Giants add veteran infielder Aaron Hill

Giants add veteran infielder Aaron Hill

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On the first day of full-squad workouts, the Giants added one more player to the backup-infielder mix. 

Veteran Aaron Hill joined camp on a minor league deal Friday. Hill will make $2 million if he's on the big league roster, and his contract includes an opt-out if he does not make it. 

Hill, 34, is a 12-year veteran who had a mixed season in 2016. He hit .280 with eight homers and a .780 OPS for the Brewers but batted just .218 after a trade to the Red Sox. Hill has played second, short and third, and he'll add another versatile glove to a crowded group of non-roster invitees looking to win a bench job. He lives in the Phoenix area and said that was part of the attraction of spending his spring with the Giants. Joining a winning group helped, he said. 

Hill knows he joined a huge crowd of familiar names playing for possibly just one or two bench jobs. Jimmy Rollins, Gordon Beckham and Jae-gyun Hwang are also in camp as non-roster invitees, and Kelby Tomlinson and Conor Gillaspie are incumbents. 

"Everybody is here," Hill said, laughing. "Any team is going to be (crowded) at this point and it's going to be a competition. For me personally, it's just about what I can learn from these guys. A lot of these (free agents) in the past have waited for a guaranteed roster spot. That's definitely been harder the last two years for a lot of guys."

General manager Bobby Evans has taken advantage of the shift in the market to build depth. Eduardo Nuñez is the starter at third base but the Giants will open it up for the backup jobs. Evans said Gillaspie is a frontrunner because he's a left-handed bat, an incumbent, and he's coming off a huge postseason, but the staff is open-minded. 

"Ultimately we'll have to determine who the best fit is for the spots we have, but at some level each of the guys we have here has the potential to help us off the bench in different ways," Evans said. "They've got different ages and different strengths. (Hill) struggled in Boston but he did have a good first half. He's very experienced at second and third, and his experience is attractive."

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.