Kevin Gausman

What impressed Giants GM Scott Harris most this year in spring training

What impressed Giants GM Scott Harris most this year in spring training

Right when the Giants had hit their groove, baseball came to a crashing halt. San Francisco went 6-4 in its 10 spring training games before the coronavirus pandemic changed everything. 

Prior to the cancelation of spring training and MLB's Opening Day being postponed, Giants general manager Scott Harris couldn't have been more happy with his squad. There were plenty of questions coming into spring with Gabe Kapler replacing the retired Bruce Bochy, but all signs pointed to a promising start. 

"Going into spring training, we weren't really sure what we were gonna get because we had a bunch of new coaches, a bunch of new front office members, some new players and we were wondering how everyone was going to come together," Harris said Thursday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac" show. "From the first week of spring training, it was clear that everyone was determined to find a way to get better each and every day.

"I was so impressed by Gabe and the staff's ability to create a fun, efficient and competitive camp, and we were really impressed by the way the players responded."

From the players, to the front office and even the broadcasters, Kapler has received rave reviews for his first spring as Giants manager. This was a much different camp than one ran by Bochy, and everyone seems to be embracing it.

Harris could feel the momentum leading up to Opening Day. He felt better and better about this team with each passing day. And while he wishes the Giants could have carried that into the regular season without pressing pause, he believes they can easily regain their mojo. 

"At least it gives us a template for when we get to ramp up again, hopefully soon, to try to re-create that spirit from camp and continue to build momentum towards spring training," Harris said. 

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The one area of the Giants that stood out to Harris might surprise some fans. But it shouldn't if you listened to Kapler and the front office throughout camp.

"We were really impressed by the way our rotation responded," Harris said. "We expect our rotation to be one of the strongest elements to our team, and players like Drew Smyly and Kevin Gausman were exceptionally sharp during spring training.

"And they were also very open-minded to adding new pitches, attacking hitters in new ways and we were really encouraged by the path that they were on."

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Everyone on this team will have to be open-minded, including the veterans. This is a new era of Giants baseball, and Harris sounds ready to unveil it -- hopefully sooner than later.

Gabe Kapler highlights three Giants who stood out in spring training

Gabe Kapler highlights three Giants who stood out in spring training

At this point, Gabe Kapler was supposed to have his first handful of regular-season games under his belt as the Giants' manager. Just like everything else in the sports world, though, all has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Before MLB canceled spring training games and delayed Opening Day, the Giants did go 6-4 this spring. Wins and losses are far from the most important result during camp, but Kapler certainly will take a winning record any way he can. 

Before baseball hit pause, a trio of players really stood out to Kapler. One of them still has a ways to go before making his MLB debut, but this prospect made a great first impression on his future manager. 

"I thought that Hunter Bishop coming over made a really good impression on all of us," Kapler said Monday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger, & Brooks." "And he's a first-round pick, he's got the pedigree, he's got the power. I thought about his swing and it's so violent, very similar to the way Bryce Harper is. Harper's is violent."

Make no mistake. Kapler doesn't want Bishop to be labeled as the next Harper. Top prospects already have enough pressure on them.

"By the way, I'm not comparing Hunter to Bryce Harper," Kapler continued. "What I am saying is there's some similarities in their personality, and their hustle and the way they play the game like their hair's on fire.

"So, Hunter made a really strong impression."

Bishop, the Giants' top pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, only had one hit over eight at-bats in big league camp. He clearly caught Kapler's eyes, however, and the Giants expect a big year from the powerful outfielder.

As far as the major-league side of performances goes, two pitchers really impressed Kapler: Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly. 

"I think we all got excited about Kevin Gausman," Kapler said.

Kapler praised Gausman's splitter and breaking ball. The veteran right-hander went 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA over 10 1/3 innings this spring. 

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Kapler managed Smyly, who didn't allow an earned run this spring, last season on the Philadelphia Phillies. Kapler said this was the best he has seen the lefty in quite some time.

"Drew Smyly's arm looked great," Kapler said. "This is a guy who really started to get stronger and stronger as the season went on last year in Philadelphia when I managed over there. And he looked great then, but he looked better now. The ball just really was carrying through the zone.

"His ability to put his slider at the backfoot of a right-handed hitter, the ability to drop a curveball in for a strike, all of those things are reason for excitement when we get back to baseball."

Both pitchers are expected to be key contributors in the Giants' rotation. As we wait for baseball to eventually return, these two hurlers gave their skipper plenty of reasons for optimism out in Arizona.

Why Farhan Zaidi doesn't regret keeping Madison Bumgarner at trade deadline

Why Farhan Zaidi doesn't regret keeping Madison Bumgarner at trade deadline

Farhan Zaidi found himself in a tough spot last season. He knew the Giants' focus should be placed on the future, but they just kept winning before the MLB trade deadline.

The Giants went a ridiculous 19-6 in July, and at 54-53 overall, they were right in the playoff race during Bruce Bochy's final season as manager. They also held one of the best trade chips in the game in franchise icon Madison Bumgarner. 

The always outspoken Chris "Mad Dog" Russo told Zaidi on Tuesday that he would have traded MadBum, but the Giants' president of baseball operations reiterated he's happy with the decision the front office made in keeping San Francisco's longtime ace.

"We got into July, and like we talked about, we were the best team in baseball," Zaidi said to Russo on MLB Network's "High Heat." "We played it out. We were four or five games out of the wild card at that point and we certainly have no regrets about that." 

Though the Giants made several moves before the deadline, including acquiring utility man Mauricio Dubon from the Milwaukee Brewers, they ultimately held on to Bumgarner. That didn't exactly turn into more wins, however.

After their red-hot July, the Giants came back down to earth. They went just 11-16 in both August and September, finishing the year with a 77-85 overall record. The final regular-season standings saw the Giants 12 games back of the wild card. 

And while Zaidi doesn't regret keeping Bumgarner a Giant for the rest of the season, he really likes his team's offseason additions to the rotation. As Bumgarner wound up signing a five-year, $85 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Giants signed two veterans who could have a bounce-back season. 

"We brought in Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly to be a part of our rotation. Both of those guys have looked great in camp, and we have a chance to get 50 to 60 good starts out of those two guys," Zaidi said. "We feel good about the rotation, how it's come together. We've got some guys competing for that fifth starter spot. We have to think our rotation's in a good spot right now." 

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Gausman signed a one-year, $9 million contract at the Winter Meetings and has a 1.29 ERA through three starts this spring. One month later, Smyly, who is yet to allow an earned run in four innings this spring, signed a one-year, $4 million contract

Those two players certainly don't have the allure or legendary status of Bumgarner. There's reason to believe both could help the Giants in a surprise playoff push or be their next Drew Pomeranz as a pitcher who could help San Francisco add another solid prospect. 

One thing is clear: Zaidi is happy he kept Bumgarner in San Francisco during Bochy's final season.