As the Giants roll on, talk has begun to center around San Francisco's playoff pitching rotation. Could a current starter be left off the playoff roster? Chat with Rael Enteen, today at 4 p.m.!
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For the first time, Gorkys Hernandez did not go back to Venezuela in the offseason to play winter ball. He's hoping that leads to another first.
Hernandez has never made an opening day roster, but after breaking into the Giants’ outfield rotation last season, he entered the winter in a decent shot. To bolster his case, Hernandez stayed in Scottsdale over the offseason to work out at the minor league facility. The added strength didn’t lead to any notable results over the first month of games, but Hernandez broke through Monday with three doubles in the final home game of the spring.
“Sometimes (slumps) happen and sometimes you’re late (on pitches) and you don’t feel comfortable at the plate, but now I feel different. I feel better,” Hernandez said. “I’m recognizing pitches and trying to keep it simple and not do too much.”
The coaching staff has asked several players to head down to the minor league facility late in the spring and get additional at-bats, and Hernandez took Bruce Bochy up on the offer. He twice played in minor league games, and on Sunday he rotated into different games so he could get six at-bats. Hernandez said that helped him find his timing.
“Without question, it helped his timing,” Bochy said. “He was off. He was getting out front, his timing was off. I think the at-bats he got paid off.”
The three-double day was perfectly timed. Hernandez entered with a .159 average and Justin Ruggiano, the other option as a backup center fielder, had started to put together better at-bats. Monday’s game was a reminder in more ways than one. Hernandez showed off the type of speed the Giants won’t have on the bench if Kelby Tomlinson is optioned, and he played all three outfield positions, switching from left to right to center.
The role in play is one Gregor Blanco had for five seasons. The Giants would like Hernandez to be their defensive whiz at every outfield spot, and they’re light on true center fielders. If the Giants put Hernandez on the roster this week as expected, he’ll be ready to try and be the new Blanco.
“If they give me that role, I’ll try to do the same thing,” he said. “Or better.”
THE ACE: Madison Bumgarner is going to Madison Bumgarner. He threw seven sharp innings Monday, lowering his spring ERA to 2.52. In 25 innings, he has allowed just 17 hits and struck out 23. Bochy appreciated Bumgarner’s intensity Monday against a Reds team that was filled with minor leaguers.
“That’s what makes him so good,” Bochy said. “He takes every outing seriously. His preparation doesn’t waver.”
Bumgarner even added a single, and he liked that it came on a breaking ball. He’s worked on getting better at hitting those pitches, which he’s seeing more and more.
“I feel I’m as ready as I can be to start the season,” Bumgarner said.
His next pitch will be thrown Sunday at Chase Field.
GAME RECAP: The Giants blasted poor Reds starter Cody Reed, hanging 10 runs on his line in 3 2/3 innings. Denard Span had two hits and Aaron Hill had three, driving in three runs. Bochy went with an interesting lineup, leading off with Span, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. He said he likes Crawford in that five-spot. He also plans to hit the pitcher eighth on occasion.
TRAINER’S ROOM: Joe Panik was drilled by a fastball in the lower back and he came out of the game as a precaution. Panik has a nasty welt, so he’s in for a night of ice, but there are no concerns.
QUOTABLE: Posey turned 30 today. As he walked out to stretch, Bumgarner was asked if he was giving Posey a hard time. “No, he’s been 30 for the last seven years,” Bumgarner said.
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.”
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.