Giants

Giants' Brown has leading-man skills, flair for comedy

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Giants' Brown has leading-man skills, flair for comedy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Center fielder Gary Brown stole 53 bases last year for Single-A San Jose. Hes known to score from first base on a single. Some scouts say he was the fastest right-handed collegiate hitter theyve ever clocked down the line.But yes, he can be caught from behind.We were 10 strokes down on the 10th hole, said Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. And we came all the way back.On a recent night this spring, Brown, Crawford and their significant others went to dinner. They took separate cars and agreed to meet up at a minigolf course. When Crawford arrived in the parking lot, he encountered quite a sight.
Brown was in full golf-dork outfit. He sported an ill-fitting polo with a red and black stripe motif across the stomach seemingly borrowed from a 1980s Atari video game. Brown matched it with unfashionably pleated black pants that were two inches too short. A bright blue visor completed the look.Browns girlfriend, Lindsay, had on plaid pants and a vest fit for a ladies luncheon at the country club.They went to a thrift store and picked out the worst golf clothes they could find, Crawford said, rolling his eyes. Didnt surprise me. Shes as goofy as he is.As for the choke job on the back nine?Well, Brown said, I really shouldnt blame my partnerRookies are supposed to be seen and not heard, and Brown is being as dutiful as possible as he enters his second big league camp. But his is a spirit that cant be bottled up.On a recent morning, Brown hustled through the clubhouse and walked past another speedy center fielder, Willie Mays. Most players are too intimidated to say anything to the Say Hey Kid, too awed by his regal presence and his status as the games greatest living player.Hey there Willie! Brown chirped, not slowing his pace.Brown is on a fast track, all right. The 23-year-old from Cal State Fullerton blitzed Cal League pitching for a .336 average in his first full pro season. He set a San Jose franchise record with 188 hits. Hes an easy call as the organizations top prospect. GM Brian Sabean steadfastly refused to deal him to the New York Mets last July for Carlos Beltran, sending top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, instead.RELATED: Gary Brown 2011 San Jose Giants stats
Brown is expected to patrol center field at AT&T Park for years to come. He might even make his major league debut at some point this season.Until then, hell continue to work seriously on the field and be not so serious off it.Once the game starts, its always about the next pitch, he said. The game is serious and so I get serious. But its too long a season not to have fun. So I like to laugh out there. I like to joke around out there with my outfielders or in the clubhouse. Im not the kind of guy who just likes to go out to dinner. Ive always got to be doing something.Or plotting something. Like the time last season when Brown caught San Jose teammate Craig Westcott taking pictures of guys while they were sleeping on a long bus ride.He thought it was funny, Brown said. I didnt find it too funny. I was cranky.So the next time Westcott fell asleep, Brown used athletic tape to wrap the pitcher to his seat.Oh, I was slick about it, Brown said, laughing. He woke up and it was, Unnnnhhhh! Ohhh, man, howd you guys do that? His feet got stuck and tangled up in the tape. We got him good.Im always an accomplice in one way or another, whether its giving the ideas or helping to pull the pranks. I get them pulled on me, too. Im kind of surprised, actually, that nobodys tried to get me yet here.He paused.Better not put that part in there.It was no laughing matter in October, though, when Brown went to the Arizona Fall League and started to feel sick after 11 games. Doctors took blood tests and diagnosed him with mononucleosis, but a second test ruled it out. Next they tested Brown for Valley Fever, a debilitating and long-lasting condition that can be contracted by the inhalation of mold spores. He was anxious for the results. Those came back negative, too.It was the flu, Brown said. By the time everyone figured it out, I had already missed a week and lost more weight. So they felt it was best to send me home for the offseason.Brown started last season at 190 pounds and ended it at 170.So yes, his first full pro season was a physical test. Its always a mental one, too, and Brown felt good about the way he handled it especially when he started to slump in June.It may not start in your head, but it ends in your head, Brown said. Thats what I was most proud of, that I was able to stay calm and beat those demons, those nightmares about hitting, to constantly be worried about your swing and fidgeting around all the time. I was happy I was able to stay calm, stay focused and get out of it.His manager at San Jose, Andy Skeels, remembered it this way:He came out like gangbusters, then the league started adjusting to him. It took him awhile to find his bearings, but when he did that, he killed the league the last two months.What impressed me was ability to work on a daily basis to get better and really attack things he was trying to work on. His work ethic is good and hes focused when he works. Hes a SoCal kid, you know? He can fool you because hes so easy going. But his approach and attitude are great. When he works he applies himself.And he competes. A lot of guys have talent, but you wonder, Will he show up every day? And he certainly did. That to me weighs very favorably and heavily on whether hell have what it takes to succeed at the major league level.Brown has an unusual setup in the batters box. His hands are pinned close to his body, giving the appearance that he wont be able to cover the outer part of the plate.But its about where you are at the point of contact, Brown said. Youll see guys do a lot of different stuff but they usually end up very similar when theyre about to hit the ball. So thats what works for me. Its a comfort thing.Brown hopes to get more comfortable against higher-level pitching, whether he starts at Double-A Richmond or Triple-A Fresno. He is willing to do anything to get on base he was hit by pitches a whopping 23 times last year but as a leadoff man, he knows hell have to take more walks.Its just trusting my strike zone and staying within myself, which is hard thing to do, he said. Ive got to trust that the umpire sees the pitch the same way I do. Thats tough for a player. Ive been taught to swing and its going to be something Ive got to work on, adjusting to the zone and these pitchers and not let them take me away from my game.There are bound to be times when the game gets away from you, though. Especially if the game includes windmills and giant gingerbread houses -- or Crawfords wife, Jalynne, making a clutch hole-in-one on No.18.Yes, he can be caught from behind in minigolf, Crawford said. Thats the only way, I think.

Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up

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Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants do not like to set timetables for their top prospects, instead encouraging them to force their way into promotions. Christian Arroyo did that in April and Ryder Jones followed over the summer, and both should be in position to compete for the third base job next spring. 

One of those two could ultimately fill a gaping hole in the lineup. When it comes to left field, one of their current River Cats teammates hopes to do the same. Chris Shaw is the organization’s top prospects on some lists, and on all lists, he is their top power-hitting prospect. 

The 23-year-old has 16 homers and 23 doubles across two levels this season, good for a .503 slugging percentage that’s right in line with his mark (.502) over 269 professional games. Shaw is on the fast track, and he became more intriguing when the Giants — with Brandon Belt signed long-term at first — moved him to left full-time this season. 

Shaw is doing what was asked of him. Earlier this week, I asked him if that has him thinking about a promotion. 

“It’s my motivation obviously to get to the big leagues, that’s why you work so hard in the offseason is to put yourself in that position to be knocking on the door,” he said. “But now, in season, you kind of put all your work in up to this point and everything else is a result of all your hard work up to this point. I don’t necessarily put any extra pressure on myself because right now I just go out and play and whatever happens, happens.

“I can’t dictate what falls and what doesn’t fall and what my batting average is going to look like a month from now, and ultimately what the front office wants to do. I’m fully aware they don’t have to add me this year. I trust in the front office in promoting me when they feel I’m ready developmentally.”

The big problem for Shaw at the moment is that the Giants do not need to add him to the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season. They are big on inventory, and not keen on DFA’ing another player this year and taking up a winter roster spot over the offseason for a prospect who currently is not in the opening day plans for 2018. That’s the paperwork side of this. On the field, Shaw is blocked by Gorkys Hernandez (who is now playing everyday), Jarrett Parker (who will finish his rehab assignment soon), Mac Williamson, and others. It remains a bit of a long shot that Shaw gets a September cameo, and when I checked in with team officials a week ago, the word was that it’s not currently in the plans. 

Having said that, the last-place Giants could certainly use some excitement and a glimpse of power. Shaw has some time left to change the front office's September plans. In the meantime, he’s the latest guest on our Giants Insider podcast. The quote above is from the podcast, which you can stream here or download on iTunes here. We talked promotions, his move to left, his power, his post-deadline tweet last year, and more. 

Former college football star shows athleticism on pivotal play in Giants win

Former college football star shows athleticism on pivotal play in Giants win

SAN FRANCISCO — Wednesday was a throwback for the Giants, the type of 2-1 win they’ve become so accustomed to at AT&T Park in past years. Solid starting pitching, a good bullpen, an opportunistic lineup, and sparkling defense. That’s the recipe, only on Wednesday there was a twist. 

The highlights usually come from the Brandons or Gold Glovers Joe Panik and Buster Posey. Wednesday’s defensive star was the pitcher. Jeff Samardzija’s barehanded grab-and-throw in the second inning killed a Pirates rally and kept Samardzija in line for a deep start. He was rewarded with his fifth win. 

The big play came with the bases loaded and one out in the second. Opposing pitcher Trevor Williams bounced one toward third and Samardzija sprung off the mound, cutting in front of Conor Gillaspie. He caught the ball with his bare hand as it came down from the first hop and made a perfect off-balance strike to Buster Posey for the force at the plate. 

“Your back is up against the wall there,” Samardzija said. “That’s a lack of other options and I had to make a play. It was the only option I had. I didn’t think I had a chance at first.”

Even with the pitcher running, Samardzija probably didn’t. After getting the tough out at the plate, he induced an inning-ending pop-up. Samardzija would get through the seventh and a mistake in left opened the door for the Giants' game-winning run. Afterward, Bruce Bochy pointed to that second-inning play as a unique turning point. 

“It looked like he was receiving a football, didn’t it?” Bochy said, smiling. “He’s so quick off the mound. He’s a good athlete. For a pitcher, that’s one of the better plays I’ve seen. You have to be a good athlete to jump off the mound that quick and have the instincts to know where to go with the ball.”

Samardzija, a former college football star, said that athleticism has hurt him at times. He explained that it can lead to some mechanical laziness on the mound, as better athletes tend to rely on that to get the ball to the plate. He did some work in a recent bullpen session to try and hone in those mechanics, and it showed against a charging Pirates club. 

If there were any scouts waiting for one last glimpse of Good Samardzija, this was it. But the right-hander said he doesn’t expect to be traded by Monday’s deadline.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I don’t read the news.”

He hears enough, though, to know that his name has been thrown around. Samardzija said he thinks that’s just other teams looking for leverage in trade discussions. He made his preference clear.

“I love being here,” he said.