SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Giants minor league second baseman Ryan Cavan began Thursday morning in minor league camp. He ended the day with plenty of souvenirs to mark the greatest night of his baseball life.
A San Mateo native, Menlo School alumnus and lifelong Giants fan, Cavan received an invite to big league camp for the day to fill out an exhibition roster against the Colorado Rockies. When Marco Scutaro was scratched with back stiffness, Cavan found himself with a sudden opportunity to start.
He made the most of it, hitting an RBI single in the second inning and connecting for a solo home run in the eighth.
The 10-4 loss didn’t count. But for Cavan, it was the furthest thing from meaningless.
“I love the Giants,” said Cavan, whose prominent mustache seems out of place on his youthful face. “I was born and raised a Giants fan. Used to go to games when Will Clark played. It’s been awesome to be a part of the Giants organization and play for them for four years, and to get the opportunity to play in a big league game tonight, it means a lot to me.”
Cavan, 25, was a 16th-rounder in the 2009 draft out of UC Santa Barbara who, in the words of his Single-A manager Andy Skeels, “does nothing but beat people.”
No kidding: He’s been switch-hitting since T-ball.
Cavan is a favorite of coaches for his all-out style and his never-ending effort. In 2010, he made 26 errors at Low-A Augusta. The following year, after working all through instructional league to shore up his glove work, he made just five errors and was named to the Cal League's all-defensive team. (He made just four errors last year at Double-A Richmond, but struggled to hit .228/283/.338.)
As you might expect, he was swinging the bat Thursday night like he was mainlining Red Bull. Giants manager Bruce Bochy is forever telling young players to take aggressive swings. He didn’t need to worry about Cavan being timid.
“You definitely want to display your talent,” Cavan said. “I just wanted to play as hard as I could.”
Said Bochy: “Tell you what, he gets his swings in. He’s got some pop. It’s great for him. He got a start and did what you want these kids to do: Come out and swing the bat.”
Cavan came away with a lineup card and the home run ball, which right-hander George Kontos managed to procure from the fan who caught it. Kontos presented it to Cavan and very neatly printed the date and the opposing pitcher, Chris Volstad.
“A dream come true,” Cavan said.
And now he can look forward to some totally unbiased reporting about his night from MLB.com’s Chris Haft (Menlo School alum) and Bay Area News Group’s Alex Pavlovic (UCSB alum).
Scutaro kept trying to get loose but Bochy interceded, telling him a spring game wasn’t worth it. I’m guessing he would’ve played if this were a regular-season game.
Also, Andres Torres departed after four innings because of soreness in his left foot. It’s not believed to be serious and Torres was scheduled to be off on Friday. So he’ll be reevaluated.
Torres was 2 for 3 with a single and a double but walked off the field after being stranded on the bases in the fourth. He tried to walk off pain in his heel but Bochy instructed him to call it a night.
Matt Cain wasn’t happy about some location mistakes he made, notably the 0-2 fastball that Wilin Rosario mashed roughly 420 feet onto the crowded outfield berm.
Cain allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings. But he also struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter.
Notably, he also got in some extra bunting practice even with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning. He exchanged a word with Rockies starter Drew Pomeranz, who happens to be a familiar face, Pomeranz’s older brother, Stuart, was one of Cain’s high school teammates. Cain and the Pomeranz brothers all worked with private pitching coach Mauro Gozzo, a former big league reliever with the Toronto Blue Jays.
So what did Drew yell to Cain?
“He said, `What are you trying to do, show off your wheels?” Cain said, smiling. “He’s just mad because I got a hit off him last year.”
Dan Runzler was having a good spring, but the eighth inning was a horror show. After two quick outs, he had trouble throwing strikes. It went walk, single, single, walk, wild pitch, single. Four runs scored, and minor leaguer Edwin Quirarte cashed in a fifth.
“He’s got to improve pitching in traffic,” said Bochy, who had a chat with Runzler before the game ended. “He started unraveling. You’ve got to keep grinding out there.”
Nothing new on Pablo Sandoval. He’s still limited to cardio while his irritated ulnar nerve calms down. He’ll be reevaluated Friday or Saturday.
It sure looks like Wilson Valdez would make the big league roster if the season opener were tomorrow. It also looks like the Giants are hoping to do better.
Bochy didn’t exactly provide a book-blurb worthy comment when asked about Valdez.
“Well, he’s getting playing time,” the manager said. “We’ve been moving him around. He’s still here.”
The Giants aren’t interested in Chone Figgins. But they’re shopping around.
The Giants are playing hide-a-pitcher again. Madison Bumgarner won’t start against the Rockies on Friday at Salt River Fields. Instead, he’ll throw in a minor league game.
(Makes me wonder, though … Matt Cain faced the Rockies on Thursday, didn’t he?)
Bumgarner is coming off two very good exhibition starts, but hasn’t been totally satisfied with his delivery. Pitching in a minor league game allows the Giants to control his pitch count, which is really the most important task at this stage.
Chris Heston will start against the Rockies at Salt River, instead. Christian Friedrich, who sounds like he borrowed both his names from the Von Trapp children, will start for Colorado.
Nice “get” by Henry Schulman, who uncovered the elusive Ryan Theriot in the Bayou and pinned him down for a phone interview. Theriot won’t play unless he can find a semi-regular gig with a major league club.
If this is the end, Theriot’s last act as a big leaguer would be scoring the tiebreaking run in a World Series clincher. Everyone should be so lucky.
Bochy said he had a long talk with Johnny Monell after sending him to minor league camp. Monell hit .500 this spring (10 for 20, and most of it loud contact, including one home run) but it was apparent his catching is not up to big league standard.
“He’s determined to shed that label that he’s not a good defensive catcher,” Bochy said. “He’s got the tools to be one.”
Bochy also pointed out that Monell can become a six-year minor league free agent after this season, so this will be a very important year for him.
And what did Bochy say about Kensuke Tanaka, who made seven errors this spring?
Well, the manager has a dry sense of humor. But he didn’t make any wisecracks, even though Tanaka was clearly overmatched this spring.
“I’ll say this: He’s as hard a worker as you’ll see,” Bochy said of Tanaka, who came out for early hitting even after getting the news that he’d been reassigned. “It’s an adjustment to come over here, and we’ve thrown a lot at him. Let him go down and work on things there, get consistent at-bats in a relaxed atmosphere, and see where we’re at with him.”
Tanaka really is a nice guy and it’s easy to sympathize with him. He told a Japanese reporter that he had trouble adjusting to a different baseball, and it’s true, they do get slick in the dry Arizona air. It’s an adjustment every other player makes, though.
One other guy who shines through this whole Tanaka experiment is bench coach Ron Wotus. He kept going out before 8 a.m. for early work with Tanaka on the back field, even when it became obvious that he was no longer a candidate to make the team.