Kieran Lovegrove

Why Kieran Lovegrove signed with Giants after Farhan Zaidi hiring

ap_19044713802153.jpg
AP

Why Kieran Lovegrove signed with Giants after Farhan Zaidi hiring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- No team has had more success with minor league free agents over the past decade than the Giants, who put together a priority list every season and then go hard when players are let go by their previous organizations in the fall. 

The front office has generally had success selling minor league free agents on their ballpark, their culture, their coaching staff and, for pitchers, their catcher. But for one of last offseason's biggest targets, the most important factor wasn't even part of the organization until Nov. 6. 

"When Zaidi came on, that was pretty much my decision-maker," right-hander Kieran Lovegrove said. "I was very interested in following him wherever he went."

Lovegrove had a lot of qualities that put him right near the top of the wish list for the team officials who kept everything running smoothly as Larry Baer looked for Bobby Evans' replacement. He's just 24 and is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.73 ERA at three minor league levels, struck out 10 batters per nine innings, and pitched in the Futures Game.

Lovegrove has a mid-90s fastball that ticks higher at times, and the Giants' analytics people and scouts felt there were tweaks he could make to his pitch mix to break through. 

When the Indians failed to put Lovegrove on their 40-man roster, the Giants were aggressive. They felt they had a good shot at landing the California product regardless, but the addition of Farhan Zaidi put Lovegrove over the top. 

"I had kind of heard what he had done in Oakland and then I got to see what he did in L.A. as I followed the way that they helped to develop players and find players that had been told, 'Here's your ceiling and you can't go above that,'" he said. "He took them and it seemed like he would just say, 'Look, I believe you can do more so go out there and do more.'"

Lovegrove had a chance to pass that message along earlier in camp when he met with Zaidi, Bruce Bochy, Curt Young and Matt Herges. He already has made adjustments, leaning on Michael Schwartze, an analyst who was hired a year ago and travels with the team, to alter the way he attacks hitters. 

[RELATED: Kieran Lovegrove stands against racism in Black History Month shoes]

Lovegrove talked about those adjustments on this week's episode of The Giants Insider Podcast, along with a lot more. We touched on mental health, what he has learned from Trevor Bauer, fastball spin efficiency, supporting causes that are not usually affiliated with baseball players, minor league pay issues and much more. 

You can stream the podcast here or download it on iTunes here. 

Giants' Kieran Lovegrove stands against racism in Black History Month shoes

kieranap.jpg
AP

Giants' Kieran Lovegrove stands against racism in Black History Month shoes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- South African-born reliever Kieran Lovegrove is a new name to the Giants' organization -- he could even be a name you've never heard of. I'm not one of those people.

However, this was the first time I met Lovegrove in person. 

Despite spending many years following each other's careers on social media, I was never given the opportunity to interview the young pitcher. But when he posted a photo of some unique shoes recently, I was curious. Not only were these beauties, well beautiful, but they had a very special message behind them:

On the inner-tongue of the Converse shoes, "Equality" in yellow is printed with "BHM" on the front. "BHM" is also engraved on the side of the colorful shoes. 

Every year, Lovegrove tries to get one of the Black History Month pairs.

"Really, it's me wanting to continue to stand against racism," Lovegrove told NBC Sports Bay Area. "Especially as it exists today, it's just gotten so divisive against people -- that's all it is -- to show solidarity."

The 24-year-old reliever was modest saying the message may not "be much," since it's a pair of shoes, but it starts a conversation.

"Fashion is a way that you can stand for something without your words being misconstrued," he said. 

Four years ago, a teammate of Lovegrove's convinced him to get a pair of Jordan's. He was unsure about them at first, but ultimately he became the new owner of Spike Lee 40's, the Black History Month edition. After receiving numerous compliments, he wanted to continue showing his support whether in the form of a shoe, or otherwise.

[RELATED: Bochy impressed with Joey Bart after couple weeks]

"Not that I need more shoes," he laughed.

He's running out of room in his closet, and with his girlfriend moving to the area in May, it's imperative he makes room. But until then, he has no problem with his kicks taking up space -- especially when it sends such a powerful message.

"I'll celebrate the accomplishments of great black men and women in history overall."

Respect. 

2019 Giants Position Preview: More consistency needed from bullpen righties

melanconusatsi.jpg
USATSI

2019 Giants Position Preview: More consistency needed from bullpen righties

SAN FRANCISCO — There were a lot of trade rumors around Giants relievers earlier in the offseason, but the men who throw with their right arms were kept out of them. Will Smith and Tony Watson were the two most sought after, and there’s still a chance one or both will be moved before Opening Day. 

But for the bullpen’s right-handers, there shouldn’t be much change as 2019 begins. It’s a mix of veterans on deals that aren’t easily moved, and younger pitchers the Giants would like to build around. In the latest installment of this preview series — here are the catchers, corner infielders, middle infielders, outfielders, and starting pitchers — I look at the right-handed relievers who will gather at Scottsdale Stadium next week:

Returning: Ray Black, Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Reyes Moronta. 

You can bet Farhan Zaidi has talked about sliding Melancon and Dyson’s contracts into trades, but Melancon has a full no-trade clause and Dyson’s one-year deal doesn’t exactly stand out in this depressed market. Dyson has been a durable piece for Bruce Bochy and should be again. 

Melancon’s ERA dropped last season but his WHIP was 1.59 and his strikeout rate of 7.2 was a career low. The Giants still haven’t really found a consistent non-closing role for him, but if they do make some moves, it’s possible Melancon gets another shot at the ninth. He would probably be first in line. 

Zaidi likes Black and Moronta, who both have shown flashes of dominance. Moronta, in particular, is someone the staff has kept in touch with this offseason. There were concerns about his weight late in the year, but Giants folks who have touched base with him recently are pleased with his offseason work. He could be poised to take another leap. 

The departed: Hunter Strickland, Pierce Johnson, Roberto Gomez, Jose Valdez, Derek Law. 

Strickland was the closer last Opening Day, but the Giants non-tendered him in November — a bit of a surprise — and he recently caught on with the Mariners. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in his second home; Strickland generally put up good numbers in his time with the Giants, but after the way the last two seasons went, certainly became a change-of-scenery candidate. 

Johnson quietly made 37 appearances for the Giants last season but is now pitching in Japan. The Giants didn’t lose much beyond him in terms of innings. Gomez is in camp with the Pirates. Law, DFA’d last week, is currently a free agent. 

Additions 

I broke up the relievers into two groups and you better believe Pat Venditte is going to show up with the righties and the lefties. The switch-pitcher has had more career success from the left side. He’s the only free agent reliever the Giants signed to a big league deal. 

Non-roster invitees: Jamie Callahan, Kieran Lovegrove, Carlos Navas, Sam Wolff

Callahan is young (24) and comes with a strong pedigree (second-round pick in 2012), but his 2018 season was shortened by a shoulder injury. He has a 5.51 ERA in seven minor league seasons, averaging 8.8 strikeouts per nine. 

Lovegrove, also 24, has one of the most interesting backstories of the newcomers. He was born in South Africa and has been vocal on social media about spreading the game across the world. On the field, he’s coming off his best professional season. Lovegrove posted a 2.73 ERA in 41 appearances for Indians affiliates and his live fastball took him to the Futures Game. He was an early target for the Giants in the offseason, and they’ve had success with guys at the top of their minor league free agent lists (Dereck Rodriguez was one of those guys a year ago). 

[RELATED: Get excited for Kieran Lovegrove]

Navas, 26, had a 3.19 ERA in Double-A last season with the Reds and struck out 10.9 batters per nine while limiting his walks. He started his career with the A’s when Zaidi was there. 

Wolff, 27, should be familiar to a lot of Giants fans as the pitcher who came back in the Matt Moore trade. He didn’t pitch much last year because he was coming off an injury, but he has a big arm that piled up 44 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings. In 10 Fall League innings, he struck out 14 and walked just two. 

Outlook

It’s been a few years since the Giants had a dominant bullpen, and from the right side, it again looks like an inconsistent group. The non-roster invitees are intriguing and one or two of those guys — or a Melvin Adon-type — could team with Moronta and Black to form a nice core moving forward. For now, it’ll be interesting to see how Zaidi handles the holdovers. He is not someone who likes paying a lot for relievers, and if the Giants are taking a step back, there’s little need to have bullpen depth.