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.

Wrigley's phones keep Giants from challenging one of three homers given up in loss

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Wrigley's phones keep Giants from challenging one of three homers given up in loss

CHICAGO — The Cubs have a brand new clubhouse that visitors often compare to a spaceship, and this season their front office moved into a sparkling building alongside Wrigley Field that has a Starbucks on the ground floor and arcade games sprinkled among the offices.

There are still plenty of old-school quirks at this 103-year-old park, however, and two of them teamed up to get to Jeff Samardzija and the Giants in the first inning Thursday. 

Kris Bryant lofted a ball to left and Mac Williamson settled under the basket hanging over the track. Williamson thought he had a bead on the ball, but a Cubs fan caught it as he reached over the basket, installed in this yard specifically to keep fans from unleashing their inner Jeffrey Maier. Williamson immediately pointed up, trying to signal to Giants coaches that they should take a second look at the homer. Bruce Bochy never had a chance.

“In this game you get a safety valve and one is replay,” Bochy said. “The phone wasn’t working and by the time Shawon (Dunston) ran down they were throwing the pitch to (Anthony) Rizzo.”

Bochy kept looking at the replay phone but it didn’t ring. Once the first pitch to Rizzo was thrown, the Giants were out of time to challenge. 

“I definitely would have challenged it,” Bochy said. “I didn't see any reason to at first. That’s something we definitely would have done differently … It’s ironic that as soon as it happened it stopped ringing.”

Bochy met with home plate umpire Laz Diaz after the inning and informed him that if the replay phone continued to give the Giants issues, he might have to stop the game and get it fixed. The Giants continued to check the phones every inning to make sure they worked, although there were no challenges from their side. 

It’s an interesting wrinkle to the loss, especially given the history of shenanigans here. But there are two postscripts. 

The first is that the ball was a home run. Unless you’re built like Kevin Durant, it’s just about impossible to pull a ball over the basket, which Williamson noted as he stood underneath the overhang. Still shots were deceiving because the fan tugged his glove down after making the catch, but the Giants checked with the league during the game and they were told that the home run call would have stood.

"If it would have gone in, it would have been like the (Javier) Baez homer in the playoffs where it just nicked it," Williamson said. 

The second postscript is that this goofy isolated play isn’t the reason the Giants lost. Jeff Samardzija gave up two more homers, Denard Span halted a rally with a mistake at first base, and the Giants managed just one run against the Cubs’ No. 5 starter and lefty reliever Mike Montgomery. They lost 5-1. 

“You’d like to think we could score in this ballpark, three to four runs,” Bochy said. “We couldn’t do it. We shot ourselves in the foot there with runners on first and third.”

With the corners packed and one down in the fifth, Span was picked off first by Eddie Butler. The Giants would never again threaten. 

“You never know what’s going to happen in an inning like that, but now he’s got two outs,” Bochy said. 

The Giants looked poised to tie the game or take the lead in that inning. Instead, the Cubs added another run on Ben Zobrist’s homer in the sixth. Two more scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch in the eighth. Samardzija took the loss despite striking out eight in three innings. He gave up three solo shots, two that landed in the basket. 

“Yeah, man, that’s a tough way to take it,” he said. “You give up one to Zobrist that he hit well and then two in the Easter basket. It’s unfortunate.”

The Cubs might have caught a break or two, but the Giants had no room to argue or complain. There’s something else about those baskets: They’re out there for both teams, and only one of the lineups was hitting it far enough to bring them into play.

Instant Replay: Samardzija, Giants unable to salvage split vs Cubs

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AP

Instant Replay: Samardzija, Giants unable to salvage split vs Cubs

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — The Giants won the first two games away from home, but they’ll fly back to San Francisco with another losing trip. 

The Cubs hit three solo shots off Jeff Samardzija and that was all they needed. A 5-1 loss at Wrigley Field was the fourth in five games for the Giants, who still have not finished with a winning mark on a road trip this season. 

Here are five things you need to know from Wrigley Field, where the press box windows were closed on a sunny day because nobody here celebrates #GritWeek … 

—- A walk of rookie Ian Happ was Samardzija’s first since April 28. He faced 154 batters between walks. Samardzija was trying to become the first Giant to go five straight starts without a walk since the great Bill Laskey did it in 1984.

—- Samardzija smacked a one-out double in the fifth for his first extra-base hit of the year, and a wild pitch nudged him to third. A huge blunder helped get the Cubs out of the inning. After walking, Denard Span was picked off of first. Joe Panik grounded out. 

—- With eight strikeouts, Samardzija got to 79 for the season, passing Zack Greinke (78) for the NL lead. He’s nowhere near the MLB lead; Chris Sale (101) is on a different planet. 

—- Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have a good-natured competition with just about everything on the field, and last year there was occasional ribbing in their stolen base race. Posey stole six bases in seven attempts; Crawford edged him, going seven-for-seven. They’re neck and neck (at one) this season after a surprise double-steal in the fourth. Posey took third and Crawford took second, but neither scored.

—- This spring, Dave Righetti talked about his desire to have relievers who could pitch two or three innings to help close a game out. The Giants haven’t found that guy. Steven Okert has gone deep at times, but also has dealt with inconsistency. The Cubs used the move after Eddie Butler departed, with lefty Mike Montgomery throwing three shutout innings to get the lead to the ninth. Must be nice.