EXTRA BAGGS: Surprising name in roster conversation


EXTRA BAGGS: Surprising name in roster conversation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. The Giants are considering somesurprising roster candidates this late in the spring.

Raise your hands if, a month ago, you considered GregorBlanco a stone-cold lock to make the team. Keep them raised if you thoughtHector Sanchez looked like an obvious although far from guaranteed choiceto break with the club.

Still in the air? OK, smart guy, what say you about Joaquin Arias?

No, Arias hasnt made the club yet. Far from it. But youdbetter believe the coaching staff and front office are kicking around manydifferent roster scenarios, and some of them involve Arias as the backup infielder.

This is a pitching-and-defense team, remember. And nobody incamp, other than Brandon Crawford, has played as impressively in the infield asArias. The 27-year-old journeyman came up in Texas system and was onceconsidered their shortstop of the future before the Rangers landed Elvis Andrusin the Mark Teixeira trade. He was traded to the Mets for Jeff Francoeur in2010 and spent last year at Triple-A Omaha after the Kansas City Royals pickedhim up off waivers.

Arias is a .281 career hitter in the minors and isntconsidered a premium offensive player, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy likes theat-bats hes seen this spring. Most importantly, Arias could provide an extraglove at three positions.

Hes got that baseball savvy that you like, Bochy said. Hesdone a nice job wherever weve put him. And he can handle the bat a little bit.Sure, you look at the numbers (.212 average this spring), but the at-bats havebeen good.

Arias is getting a long enough look, thats for sure. He playedthe entirety of Saturdays home split-squad against the Colorado Rockies (a7-6 loss) and showed impressive range and throwing ability. He has logged 20 innings at third base, 50 at short, 19 at second -- more time on the infield than than anyone in camp.

Hes still more of a longshot to make the roster. But hisspring, and the performance of Emmanuel Burriss, has the Giants confidentenough to put out trade feelers for Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot.

As I wrote earlier today and mentioned on Twitter, I wastold today that if the Giants had to choose an opening-day second baseman rightnow, itd be Burriss.

Heres what Bochy had to say about him during our postgame session: Believe me, wereexcited with where hes at. Hes worked hard on (the hitting) part of his game.Hes keeping the ball out of the air. Hes thinking line drive (and) down. Lastnight he faced some good arms, threw out some good at-bats.

As for Freddy Sanchez? He still isnt making throws ininfield practice. So much for getting in a minor league game over the weekend.

I cant tell you when Freddys going to be ready, Bochysaid. We dont know.

It was a split squad today, so until I can track down thescientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep, Ill always be limited to picking one gameor the other to watch.

Actually, I could have used three versions of myself becauseBrian Wilson threw an inning in minor league camp. He threw 19 pitches in oneinning and allowed two hits and a walk. He had bases loaded and no outs,apparently.

Pitching coach Dave Righetti said that Wilson escaped thesituation. Great. Hes in midseason form, I thought.

Righetti did not mention that Wilson was charged with tworuns, both earned.

But the session was fine and Wilson felt good. Righettisreport was positive. Wilson remains on track to pitch Monday against the KansasCity Royals, and thats really all that matters.

Bochy confirmed that Ryan Vogelsong would pitch Mondayagainst the Royals as well, and not in minor league camp. Hes expected tothrow 40 pitches.

I chatted with Dan Runzler today. He said he has playedcatch for the past three days and he isnt feeling anything in histroublesome strained lat muscle in the back of his shoulder.

Runzler went back to San Francisco a few weeks ago to havesome blood removed, spun, enriched with platelets and put back into his injuredarea. Real Dr. Frankenstein stuff. (Me, Id just use a cocktail shaker. But then poor Dan might have an olive lodged in his shoulder.)

Runzler said the treatment helped, and doctors theorized that hejust had some scar tissue break loose when he felt his shoulder grab earlierthis spring. Hell get on a mound within a week and hopes to begin the seasonhealthy for Triple-A Fresno.

Melky Cabrera continues to look good. He seemed to get upslowly after sliding into second base on a double play. But a few inningslater, he roped one off the wall, really booked it around first base and madean aggressive, headfirst slide into second base with a double.

I dont know if hell amass 200 hits and 100 runs again. Butfor you rotisserie players out there, I have a hard time believing he'll fall off a statisticalcliff this season. This guy is focused and ready to do some damage.

Aubrey Huff might have filled his winter days and winternights with Pilates, but he didnt look so swift while failing to beat out thataforementioned double-play grounder.

Give him credit, though, for running hard for 270 feet toscore on Buster Poseys double earlier in the game. Huff might have just burnedall his fuel early.

In case you were wondering the Giants are not interestedin signing Pudge Rodriguez, so Im told.

Had you forgotten about Yusmeiro Petit? Yep, me too.

He was once a fairly well regarded prospect for the Marlinsand he started 17 games for Arizona as recently as 2009 before heading off to pitch in Mexico. I hadforgotten this, but the Giants signed him to a minor league contract. Hedoesnt have a locker on the big league side, but he came in and threw three scoreless innings against the Rockies. Bochy wasimpressed.

Travis Blackley started for the home split squad against theRockies and gave up a long homer to Troy Tulowitzki, but otherwise had a fairlyclean two innings. Blackley is from the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia,which means his life is literally the Endless Summer. When baseball season isover, he goes home to Southern Hemisphere sunshine.

Blackley hadnt spent much time at home in recent years,though. Hed been playing winter ball wherever he could find a roster spot. Butthis past year, he got to play in the rather new Australian winter league. Hespent 4 months back home and absolutely loved it. Having been to Victoria and environs. I know what he means. Beautifulpart of the world.

Blackley is a nice fellow. When he was with the Giants a few years ago, I told him I was an All Blacks fan. He responded with, "Oh naoh! That's loike being a Chicago Cubs fan!"

Well, the All Blacks, pride of New Zealand, won the Rugby World Cup last year. So I guess the Cubs can win the World Series after all.

Matt Cain started for the Giants road squad against theReds at Goodyear (a 6-4 victory) and his linescore was solid. He threw fiveshutout innings, allowed four hits, strick out five and did not walk a batter.He also had an RBI single.

Gregor Blanco hit a two-run home run, and now I think he's just showing off. Power isn't usually part of his game.

Also notable: Nate Schierholtz had two hits and was caughtstealing. Perhaps hes stepping on the gas now that hes been challenged to winthe right field job.

Youve got to like infield prospect Joe Panik. The other day, he played anafternoon game in minor league camp and then got called up to the Cactus Leagueexhibition that night. The Giants were short on infielders with Ryan Theriot(ankle), Brandon Crawford (sick, dizzy spell) and Emmanuel Burriss (hamstring)all out for the day.

The next day, I saw Panik in the on-deck circle in minorleague camp. And I joked if he was ready for another day-night doubleheader.

Oh, always, he said.

Sure enough, Panik was needed to fill out the squad againthat night.

He always seems to give you a good at-bat, and he has agreat attitude. Youre going to hear more from this kid in the future. Andyoull be able to see him locally at Single-A San Jose this season at leastto start the year.

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge


Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore knew there was something different about his final home start at AT&T Park this season, and not just the fact that he received a loud ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. Moore noted later that the outing was the first shutout he has been a part of this year. In fact, it was the first time in 30 starts that he walked off the mound without having allowed a run. 

“I guess it’s better late than never,” he said. 

The Giants are hoping it’s actually a preview of things to come. They counted on Moore to be a big part of their 2017 push, but instead, he likely will finish with the worst ERA of any full-time starter in the National League. Still, general manager Bobby Evans has informed Moore that his 2018 option will be picked up, something that Moore appreciated given the time of year. 

“I always pictured myself here,” he said. 

Whether coincidence or some kind of “weight off the shoulders” situation, Moore’s first start since the public revealing of the decision was his most encouraging of the year. Facing a good lineup, and a team that needed a win desperately, he pitched six shutout innings. The Giants beat the Rockies 4-0. 

Moore was already showing signs of life, with a 3.76 ERA over his seven previous appearances. Bruce Bochy viewed this as another step forward. 

“It’s been getting better and better with each start,” he said. “What he did really well today was on the arm side. He had good balance to both sides of the plate.”

Moore peppered the outside corner with fastballs, and he credited catcher Nick Hundley with stealing a few strikes. The plan allowed Moore to put hitters away in big spots, one of three points of emphasis he brought into the second half. The other two: limiting lefties and getting ahead of hitters.

That’s Moore’s roadmap back to being the player the Giants acquired. For the team as a whole, the roadmap back to relevance is similar to Wednesday’s plan. This is not a home-run hitting lineup, but the Giants are 47-21 when scoring four runs, and Wednesday was a reminder of the different paths to that magical number. 

Brandon Crawford had a solo homer, but the first two runs came on sacrifice flies and the fourth on a walk-wild pitch-single combination. Bochy said he liked “the brand of ball” his team played.

“They executed so well today,” he said. “It’s just good baseball, and that’s what I felt good about.”

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of weeks ago, a Giants official expressed amazement about how little was known about the desires of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani.

“Teams know just about as much as you guys (in the media),” he said. 

The Giants are hoping that changes this week. General manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley have traveled to Japan to take a look at the 23-year-old, who reportedly will come over to play in Major League Baseball next season. 

“There’s going to be a lot of attention on him and it’s part of the scouting process every club goes through,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s doing our due diligence, as you say.”

Otani is a rare prospect, a potential ace on the mound and lineup-altering bat in the outfield. He has 47 homers in just over 1,000 professional at-bats, and this season he’s batting .341. As a hard-throwing pitcher with a wipeout breaking ball, Otani has a 2.57 career ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He had a 1.86 ERA last season with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. 

Because he’s said to be coming over at such a young age, Otani will sacrifice the chance to sign a massive contract. The CBA limits him to collecting money from a team’s international bonus pool, and the Giants are limited to $300,000. Still, some other big-market teams are in the same boat, and despite their lack of pool money and poor season, the Giants surely believe they have plenty to offer. 

It’s not known what Otani is looking for, but perhaps he wants to play in a big city to make up some of his lost earnings? Perhaps he wants to play on the West Coast, closer to his home country, or in a region with a big Japanese population? Perhaps he’s just a big Buster Posey fan? The Giants intend to find out, and to be in the bidding. 

It’s possible that Otani has seen the way Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter, but Bochy said he can’t imagine using a true two-way player. 

“I don’t think it would work,” he said. “You’re talking more of something that might work in the American League. That’s a lot of throwing and wear-and-tear.”