Free agency didn't play out the way Lopez envisioned

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Free agency didn't play out the way Lopez envisioned

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Javier Lopez waited a long time for free agency. He was 33 years old. Hed missed qualifying the previouswinter by just five days of service time. He knew left-handed specialists always were prized by deep-pocket teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox.When you buy a Rolls-Royce, you dont skimp on the options. So it caught everyone off-guard when the Giants signed Lopezto a two-year, 8.5 million contract one day after the World Series ended. I know it surprised me, said fellow left-hander JeremyAffeldt.

Affeldt prepared for his 5 million option to be turned down. Theywerent going to spend close to 10 million on two left-handed relievers, were they? But a few hours later, Affeldt received word. He was coming back,too. Its the ideal scenario, Lopez said. We were bothexpecting itd be one or the other. Its a lot of money to commit to two guysand we understand that. We were keeping in contact and seeing how thenegotiations were going. Once the Giants stepped up with a multiyear deal in linewith his market value, Lopez lost all interest in playing the market. He hasbeen a part of six major league organizations. He didnt want to join a seventhjust for the thrill of chasing a few more dollars behind Door No. 2 assuming they were out there. You know what it was? The high of 2010 lingered for me,said Lopez, who gave up one hit and one walk in nine appearances that magicalpostseason. This was a special group of guys and I knew so many of them wereunder team control. Playing here is something I really enjoy. Its really toughto keep a bullpen together and the Giants have done a great job with that. Tobe able to show up and fall into the same rhythm was a major factor in wantingto come back. Giants GM Brian Sabean said the impetus to throw cash atboth lefty relievers was simple: The bullpen is a deciding factor with all the tight,one-run games within the NL West. Closer Brian Wilsons uncertain elbowplayed into the decision, too. Willy at the end of the year crashed and burned, Sabeansaid earlier this month. We went conservative with his rehab, and the bullpenwas one of our strengths the last three years. Not knowing if Willy would be atfull strength at the beginning of the year, how could we weaken that bullpen? Affeldt and Lopez pitched in a lot of high leveragesituations. We didnt want to break that up, and we didnt think (Dan) Runzlerwas ready to take over for one of them. As its been pointed out, the Giants could have let bothrelievers walk and used that money to sign Carlos Beltran. But they had noassurance that Beltran would want to return. At minimum, Sabean knew the All-Staroutfielder would want to wait until deeper into the offseason to flesh out allmarket possibilities. Thats a timeline that didnt fit the Giants, who couldnteternally hold up trades for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. And Lopez was ready to do business. Obviously, you want to set yourself up for the best dealout there, Lopez said. But a lot of it is being comfortable, too, and Ive beenthe new kid in school. Its the way of life as a reliever, and its not alwaysthe best feeling. It doesnt hurt to play in front of a packed house, either. Youll often hear players say they work their whole careersto get to free agency. But there are no guaranteed roses at your feet. Take Cody Ross, the 2010 NLCS MVP. After a stressful winterof negotiations, he ended up signing a one-year, 3 million deal with theBoston Red Sox. Hell go to Fenway Park, hoping to put up numbers and puthimself in a better position for next winter. Ross could have returned to the Giants, where he'll always be cheered. The club had reached out to him on a one-year dealearlier in the offseason, but he wanted three. Thats a mistake a lot of players make, said Bochy, answering a general question about free agency without mentioning Ross. They want to play itout. I dont want to mention names, but it ends up being detrimental to theirsituations. Its all about being where you want to be. Javy wanted tobe here, Brian was very fair and we got it done. I think thats the way itshould be more often. The Giants bullpen was second in the majors with a 3.04 ERA, and it wasn't just a pretty number. Lopezand Sergio Romo allowed Bochy to get favorable matchups in the late innings. Affeldtshard stuff played against either lefties or right-handers, making him aversatile piece. Theyre vital to our success, Bochy said. Javycomplements Sergio so well and Jeremy I can use in the seventh, eighth orninth. Having two left-handers, you arent worried about when to fire your onebullet. They have great stuff and theyve had tremendous success.Whether managing a bullpen or entering free agency, the key is knowing when to pull the trigger.

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

BELT RIVER FIELDS, Ariz. — Earlier this spring, Brandon Belt moved his schedule around so he could get additional at-bats. That led to some random trips across the desert, but there was never any doubt Belt would be in Friday’s road lineup.

Belt demolishes the ball at Salt River Fields, spring home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks. After coming out of Friday’s win, he shook his head in mock disgust when talking about the day’s stats.

“One for four, you’ve gotta be kidding me,” Belt said. “That’s terrible.”

That one happened to be a homer, a three-run shot off Jon Gray, the likely opening day starter for the Rockies. Belt thought he crushed the ball but it ended up pretty high, so it simply dropped onto the berm in right. 

“It squeaked out,” Belt said. “Good mojo, I guess.”

The mojo kept his remarkable run going at Salt River. His updated career stats here: 22 for 35, with eight homers, four doubles, one triple and 18 RBI. Belt said he’s not quite sure why he turns into the flames emoji every time he steps onto this field. 

“I don’t know what it is, but I like hitting here,” he said. “Maybe it’s the batter’s eye?”

Salt River has a dark green batter’s eye with no distractions on either side, and the Giants certainly saw the ball well Friday. They had seven straight hits in the third before Gray was pulled with a sore foot. Belt hit second, and manager Bruce Bochy said that wasn’t simply because Joe Panik had the day off. Bochy will look at several different lineup permutations over the next week, and a Span/Belt/Pence/Posey/Crawford one-through-five is one option. 

“I like (that spot) a lot,” Belt said. “I feel good getting started and knowing I’ll get to bat in the first inning. It’s a good spot. I don’t think my approach changes that much: Get a pitch to hit and try to hit it hard.”

GAME RECAP: Jeff Samardzija was sharp in four innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three. He threw about 45 pitches on the field and then went down to the bullpen for 45 more. Samardzija certainly benefited from having Buster Posey back in the lineup. He said Posey noticed during warmups that Samardzija’s delivery was a little flat and his arm was dragging too low. 

“That doesn’t happen often,” Samardzija said of having a guy like Posey back there. “You have a lot of catchers who are afraid to say something.”

The rest of this one was a laugher until the ninth, when the Rockies rallied and brought the winning run to the plate. It hasn’t been a great spring for the bullpen.

STOCK WATCH: Chris Marrero hit a deep homer, his seventh of the spring. He also made a nice pick at first, where he looks much more comfortable. At this point, it appears it’s either Marrero or Kelby Tomlinson for that final bench spot.

TRAINER’S ROOM: The news on Will Smith was as expected. He will have Tommy John surgery next week. 

There is good news for Trevor Brown: The catcher, who has a sore ankle, took some swings and he’s feeling much better. Brown did not, as first reported, get hurt hiking on an off day. It happened during a game. Brown won’t be ready in time to return to Cactus League action, so he’ll likely stay here during the Bay Bridge Series and then travel home with Triple-A Sacramento. 

ICYMI: Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and Mark Melancon are back in camp. Here’s a story on Posey’s WBC experience, with the catcher saying he’d like to play again in four years. Here’s Crawford on his month, which ended with him giving an NL West rival a slump-busting bat. 

ROSTER UPDATE: The Giants released David Hernandez, at his request. They have started to tell others that they’re not making the opening day roster, so there should be a series of minor transactions this weekend. (You know where to go.)

QUOTABLE: "I swung at a heater and a slider went right into my bat. I was happy to be able to track (pitches), and happy that the next time the bunt didn't go off my beautiful face." -- Samardzija, when asked about his double off the wall. 

Plenty of high-profile MLB players wearing new uniforms in 2017

Plenty of high-profile MLB players wearing new uniforms in 2017

Chris Sale traded socks (AP) -- or Sox - from white to red. Edwin Encarnacion took his big bat to Cleveland. Aroldis Chapman returned to the Bronx.

Plenty of All-Stars, Cy Young winners and MVPs are wearing new uniforms this season.

The biggest move occurred when the Boston Red Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox. The five-time All-Star left-hander left a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2008 for one that's won three World Series titles since 2004.

Encarnacion left Toronto for the team that beat the Blue Jays in last year's ALCS. He averaged 39 homers and 110 RBIs over the past five seasons in Toronto and gives the Indians a major boost.

Chapman is back in New York after spending the first half of last season with the Yankees before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs and helped them win the World Series.

Here's a 25-man roster of familiar faces in different places this season:

STARTING LINEUP

1. CF: Dexter Fowler. Jumped from World Series champion Cubs to rival St. Louis. Gives the Cardinals stability atop the batting order.

2. RF: Adam Eaton. Traded from White Sox to defending NL East champion Nationals. He'll play center field in Washington between Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.

3. DH: Kendrys Morales. Joined Blue Jays to help fill Encarnacion's void after spending past two seasons with the Royals.

4. 1B: Encarnacion.

5. C: Brian McCann. Traded from Yankees to Astros, giving Houston's stacked lineup another slugger.

6. SS: Ian Desmond. Returns to NL to join Rockies after one season playing outfield in Texas. He'll play first base for Colorado, but he's back at shortstop on this squad.

7. LF: Matt Holliday. Signed with Yankees following 7 1/2 seasons in St. Louis. The seven-time All-Star will likely DH in New York though he'll see some action in left field.

8. 2B: Brandon Phillips. Waived no-trade clause to go to rebuilding Braves after 11 seasons with Reds.

9. 3B: Howie Kendrick. Comes east after spending his entire career in Los Angeles - nine seasons with Angels and last two with Dodgers. Kendrick is playing left field for Philadelphia but he starts at third to fill this lineup.

BENCH

1B: Chris Carter. Landed with Yankees after swatting 41 homers for Milwaukee last season to tie for NL lead.

INF: Jimmy Rollins. Former NL MVP is trying to land a roster spot with San Francisco as a utility man after playing all but one-third inning of his 17-year career at shortstop. Has bounced from Dodgers to White Sox to Giants after 15 seasons in Philadelphia.

OF: Michael Saunders. All-Star for Blue Jays last season and will start in right field for Phillies.

OF: Carlos Beltran. Returns to Houston after spending half the 2004 season with the Astros and hitting eight postseason homers for them.

C: Matt Wieters. Left Baltimore for Washington to replace All-Star Wilson Ramos, who joined Tampa Bay and is still recovering from knee surgery.

STARTING ROTATION

Sale.

Edinson Volquez. Goes from Royals to Marlins.

Jaime Garcia. Lefty joins Braves after eight seasons in St. Louis.

Jered Weaver. Stays in California, switching to Padres after 11 seasons with Angels.

R.A. Dickey. Knuckleballer returns to NL East after four seasons in Toronto. One of two 40-plus former Cy Young award winners signed by Braves.

LONG RELIEVER

Bartolo Colon. Other veteran Braves signed to bolster rotation. He'll be long man on this staff.

BULLPEN

Chapman.

Mark Melancon. Signed with Giants after finishing last season in Washington.

Sergio Romo. Went from San Francisco to rival Dodgers.

Wade Davis. Traded from Royals to Cubs to replace Chapman.

Santiago Casilla. Stays in Bay Area, going from Giants to A's.