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 …
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.
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.