Tim Lincecum

Camp observations: Bruce Bochy hopes to see better bunting from pitchers

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Camp observations: Bruce Bochy hopes to see better bunting from pitchers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On the second day, there was rain. 

The Giants weren’t washed out, but they were a little limited in terms of what they could do when the skies opened up Thursday morning. Still, a second group of pitchers got off the bullpen mounds and practiced pickoffs, and Buster Posey smacked a long homer before batting practice was cut short. 

This was the day Johnny Cueto arrived, and he was the focus of the main story today. Here are some other observations … 

Fundamentals

There’s no way to really quantify how a team’s bunting skills match up historically, but I’ll say this. The 2018 Giants were by far the worst bunters I’ve seen in my seven years on the beat, and the coaching staff was appalled at points.

“There were times when it was ugly, for lack of a better word,” manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday. 

There’s always an emphasis on fundamentals in spring training, and Bochy went straight to bunting when asked what he’s focused on. The good news, he said, is that most of his pitchers had good form by the end of last season. Now it’s about getting more reps. 

“It’s ‘Outliers.’ Get 10,000 reps and you get pretty good at something,” Bochy said. 

The Giants ranked 10th in the NL in bunts last season, but given how many times Bochy asked for them, they should have been much higher. Pitchers just had a hard time getting it down. Bochy hopes this is one area where the staff is much-improved in 2019. 

More catching depth 

You won’t sell any season tickets talking about the minor league depth you’re building, but the Giants have been crushed by injuries the last couple of seasons, and that’s exposed the lack of serviceable big league talent at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. 

A lot of these minor moves you see have been meant to address that, and team officials feel much better about the state of a Triple-A roster that will feed the big league one. That will trickle down to Double-A, too, especially with the catchers. 

Hamlet Marte is someone you probably haven’t heard of, but the Giants were excited to get the young catcher, with Farhan Zaidi bringing him over from a Dodgers organization that’s loaded with minor league catching. Marte, 25, was a minor league free agent and is slated to start the season as Double-A Richmond’s everyday catcher. Bochy called him “intriguing.”

Marte has a .275/.341/.443 slash line in the minors and had a .833 OPS with 12 homers in High-A ball last year. 

“Farhan said he did a great job over there,” Bochy said. “He really made a lot of improvements last year with his on-base (skills) and having quality at-bats." 

You always need more catching, and the Giants are all of a sudden pretty deep there. 

[RELATED: Could the Giants really carry three catchers?]

Familiar faces

Dave Righetti stopped by Scottsdale Stadium on Thursday and spent some time chatting with Bochy behind the cage. In a few weeks, there will be plenty of familiar faces. The Giants love to bring former players back as guest instructors, and Bochy said all of the past ones will be back except for Tim Hudson and Jeff Kent, who have scheduling issues. There are two more Bochy would like to see, too. He mentioned Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. 

“Cain, Lincecum, they’ve done so much for the organization and me,” Bochy said. “I’d always love them here.”

Cain lives in the Phoenix area and snuck into the clubhouse last spring. Lincecum is harder to find, but Bochy tried. He reached out when the Giants were in Seattle last summer but Lincecum was out of town. 

Rob Friedman (Pitching Ninja) breaks down his favorite Giants pitchers

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Rob Friedman (Pitching Ninja) breaks down his favorite Giants pitchers

If you're a huge baseball Twitter fan, you've probably heard of Rob Friedman -- or @PitchingNinja as he's so widely known.

If you haven't heard of Friedman, you're in for a treat. He brings the fun back in sports media with his unique GIFs and hilarious commentary on twitter. But beyond that, he has a great eye for the guys on the bump.

In the winter doldrums -- as we wait for the Giants to make a significant offseason move -- we asked for his thoughts on his favorite Giants pitchers. 

Both past and present Giants pitchers are highlighted thanks to Mr. Pitching Ninja with his own words on what is so special about these hurlers.

Johnny Cueto

Rob Friedman: "Yes, I know he’s hurt, but he’s always fun to watch. Between his creativity on the mound and his changeup, I’m always watching for something new and amazing."


Madison Bumgarner

RF: "It's not just the fact that his mechanics mirror another Giants great (Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell)

RF: "His cutter, ability to tunnel pitches ... and his toughness make him entertaining to GIF"


RF: "Plus, MadBum had a legendary staredown with Joe West."


Reyes Moronta

RF: "His wicked slider, made by 2018 Filthiest Slider compilation. Enough said."


RF: "And this slider was disgusting -- literally and figuratively. I apologize in advance."


Ray Black

RF:  "As my followers know, I'm a sucker for a dude who throws flames and has a filthy slider. And that's basically Ray Black."


Mark Melancon

RF: "I'm always watching for his filthy knuckle curve and cutter."


Newcomer: Pat Venditte

RF: "Because he's amphibious, and he's really Kyle Hendricks."


All-time Giants Pitcher: Tim Lincecum

RF: "Because he was 5'11," weighed like 78 pounds, and threw gas with off-the-charts secondary stuff."


RF: "Tim was the most mobile guy on the planet -- we're talking circus freak stuff."

So while there isn't a ton of Hot Stove action heating up for the Giants, we can at least take this time to appreciate the pitching staff as currently stands. Plus, we got to take a trip down memory lane which is always a splendid thing.

Thanks once again to Rob Friedman for his time and his contributions to this article.

Rangers release Lincecum

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Rangers release Lincecum

Tim Lincecum's Texas Rangers tenure is over before he threw a pitch in the big leagues. 

The Rangers released Lincecum on Tuesday, after he was activated from the 60-day disabled list upon completing a rehab assignment. Texas opted not to add him to the 40-man roster after Lincecum completed his rehab assignment.  In 12 2/3 innings with Triple-A Round Rock, Lincecum posted a 5.68 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP. 

The 33-year-old has not pitched in the majors since 2016, when he went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA and 2.37 WHIP with the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels designated Lincecum for assignment on Aug. 6, 2016. 

The former Giant pitched in San Francisco from 2007-2015. He won the N.L. Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009, as well as three World Series. In parts of nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum went 108-83 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.