SAN FRANCISCO Melky Cabrera had long since departed the Giants clubhouse by the time histeammates returned after a 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals Wednesday.The suspended switch-hitter left a few items in his locker, but could notremain to face questions about what led to his positive test for testosterone,a performance-enhancing substance. That left 24 other men to respond to thebarrage of inquiries in his stead.Ultimately it was just a bad decision and thats all Im really going to sayabout it, Giants catcher Buster Posey said. He added that what was said in ameeting that manager Bruce Bochy called before the game was something thatstays between us.Hunter Pence was similarly terse:It happened. We move on. Thats all I have to say.Angel Pagan wouldnt even go that far, offering no comment responses to atleast three questions and clichs to the rest.We have to move on, Pagan said. Weve got a good team so we have to keepplaying.Pablo Sandoval also chose an optimistic team-first approachinstead of addressing one individuals mistake.Were a team. Were going to fight. Thats all I gottasay, Sandoval said.One of the few players willing to open up about Cabrerassuspension was none other than reliever Clay Hensley, who faced his ownsuspension as a minor leaguer in 2005. Hensley only missed 15 games instead ofthe 50 Cabrera faces, but offered the unique perspective of someone whos beenin Cabreras shoes.People are going to make mistakes, Hensley said. You dont ever know whatsgoing on in someones head when they do something like that.Without Cabrera around to explain what was going on in his head, Hensley andBrandon Belt explained what went through their heads when they first learned ofthe news.Everyone was shocked, stunned, Hensley said. Melky will just have to sufferthe consequences.A little bit of shock at first, Belt said of his reaction. Then everybodysaid we have to move on and step up. We still think we have a shot at this.Tim Lincecum, Wednesdays losing pitcher, said he learned of the news becauseit came across the televisions in the clubhouse before Bochy had a chance totalk to his players.That is crushing, obviously, just to hear that our besthitters not going to be in the lineup, Lincecum said. But thats just like aday where they get a day off. Youve got to approach it that way.Unfortunately for Lincecum and the rest of the Giants starters, they will bewithout Cabreras bat backing them in the lineup for the remainder of theregular season. Thats a far cry from an average day off.Were disappointed, Bochy said. Melky was having a real nice year for us,but our thoughts right now are we move on. Thats all you can do this teamwill remain focused on trying to win ballgames.Winning ballgames will be a lot tougher with a Cabrera-less lineup, as the freeagent-to-be was hitting .346 with 149 hits, 84 runs scored, 60 runs driven in,11 home runs and 13 steals. Were going to miss his bat and presence in the clubhouse,Hensley said. It is what it is. We just have to try to win ballgames withouthim Hes a big bat that well miss but it creates opportunities for others tostep up.Gregor Blanco is likely to be the beneficiary of those opportunities movingforward, and he wasted no time taking advantage on Wednesday with two hits andan RBI in four at-bats.Hopefully Gregor takes advantage of the playing time,Bochy said.Blanco said he hadnt talked to Cabrera about the positive test yet, butplanned on contacting him at some point after leaving the clubhouse. He wasalso optimistic that his teammates would help him carry the load left in thewake of Cabreras suspension.We have a great group of guys that can step up, Blancosaid. We just have to hang together Everybody needs to step up and just dotheir jobs.The Giants havent lost a big bat to a PED suspension before Cabrera, but theydid lose their best hitter to a season-ending injury last year when Posey wasbowled over at home plate.Its a tough blow but weve been through this before, Belt said, referring tothe Giants injury woes with both Posey and Sandoval. We know what we have to do.The Giants know what they have to do and know they have to win a playoff seriesjust for the chance to get Cabrera back in uniform. But what they dont know iswhether knowing what you have to do will translate into proper execution andenough wins to even make the postseason.Hensley, though, is ready for the challenge.Its a game of adjustments, so were just going to have toadjust and move forward, he said. We all wish him the best and well all bebehind him when he gets back.
SAN FRANCISCO — Jae-gyun Hwang spent years dreaming of this day, of stepping onto the green grass in a big league stadium and then digging his cleats into the dirt alongside the plate. He never imagined hitting a homer in his debut, though, and he certainly never pictured what would come next.
Hwang was pulled into the clubhouse shower a few minutes after a 5-3 sweep-clinching win over the Rockies and surrounded as teammates emptied cans of beer on their new third baseman and cheered so loud that they could be heard from the press conference room. There are many quirky traditions in the KBO, where Hwang was a superstar, but the list does not include beer showers. Any confusion didn’t last long.
“We had his translator in there with him,” Nick Hundley said, smiling. “We said, this is what you get when you hit a homer in the big leagues.”
You get something else, too: Another day in the lineup. Bruce Bochy has a tongue-in-cheek rule that if you hit a homer, you play the next day. The Giants, however, expect to get starting third baseman Eduardo Nuñez back from the disabled list on Friday in Pittsburgh. What will Bochy do with a 29-year-old rookie who hit a 417-foot laser shot in his third MLB at-bat?
“I have a loophole,” Bochy said. “We’re off tomorrow.”
Bochy might not have to use the loophole. Austin Slater, the starting left fielder, was still feeling tightness in his right hip Wednesday and Nuñez could move over to left for a few days, allowing the Giants a longer look at Hwang. It’s an audition that seemed to never be coming as late as Tuesday morning. But Conor Gillaspie showed up with back spasms, and with Christian Arroyo on the minor league disabled list, Nuñez a few days away, and Aaron Hill recently released, the Giants turned to Hwang.
It’s the kind of break that you need to make your mark, but you also need talent and confidence in your own abilities, and Hwang oozes both.
The Giants had hit just 20 homers at AT&T Park this season when Hwang stepped to the plate in the sixth. Hundley’s was the third in the past 15 home games, and it helped them head into the late innings tied up with the Rockies. Hwang had earlier driven in a run with a groundout and in his third at-bat he started by taking two balls from lefty Kyle Freeland.
“My focus is always the same: Hit in my zone,” Hwang said through interpreter Mark Kim. “Because I’m a rookie, I figured once I got to a 2-0 count it might be a fastball down the middle, and that’s what happened.”
Hwang blasted it and briefly held his bat in the air, posing as the ball soared to the bleachers. He dramatically dropped the bat and started his first journey around the bases as the dugout exploded.
“When it comes to bat flips, you don’t plan it,” Hwang said. “It comes naturally. I don’t know what I was thinking. It just happened.”
Hwang’s bat flips in South Korea were so legendary that YouTube videos made their way overseas. He had promised not to flip his bat in the big leagues, saying that he doesn’t want to get hit in retaliation. There are pitchers on Hwang’s own team who don’t approve of flips or drops, but his manager said he doesn’t care one bit.
“I want these guys to be who they are and he’s just been a lot of fun to be around,” Bochy said. “He’s a great guy and he’s very popular in that clubhouse.”
Hwang’s work ethic this spring won teammates over, and he showed a willingness to jump right into the fray, whether he was making jokes or the butt of them. On St. Patrick’s Day, he entered Scottsdale Stadium with a green fedora and a green Tinker Bell shirt that read “I’m so fly … I never land.” Throughout the spring he handed out chocolate pies from boxes above his locker. During his time in Sacramento he regularly took teammates to Korean BBQ restaurants, where he was recognized as a celebrity. Hwang is so famous in his native country that multiple networks scrambled to air the Giants game at 4:45 a.m. Those in his hometown of Seoul either woke up to watch or woke up to celebrate.
Thousands of miles away, Hwang focused on his new reality. As he packed to head to Pittsburgh, he exchanged a signed jersey for his first home run ball. The only No. 1 jersey Hwang had was the one on his back, so a fan walked away with an old Matt Duffy jersey instead.
If Hwang can keep showing that power stroke, he’ll return in a week to a ballpark eager to cheer a new contributor. For now, the Giants are just happy to have another spark.
“They were so excited for him and happy for him,” Bochy said. “They all know what he’s been through. He’s given up baseball in Korea to play here and he reaches his dream and hits a homer. It’s a special moment. These are moments you love.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Some veteran Giants quietly grumbled Wednesday morning about how many potential homers got knocked down by the thick, seagull-filled air late Tuesday night. A day later, under a bright blue sky, the Giants made the park look small.
Nick Hundley hit a two-run shot and Jae-gyun Hwang’s first MLB hit was a no-doubter to left, backing up a strong day for the pitching staff. The Giants won 5-3, sweeping the same Rockies squad that broomed them at Coors just a few days ago.
The three-game winning streak is their first in nearly six weeks and the sweep is the first of the year. Here are five things to know from Jae Day at AT&T Park …
—- Hwang’s homer screamed out to left at 108 mph and traveled an estimated 417 feet. He hit 53 homers his last two seasons in the KBO. The power is legit, and that poke certainly earned him an extended look, even with Eduardo Nuñez due back Friday or Saturday. Hwang is the 17th Giant to have his first hit be a homer. Adam Duvall (2014) was the last one to do it. Among current Giants, Hwang joins Brandon Crawford (2011).
—- Ty Blach faced some trouble early but managed to walk off with 6 1/3 innings under his belt and just one earned run. Blach was charged with two unearned runs, including one that came on his two-base throwing error.
—- A day after Cory Gearrin got an at-bat, George Kontos was sent up with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. He fouled one pitch off before striking out. So many fans gave up on this season over the past six weeks, and then Gearrin and Kontos strolled to the plate in a span of 15 hours. This is the best game in the world.
—- With Mark Melancon the DL and Sam Dyson in need of a day off, Bruce Bochy got creative. George Kontos carried the lead from the seventh to eighth, and Steven Okert took it from there until the ninth. Hunter Strickland entered with two outs in the ninth and got Ian Desmond to fly out.
—- Austin Slater returned to the lineup and went 1 for 3 with an 11-pitch walk. It’s clear that Slater’s hip is still a little tight — he jogged on a grounder deep to the hole at short, and he certainly would have beaten that out a week ago. With the way Slater is hitting, though, no point in risking it.