Giants

Do Giants have next Vogelsong in their midst?

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Do Giants have next Vogelsong in their midst?

Rael Enteen
CSNBayArea.com staff writer 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The San Francisco Giants caught lightning in a bottle with Ryan Vogelsong. They say lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, but that didn’t stop the organization from bringing back two former players for second chances.

The Giants selected Boof Bonser with the 21st overall pick in 2000 and the right-handed pitcher got off to a promising start to his professional career. While Vogelsong was part of a package deal to acquire Jason Schmidt, who enjoyed immense success as a Giant, Bonser was involved in Brian Sabean’s infamous trade with the Minnesota Twins to acquire A.J. Pierzynski, who lasted one disappointing season in San Francisco.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Bonser said. “People still say it was the worst trade ever for the Giants.”

Now Bonser is hoping to follow in Vogelsong’s footsteps. The two pitchers share a connection other than returning to the team that drafted them before sending them to another organization: Tommy John surgery. While Vogelsong had his in 2001, Bonser is just two years removed from the complicated procedure.

“I feel like our story is about the same,” Bonser said. “He got traded right before I did and came back here to the big leagues. I got hurt and now I’m back here trying to get myself back to the big leagues.”

“Clearly injuries set him back a little bit, but when healthy he’s a guy that could provide that [long relief] role at the big league level,” Giants vice president and assistant general manager Bobby Evans said. “He didn’t sign here to play Triple-A; he signed here to help the big league club. But he’s prepared to go to Triple-A if he doesn’t make the club.”

“I’m not going to sit here and say ‘I want to be a starter or I want to be a bullpen guy,’” Bonser said. “Whatever they need, I want to do. My biggest goal is to be back in the big leagues, that’s the bottom line, regardless of what I’m doing.”

That’s a sentiment that bodes well for any player, let alone one with a history of injuries and inconsistent pitching performances.

Another familiar name in camp this year is Andres Torres, who, like Bonser, is willing to accept any role the Giants deem him fit for. Unlike Bonser, Torres signed a major league contract. But he’s not guaranteed the starting job he held in 2010 and has no qualms with his situation.

“Whatever [Bruce] Bochy needs me for,” Torres said. “I just want to help them. Whenever they need me I’ll be ready.”

That attitude is part of what attracted Evans and the rest of the Giants’ front office to reach out to Torres and Bonser about coming back.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve and there’s sometimes not a lot that separates some of that talent from one another,” Evans said. “So you have to consider the fact that you’ve had that talent in your system, you know they’re coachable, you know that they fit in well with your clubhouse.

“They’re guys that have always been players you believe in and have some investment in. There’s some satisfaction for us to bring them back and continue to see the fruit of both the work that’s gone into them in the past, but also the potential for what could come out in the present and future.”

While intangibles like familiarity played a part in the desire to bring back Vogelsong, Torres and Bonser, Evans said that all three offered something the Giants needed.

“There’s always a projection made as to what could this person potentially do if healthy and if successful and [Torres, Bonser and Vogelsong] had relative value. We brought [Torres] back partly after evaluating what he did in 2012 offensively against left-handed pitching. That was something we felt we needed to match up with [Gregor] Blanco.”

The switch-hitting Torres hit .296 against southpaws last season and owns a .291 lifetime average as a right-handed batter. That’s a big reason why he’s back, as is his knowledge of the expansive AT&T Park outfield.

“We look at how we won in 2012 and one of the key components was defense,” Evans said. “Andres being able to play all three [outfield spots], as can [Angel] Pagan and Blanco, it really gave us an advantage to have three guys that are athletes that can cover territory.”

While many Giants fans clamored for an offseason addition with a little more pop, such as Scott Hairston, Evans said the club made an educated decision.

“We weren’t necessarily out there looking for the big bat that was going to play a corner and possibly compromise our defense. There were other options we talked to and other options we made offers to. Ultimately [Torres] ended up being the best fit.”

Torres couldn’t be more excited Evans arrived at that conclusion and brought him back a year after he was sent to the New York Mets along with Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan. Now Torres has his locker right next to Ramirez’s in Scottsdale and will flank Pagan in the AT&T Park outfield.

“For me it’s an honor to be back with the 2012 World Champion team,” Torres said. “What they did in the playoffs and World Series was amazing. I’m looking forward to playing with them and helping them win games.”

Torres, barring injury, will certainly get a chance to contribute as early as Opening Day on April 1 in Los Angeles since the Dodgers are scheduled to send left-hander Clayton Kershaw to the mound. But Bonser has a lot of work to do before getting his opportunity. Evans was candid about what he wants to see from Bonser before considering a promotion.

“He’s got a little bit of a ways to go right now,” Evans said. “The only way to get yourself back into the position to do what Vogelsong did is pitch. [Bonser] missed a lot of time in 2011 and a lot of time in 2012. So the goal in a lot of ways for him is to have a healthy 2013 and then the sky’s the limit for what could happen.”

Lucky for Bonser, all he has to do is look at what Vogelsong has accomplished over the last two seasons to buy what Evans is selling.

Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up

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Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants do not like to set timetables for their top prospects, instead encouraging them to force their way into promotions. Christian Arroyo did that in April and Ryder Jones followed over the summer, and both should be in position to compete for the third base job next spring. 

One of those two could ultimately fill a gaping hole in the lineup. When it comes to left field, one of their current River Cats teammates hopes to do the same. Chris Shaw is the organization’s top prospects on some lists, and on all lists, he is their top power-hitting prospect. 

The 23-year-old has 16 homers and 23 doubles across two levels this season, good for a .503 slugging percentage that’s right in line with his mark (.502) over 269 professional games. Shaw is on the fast track, and he became more intriguing when the Giants — with Brandon Belt signed long-term at first — moved him to left full-time this season. 

Shaw is doing what was asked of him. Earlier this week, I asked him if that has him thinking about a promotion. 

“It’s my motivation obviously to get to the big leagues, that’s why you work so hard in the offseason is to put yourself in that position to be knocking on the door,” he said. “But now, in season, you kind of put all your work in up to this point and everything else is a result of all your hard work up to this point. I don’t necessarily put any extra pressure on myself because right now I just go out and play and whatever happens, happens.

“I can’t dictate what falls and what doesn’t fall and what my batting average is going to look like a month from now, and ultimately what the front office wants to do. I’m fully aware they don’t have to add me this year. I trust in the front office in promoting me when they feel I’m ready developmentally.”

The big problem for Shaw at the moment is that the Giants do not need to add him to the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season. They are big on inventory, and not keen on DFA’ing another player this year and taking up a winter roster spot over the offseason for a prospect who currently is not in the opening day plans for 2018. That’s the paperwork side of this. On the field, Shaw is blocked by Gorkys Hernandez (who is now playing everyday), Jarrett Parker (who will finish his rehab assignment soon), Mac Williamson, and others. It remains a bit of a long shot that Shaw gets a September cameo, and when I checked in with team officials a week ago, the word was that it’s not currently in the plans. 

Having said that, the last-place Giants could certainly use some excitement and a glimpse of power. Shaw has some time left to change the front office's September plans. In the meantime, he’s the latest guest on our Giants Insider podcast. The quote above is from the podcast, which you can stream here or download on iTunes here. We talked promotions, his move to left, his power, his post-deadline tweet last year, and more. 

Former college football star shows athleticism on pivotal play in Giants win

Former college football star shows athleticism on pivotal play in Giants win

SAN FRANCISCO — Wednesday was a throwback for the Giants, the type of 2-1 win they’ve become so accustomed to at AT&T Park in past years. Solid starting pitching, a good bullpen, an opportunistic lineup, and sparkling defense. That’s the recipe, only on Wednesday there was a twist. 

The highlights usually come from the Brandons or Gold Glovers Joe Panik and Buster Posey. Wednesday’s defensive star was the pitcher. Jeff Samardzija’s barehanded grab-and-throw in the second inning killed a Pirates rally and kept Samardzija in line for a deep start. He was rewarded with his fifth win. 

The big play came with the bases loaded and one out in the second. Opposing pitcher Trevor Williams bounced one toward third and Samardzija sprung off the mound, cutting in front of Conor Gillaspie. He caught the ball with his bare hand as it came down from the first hop and made a perfect off-balance strike to Buster Posey for the force at the plate. 

“Your back is up against the wall there,” Samardzija said. “That’s a lack of other options and I had to make a play. It was the only option I had. I didn’t think I had a chance at first.”

Even with the pitcher running, Samardzija probably didn’t. After getting the tough out at the plate, he induced an inning-ending pop-up. Samardzija would get through the seventh and a mistake in left opened the door for the Giants' game-winning run. Afterward, Bruce Bochy pointed to that second-inning play as a unique turning point. 

“It looked like he was receiving a football, didn’t it?” Bochy said, smiling. “He’s so quick off the mound. He’s a good athlete. For a pitcher, that’s one of the better plays I’ve seen. You have to be a good athlete to jump off the mound that quick and have the instincts to know where to go with the ball.”

Samardzija, a former college football star, said that athleticism has hurt him at times. He explained that it can lead to some mechanical laziness on the mound, as better athletes tend to rely on that to get the ball to the plate. He did some work in a recent bullpen session to try and hone in those mechanics, and it showed against a charging Pirates club. 

If there were any scouts waiting for one last glimpse of Good Samardzija, this was it. But the right-hander said he doesn’t expect to be traded by Monday’s deadline.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I don’t read the news.”

He hears enough, though, to know that his name has been thrown around. Samardzija said he thinks that’s just other teams looking for leverage in trade discussions. He made his preference clear.

“I love being here,” he said.