Spring Training

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."

Bruce Bochy goes with gut once more, announces he'll retire after 2019

Bruce Bochy goes with gut once more, announces he'll retire after 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — At 10:25 a.m. Monday morning, Giants manager Bruce Bochy walked up the steps of the home dugout at Scottsdale Stadium and looked out at his 2019 team. He nodded at a team employee who was standing in a hallway, avoiding the rain and 45-degree weather. 

“That was hard,” Bochy said softly, his eyes welling up as he stepped onto the field. 

In his 13th season-opening speech to Giants players and support staff, Bochy announced that this one would be his last. He began the first meeting of the season by informing his players, some of whom view him as a father figure and some who walked into the room just this week, that he will be retiring at the end of the 2019 season. 

This is a decision that did not come lightly, or quickly, for the 63-year-old. There was speculation at the end of last season, and Bochy had a pretty good idea then that he would be hanging up the cleats and legendary cap. He spoke to his family, plus longtime bosses and friends Larry Baer and Brian Sabean. When the Giants overhauled their front office, it was made clear to new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi that Bochy likely would only be around for Zaidi's first year on the job. 

Bochy hoped his future would not become an issue, but he was asked at the Winter Meetings and again at FanFest. It became clear to him that the questions would not go away, so he announced his decision before the first full-squad workout of the spring. Bochy managed to keep this secret for months, and he held on tight the last few days, eager to let his players know before anyone else found out. As he sat in the dugout Monday, he said he’s at peace with the decision. 

“In my mind, it’s time,” he said. “I’ve managed with my gut and came up here in 2007 on my gut. It’s a gut feeling that it’s time. It’s been an unbelievable ride and there’s so much that I can be grateful for.”

The Giants will spend much of this season showing Bochy how grateful everyone around him is. Bochy said he is not looking for a retirement tour and hopes he isn’t showered with gifts at every NL stop — he will be — and he tried over and over again to bring the focus back to winning on the field. That was the emphasis of the majority of the morning meeting, which quickly shifted from the announcement to preparation for the season. 

As players sat there shocked, they centered on one concept. 

“We’ve got to do our part,” left-hander Derek Holland said. “Let’s send him out on a high note.”

Bochy already has reached the highest highs. He’s a three-time World Series champion, and took the Padres to the Fall Classic during one of his 12 seasons in San Diego. He’s the only manager with three titles who isn’t yet in the Hall of Fame, but he’s a lock for enshrinement. Bochy is 11th on the all-time wins list, and should hit 2,000 this season. With 83 wins from the Giants, he’ll move into 10th place. With 90, he’ll even his career record at 2,016-2,016. 

That last goal is far-fetched given the last two seasons, but Bochy struck an optimistic tone after making the announcement. He has come into camp with renewed energy, the result of offseason hip surgery. He has a good working relationship with Zaidi and said that hire had absolutely nothing to do with this decision. Bochy praised the moves Zaidi made in recent days. 

“I love this group and the new additions,” he said. “It’s going to be up to us, though, to get that mojo back and bring that winning spirit back here to San Francisco.”

It’s a grueling season, and it won’t be long before much of this enthusiasm wears off. But for now, the Giants are hopeful they can get Bochy back to the stage where he locked up his spot in Cooperstown. He’s fourth all-time in postseason wins, and one of just five managers in history to have won three titles in a span of five years. 

“There’s a sense of calm and confidence about him in life with just how he conducts himself. I don’t ever remember him being in any kind of panic mode or anything,” Sabean said of Bochy’s postseason success. “And also, look at some of the managers during that run that he was beating, the teams that he beat. There are a lot of impressive folks.”

Most of those men have moved on to life after baseball, and Bochy will this fall, whether in September or October. He said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife Kim, his two sons, and two young grandchildren. He joked about coaching Little League, and he said at some point he’ll have to figure out what to really do with his time. When the topic of managing again came up, he paused. He couldn't commit to never giving it another shot. 

“Never is a big word,” he said slowly. 

[RELATED: Harper talks 'heating up'; Giants reportedly not favorites]

Bochy knows this will be hard, and he knows that at some point in future years he’ll want to once again take that familiar spot on the top step of the dugout. He’ll cross that bridge when it comes. For now, his secret is out in the open, and he’s happy about that, even if Monday was one of the most difficult days of his career. 

“I’ve had a great run,” he said. “But it’s time to do something different.”

Farhan Zaidi's upbringing, experience show how he'll attack Giants job

Farhan Zaidi's upbringing, experience show how he'll attack Giants job

Editor’s note: “As Told To Amy G” will feature exclusive conversations with Giants staff and players, as well as interesting figures around Major League Baseball, throughout the 2019 season. First in the series: Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.

Like watching paint dry. At a snail’s pace. Like a herd o’ turtles.

Eh, forget the clichés. How about “torture”? Now that’s a word familiar to Giants fans.

It most aptly describes the offseason leading up to San Francisco’s 2019 Opening Day.

The normally sizzling Hot Stove has been somewhat at a low simmer for the Giants, with just a handful of lesser-known pick-ups amid the recent Bryce Harper rumors. The most interesting addition to the Giants’ organization has been in its front office, as Farhan Zaidi will work his magic out of 24 Willie Mays Plaza as president of baseball operations.

I had a chance to sit down with Zaidi at the MLB Winter Meetings in December to get a vibe on the “New Guy,” or, better yet, “The Man,” who’s now charged with the daunting task of a major rebuild and return to greatness.

I wanted to know many things about the Giants’ new architect, but mostly “WHY” -- why would he leave the Dodgers, who have a seemingly unlimited payroll, won the NL West every year in his four as general manager, averaged 95 wins per season and went to the last two World Series?

And so, that’s where we began …

“Yeah, you know, great question. I was fortunate to be part of an organization that had some success down in L.A. and a really good group of people that was tough to leave. But my wife and I have ties to the Bay Area. Went to school at Cal, worked for the A’s for 10 years.

“When we heard this was even a possibility, we got pretty excited about it. It’s a different kind of baseball situation where we are. But I kind of view it as a fun and exciting challenge. Our group is really energized.”

I’ve always been partial to baseball wives. Personally, I believe they never receive the credit they deserve. Talk about holding down the fort.

Baseball wives endure long nights, marathon seasons, and many, MANY moves on their own with children in tow. It’s no walk in the park -- pardon the pun -- and as a self-proclaimed feminist, I believe baseball wives are some of the most fierce and strong women I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. So when Farhan mentioned his wife, Lucy, I jumped at the chance to ask more about her.

“Yeah, it’s funny, she definitely has thoughts and definitely watches the games. She'll often wait for me to ask her thoughts. She's an architect by trade and does a lot of interior stuff as well, so she came out and checked out the office in San Francisco a couple weeks ago and has some ideas for new furniture. She brought blue tape, she kind of marked tape all over the floor, all over the desk. And I had meetings in there all last week with just blue tape marked up everywhere.

“I had to explain to everybody that my wife -- the boss -- had come in and told me not to remove a single piece of tape. It’s a very makeshift feel in that office right now, but I know better than to mess with her work.”

Bet that office looks great right now …

If you’ve studied up on Zaidi, you know he has an extremely interesting upbringing. Of Pakistani decent, Farhan was born in Canada and raised for a large part of his childhood in the Philippines. Baseball wasn’t the obvious game of choice in either country.

So, how did America’s pastime become Zaidi’s passion?

“My family did move to the Philippines when I was in grade school, and that’s when I first started playing T-ball, when I was eight years old and Little League in the Philippines, and that's kind of where I fell in love with the game.

“My family is from Pakistan, so we'd go to Pakistan for summer vacations, and I had a bunch of cousins who all played cricket, and you kind of hold the bat like this, but we’d all hold the bat like this because we were baseball players. It was one of those things that shifted from generation to generation, going from cricket to baseball.”

Like all of us, Zaidi had a favorite baseball player. The difference between him and us? He became that player’s boss.

“Funny enough, my favorite player growing up was Don Mattingly because I was a left-handed hitter and a first baseman, and I didn’t quite have the talent that Don Mattingly had. But my first year in Los Angeles, he was the manager of the team. I told him when I met him, ‘I had your poster up on my wall, and it’s a huge thrill to meet you,’ and he’s a terrific human being, and he did a great job for us as manager, but it was a bit interesting being the GM of a team whose field manager was your hero growing up.

“He’s such a gracious person [that] he made that easy. It was a pretty fun idol to have, for sure.”

Diversity, or the lack thereof, in baseball is an ongoing concern. Zaidi is one of just two Muslim baseball executives, along with Texas Rangers assistant GM Shiraz Rehman. So, I asked Zaidi for his thoughts on how far the game has come and where it still needs to go regarding diversity.

“I think it’s critically important. As much as I regret to say it, there’s so many times I’ll be in a meeting, a baseball meeting, and think how can there not be a woman in this group that’s part of this decision-making process? Where’s the diversity in this room, and why don’t we have more of it?

“To the extent that ... I’m an example of this diversity, I very much appreciate that. But I view myself more as somebody who wants to bring more diversity into the game and into itself. As we build out our front office, it’s going to be a real priority of mine. And to your point, I think a city like San Francisco and a region like the Bay Area that prides itself on inclusiveness, I hope we are able to build a baseball front office that’s reflective of the area’s values.”

Then, it was time to get down to the nitty gritty. The “Moneyball” background, the stats, the numbers, the percentages -- how was Zaidi’s trendy, brainy approach to the game going to mesh with the Giants’ vintage ways?

“There’s definitely been an information revolution in baseball, and we’ve seen it in PITCHf/x when it first came on a decade ago, we’ve seen it now with Statcast two or three years ago, and the reality is that baseball is a billion-dollar industry now.

“Like all big businesses, people are trying to use every piece of information or data to their advantage. That's our job, to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned in terms of what will help us make the best baseball decisions. In saying that, too often this debate is pitted as analytics versus scout, or that sort of thing.

“In contrast to that, two of my first hires here are people that are going to be directing scouting departments, as Zack Minasian, our pro scouting director, and Michael Holmes, we brought over from the A’s as our amateur scouting director. Scouting is still very much part of the fabric of the game. ... The ability to identify talent just by watching the game, overlaying stats and data on it, and using the two in conjunction is how I think we can do our jobs the best.”

So that’s good news, right? It isn’t going to be a complete “out with the old, in with the new” thing for the Giants. Zaidi clearly appreciates the foundation of the game while bringing a fresh and current approach.

But what are the fans going to think? Only one thing really matters to them -- WINNING.

I wanted to know how Zaidi would handle an extremely passionate fan base that, after relishing in three World Series championships in just five years, has raised its expectations to a possibly unrealistic level. Long gone are the 52 years of waiting for a title, and after two dismal seasons, their patience is wearing very thin.

So, how will Zaidi handle the extreme pressure of pleasing the fan base?

“Stress in itself is not that productive. I like to spend my time thinking about how we can make this team better, this organization better, and really take it kind of one step and one move and one day at a time. One way I like to think about any job is to take the job seriously but not to take yourself too seriously.

“I know how passionate these fans are. I’ve heard words of encouragement from them, and I’ve heard less-than-encouraging words from them also. And that just comes with the territory. All we can do is put pride in your work and put a lot of effort into putting the best product out there. …

“We are at a little bit of a crossroads organizationally, where we want to continue to be competitive -- we have the core of a championship team still in place. We’ve dealt with some injuries, we have some challenges on the roster, and we have to start thinking not just about next season but two seasons and three seasons down the road, so it is going to be a balancing act for us to make sure that we are continuing to field a competitive product that fans are excited about, that can compete for the NL West division but also being mindful of the future.

“Can you have your cake and eat it, too? That’s going to be the challenge for us. Really think through the roster, think through ways that we can get younger and better at the same time. And it’s a huge challenge, but we’re going to have fun trying to do it.”

[RELATED: Latest Giants news and analysis from spring training]

I saved the most important question for last. Let’s be real here: Zaidi was a Dodger for four seasons. He has a lot of ’splainin’ to do (and not just to Lucy) about the amount of blue that’s built up in his wardrobe. He’s now in orange and black territory, so Giants fans wanted to know how he planned to discard of that wretched color.

Bonfire, perhaps?

“That’s a really good question. I certainly can’t [wear it]. I’ve had a lot of friends reach out to me asking that question, and I say I have way bigger problems than worrying about your wardrobe. … I can’t imagine any of that stuff will make its way up to San Francisco with us. We have plenty of Dodger friends and fans down there [in L.A.] so we’ll make them all very happy. But we’ll leave it all behind when we make the move up, I’m sure.”

A wise move, indeed.

Follow Amy G on Twitter @AmyGGiants, on Instagram @amyg, on Facebook, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Giants coverage all season. Send her a question any time with the hashtag #askamyg