasons ended last year, and with the right-hander coming off a season wrecked by a persistent shoulder injury, the Giants have no intention of letting him get anywhere close to that mark this season. Once Samardzija accepted that he's no longer needed as a workhorse, he started thinking about different ways to use those 100 or so pitches every fifth day. 

"Before, regardless of the situation, you're attacking and trying to get a guy out on three pitches," Samardzija said. "Now, with the way the game goes, and coming off of last year, it's going to be nice. It's, let's go out and get guys out from the beginning with the idea of seeing how long those 100 pitches can get you."

After Samardzija had another good spring outing Sunday, his manager set an easier-to-hit target. Bruce Bochy said he met with Samardzija early in the spring and told him the 200-inning years weren't needed anymore. 

"He knows his job is not to just eat innings," Bochy said. "He's going to go as hard as he can go for five or six. With the bullpen we have, we have him covered."

The change of pace is somewhat ironic given the reason the Giants signed Samardzija in the first place. They had such trouble getting starters deep into games in 2015 that the front office went out and gave Samardzija and Johnny Cueto $220 million. 

Samardzija hasn't always posted good numbers as a big league starter, but he has always been an innings-eater, in part because of an ability to handle a lineup a third time. In 2017, when he led the league in innings, Samardzija allowed a .693 OPS the first time he faced a batter, but it was just .765 the second time and .775 the third time. 

That's not what you see from most starters, which is a big part of the reason why modern front offices aren't letting their pitchers get deep into games anymore. There is almost always a third-time-through penalty, but Samardzija actually prefers life late in games. 

"I love the third time through," he said. "As a pitcher, as long as you're repeating what you're doing, you're going to have a good idea of what they're hitting and not hitting ... I remember what I did to them the first couple of times. Either you stick to that because it worked, or you mix it up because it didn't."

For now, that process is one Samardzija won't have to worry about as much. He said he may go to off-speed pitches earlier in games now, knowing that he doesn't need to save any tricks for the seventh or eighth inning. He'll pitch to the score more, and be in constant communication with Bochy. The innings count will be way down, but the Giants hope the other numbers head in a more positive direction. 

[RELATED: Drew Pomeranz in comfort zone on Giants with old pitching coach]

To even have a shot at returning to his old form, Samardzija will need cooperation from his right shoulder. The early signs are promising. In three starts, Samardzija has allowed just one run -- a solo homer by Hunter Pence. He has given up five hits in 8 2/3 innings, and hasn't had any health setbacks.

"That's good work, isn't it?" Bochy said. "Especially here in the Cactus League. He has been sharp with his command and stuff. I like where his (arm) slot is and his delivery. He has really done a nice job getting back to where he needs to be as far as arm strength."

Giants encouraged by Jeff Samardzija's progress to begin spring training

Giants encouraged by Jeff Samardzija's progress to begin spring training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If you sent a congratulatory text to Bruce Bochy and you haven't heard back yet, don't worry. There's quite the backlog. 

A day after he announced that this will be his final season, Bochy said he couldn't believe how many people reached out in the following hours. 

"By the time I got back to my office, the phone had blown up completely," he said. "I didn't see that coming. I've heard from everybody."

Bochy got a break from the texting Tuesday morning, when the Giants took the field for the first round of live batting practice sessions. It started with Madison Bumgarner against Joey Bart, because the other members of Bart's hitting group wanted him to go first. 

"They wanted to make sure Bum wouldn't throw one way up and in on the first pitch," Bochy said, smiling. "So they put the kid up there."

Bumgarner did not throw at Bart. That's one observation from the day, here are a few more ... 

Sharp Shark

Jeff Samardzija said he has eight hurdles to hit this spring: Bullpen session, "heavy" bullpen session, live BP session, and then five Cactus League starts. He got through his live BP on Tuesday and said it felt good. Samardzija threw all his pitches while facing players on a back field. 

"No pain, no restrictions," he said. "I just need more work."

He'll get it. Samardzija, coming off a season-ending shoulder injury, will be in the rotation when the Giants kick off spring action this weekend. The Giants are encouraged by how he feels, and anticipate Samardzija being ready to start the season. 

"I thought he threw really well," Bochy said. "He had a nice day out there."

Different Look

We've gotten used to some trash talk during the first day of live BP, but there was none of that today. We didn't see a Bumgarner vs. Buster Posey matchup as we've gotten in the past. There was an interesting feel to the sessions, though. 

[RELATED: Posey appreciates Bochy's longevity, passion for the game]

The Giants set up a TrackMan machine behind the pitcher and a Rapsoda device about 40 feet in front of the mound. They're tracking spin rate, release point, etc.  on just about every pitch now, even if it's just live BP. 

For years, we would see Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner standing behind the pitcher. On Tuesday it was Yo Miyamoto, the club's manager of video systems. He had a laptop in his hand and could give the data right to the pitcher. The Giants were already using TrackMan and Rapsodo last season, but they've certainly appeared to swim even further into the deep end when it comes to all this stuff. 

Camp Versatility. 

Guys will move all over during camp, so not too much can be deciphered by early fielding work. But it was interesting to see Aramis Garcia get a lot of work in at first yesterday, and Stephen Vogt spend a chunk of the early workouts taking fly balls in left. Bochy has said the team may carry three catchers, so at least one of the backups will need to be able to move around the field. 

Sad News

Don Newcombe, the legendary Dodgers pitcher, passed away at the age of 92. I'll never forget the way Newcombe would come to visit Bochy during every Dodgers series. He was always in a suit, no matter how hot it was at Dodger Stadium, and he would walk over when Bochy was talking to the media and wait patiently with his wife, Karen. Often times they would stand there for 10-15 minutes and wait for Bochy to finish his required work before they could have a quick chat.

[RELATED: Pence calls playing for Bochy with Giants 'a real honor']

"Every time we went to L.A. they made sure they came over and said hello," Bochy said. "We talked about baseball and different things. I don't know if we ever missed a series, that's just how nice this man was, to come over and say hello to me. I just respect him so much for what he did in baseball -- this guy won a Cy Young and an MVP in a year, and served in the military. 

"He was just a real nice gentleman that was I'm sure inspiring for all the players there in L.A."