Giants 2012 -- Baggarly digs in

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Giants 2012 -- Baggarly digs in

For my first blog post at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Im going to tell you about Derin McMains.If youve heard of him, congratulations. Hes a former minor league middle infielder in the Giants system who scrapped through an incredible amount of injuries before he retired in 2007. He only played 17 games at Triple-A. He never made the majors.During his playing career, McMains was a real-life version of Archie Graham: Baby faced, excitable, fast-talking, self-effacing, incredibly eager. Archie, you might remember, held out his thumb and stepped in Ray Kinsellas van on a dark Midwestern road in Field of Dreams. McMains probably didnt hitch his way from his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, to play ball at Arkansas State. But I bet you he wouldve. When youre around the game long enough and meet someone like McMains, you instantly know theyll breathe baseball all their lives.

Sure enough, a few months after injuries forced McMains to retire, he became a 27-year-old third base coach in the Giants organization. This year, hell make his managerial debut for the Giants rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League.Recently, I came across the Giants news release about their minor league coaching staff and saw McMains name. It conjured a spring training memory that Im sure he hasnt forgotten.It was 2006 and he was invited to big league camp a big deal for a fringe prospect who wasnt on the 40-man roster. It doesnt happen often, but club officials sometimes hand out one of these invites to a kid who impresses them, by his dedication in rehabbing an injury, or never-ending hustle. McMains qualified on both counts. He spent six days a week in Arizona all through the 115-degree summer, grunting his way back after surgeries to reconstruct his shoulder and repair a ruptured wrist tendon.Not everybody has the dedication to do that, said Stan Conte, the Giants trainer at the time. That's what makes him one of our favorites."Said Felipe Alou: "That kid is one tough cookie.In 2006, it was McMains good fortune that the inaugural World Baseball Classic was being held that spring. Four of the Giants starters were taking part. They were light on players, and so McMains got a locker amid the big leaguers.The spring of 2006 was an especially busy time in Scottsdale, but not for the WBC. Barry Bonds was marching on the all-time home run record and to say emotions were conflicted would be an understatement. It was the height of the steroids scandal. Baseballs most hallowed record was about to intersect with one of its most disgraceful periods. The media descended on Barry, and because he wasnt talking to anyone, his teammates took the brunt of it.This was the clubhouse into which unassuming young Derin McMains entered. And in one of the first exhibition games, he got an at-bat in the late innings. He got ahold of a fastball and sent it over the fence.A couple days later, he received another late-inning at-bat. This time, he faced Trevor Hoffman. The all-time saves leader. Future Hall of Famer.He took him deep. Three-run shot.It was the moment of Derin McMains baseball life, and of course, it was a good little notebook item for the beat writers myself among them. Our small contingent approached him in the clubhouse, a vision of dirt and eye black and grinning teeth.All of the sudden, the rest of the media moved in, a cocoon of cameras and microphones, and our small group all began to laugh at the absurdity of the scene. McMains was totally befuddled. He hadnt been to big league spring training before. He thought he just made the national news for hitting a Cactus League home run.The reality: the media cocoon didnt know who Derin McMains was. They had no idea he wouldnt make the team. They didnt understand the story. They just saw someone in a Giants uniform, and they needed one of those guys to talk about Barry Bonds.McMains wasnt offended when the first question was about Bonds. He homered off Hoffman. He just realized for the first time in his life that a 165-pound kid can stand on a cloud. He didnt care.It felt like 1,000 pounds lifted off my shoulders," he said. I just wanted to make sure I didn't trip in front of my parents and my wife. The rest was a blur. I couldn't even tell you whose hands I shook.And what about taking Hoffman deep?Shoot, I've faced him enough times on video games, McMains said with a laugh. I knew he had a good changeup.At the time, that scene energized me, and now I understand why. Its because Derin McMains offered a baseball story to cover amid the sludge of the Bonds years. Not even the drudgery of that time could knock the shine off it.It also represents what I love most about spring training. Sure, there are positional battles and health updates and lineup configurations to write about every day. Thats the important stuff. But spring is also the slowest time of the year in what already is a slow sport. Its a time to reflect and to be hopeful.The clubhouse is half-full of promising rookies. And everyone is in first place. Even the Cubs.So as I get ready to begin the two-day drive to cover my ninth spring training in Scottsdale, and my first for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Ill be sure to watch every time Brian Wilson throws off a mound. Ill ask Buster Posey how his ankle responded after his first game. Ill watch Freddy Sanchez take infield. I might even ask Tim Lincecum whether hes fallen off the diet wagon and made an In-N-Out run.But Ill also hope to encounter another Derin McMains.If you followed my reporting in the San Jose Mercury News and clicked refresh often on my Extra Baggs blog, youll know I tended to write rather voluminous posts after games. Here on Giants Talk, those might get broken up into multiple posts. But I plan on bringing my same voice to this space, and now I wont have to embed links to game stories and notebooks from the paper. Youll find everything right here.So I hope youll bookmark Giants Talk and check back often. In addition to my coverage as a full-time, traveling beat reporter, we have a hardworking team of young, energetic producers who will be providing new content about all aspects of Giants baseball. Plus youll see a lot more images, graphics and videos than I could manage with a Flip Cam and half a clue.This is going to be exciting. Hope you enjoy.
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Former top prospect Andy Marte dies from car accident in Dominican Republic

Former top prospect Andy Marte dies from car accident in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte died early Sunday from a traffic accident in his native Dominican Republic.

Metropolitan traffic authorities say Marte died when the Mercedes Benz he was driving hit a house along a road between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.

Marte, a 33-year-old infielder, played for several Major League teams, including Atlanta, Cleveland and Arizona, and was most recently playing in the Korean league.

Marte was playing in the Dominican winter league with the Aguilas Cibaenas team.

"We have awoken this Sunday with this sad news that we have lost a special being," club president Winston Llenas said in a statement about Marte.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Santiago Casilla says he never received offer from Giants

Santiago Casilla says he never received offer from Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the final month of his time with the Giants, it became clear that Santiago Casilla and the team would part ways. On Friday, Casilla confirmed that he never had the opportunity to return. 

On a conference call to announce a two-year deal with the Oakland A’s, Casilla said he “would have been happy to return to the Giants, but I never got an offer from them. I understood.”

Casilla said he had several opportunities to go elsewhere and close, mentioning the Milwaukee Brewers as one interested team. Casilla signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the A’s, who likely won’t need him to pitch in the ninth. The Brewers went on to bring in Neftali Feliz for one year and $5.35 million; he is expected to close. 

“I preferred to return to the Athletics because that’s where my career started,” Casilla said through interpreter Manolo Hernández Douen. “And I’m very excited.”

Casilla spent the first six years of his career with the A’s before crossing the bridge and becoming a key figure in three title runs. In seven seasons in San Francisco, he posted a 2.42 ERA and saved 123 games. Casilla had a 0.92 ERA in the postseason, but he was stripped of a prominent role in the weeks leading up to the 2016 playoffs. 

Casilla, 36, blew nine saves before being pulled from the ninth inning. He appeared just three times in the final 14 regular season games and just once in the playoffs. He did not take the mound in Game 4 of the NLDS, watching as five other relievers teamed up to give back a three-run lead. 

That moment stung Casilla, and it affected Bruce Bochy, too. The Giants struck quickly in December to bring Mark Melancon in as their new closer, but at the Winter Meetings, Bochy said he would welcome Casilla back in a setup role. 

“He’s a great team player (and) teammate,” Bochy said. “(I) certainly wouldn’t rule it out because he still has great stuff. And he had some hiccups there in that closing role, but I would take him anytime.”

As it turned out, that opportunity was never there for Casilla. The Giants didn’t make another move after the big deal with Melancon, and they’ll rely on younger arms to record most of the outs in the seventh and eighth. Casilla said he’s not bitter about the way it all ended. 

“I have left that in the past,” he said. “It’s a new year, it’s a new year. I have left this in the past.”