Giants grooming Sandoval at third, not first

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Giants grooming Sandoval at third, not first

DENVER Pablo Sandoval continued to make progress in hisbid to return from a strained hamstring when eligible on Thursday. He ransprints, took batting practice and fielded ground balls.

Notably, those grounders came at third base, not first base.

Mindful of the fact that Sandoval injured himself while stretchingfor a throw at first base, the Giants are prepping their All-Star switch-hitterwith a conservative mindset.

Im not going to rule out first base, Giants manager BruceBochy said. But obviously with what happened, well be a little more hesitantto put him back there.

The Giants also have abandoned the idea of putting HectorSanchez at first base. All of that bodes well for Brandon Belt and Brett Pill,although Buster Posey will continue to get starts at the position on selecteddays when Sanchez is behind the plate. In fact, full days off for Posey willbecome rarer as the Giants head down the stretch and the games become all themore significant.

As it is, its not easy to take Poseys bat out of thelineup. Hes hitting .463 with five home runs and 22 RBIs since the All-Starbreak.

Returning to Sandoval: Hes going to graduate to runningcurves on Sunday and then run bases after that. The Giants remain optimistic hecan return for Thursdays road-trip finale in St. Louis or when they begintheir next homestand on Friday. But they acknowledge they wont have a trueread on his hamstring until Sandoval really begins to push it on the bases.

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With Sandoval on the DL and Emmanuel Burriss off the roster,who, pray tell, is the Giants emergency catcher?

He probably doesnt know it yet, but Arias, Bochy said.

That would be backup infielder Joaquin Arias. Has he evercaught before?

I dont think so, Bochy said.

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It remains to be seen if Bochy will leave Angel Pagan in theleadoff spot against right-handed pitchers. But Bochy agreed that when a switch-hitterbegins to have success from one side, it can carry over to the other.

Bochy mentioned his experience managing Ken Caminiti with thePadres.

He said when the right side would come along first, it wasunbelievable how the left side would get better, too, Bochy said.

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The Rockies havent named a starter for Sunday but theyactivated right-hander Edgmer Escalona today. The talk is that itll beEscalona if he isnt used in relief on Saturday.

Ex-Giants pitcher doesn't make Mariners rotation, optioned to Triple-A

Ex-Giants pitcher doesn't make Mariners rotation, optioned to Triple-A

Chris Heston's bid to make the Mariners' Opening Day rotation came up short.

The former Giants pitcher was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday morning, Seattle announced.

Traded by San Francisco to Seattle in December, Heston struggled in his first spring with the Mariners. The 28-year-old allowed 14 hits and nine earned runs in 11.2 innings over five appearances.

Heston, who was a major part of the Giants rotation in 2015, pitched in 38 games over three seasons in San Francisco. He compiled a 4.16 ERA and struck out 148 batters in 188 innings.

The highlight of Heston's time with the Giants came on June 9, 2015 when he no-hit the the Mets in New York. He struck out 11 and walked none, but hit three batters.

In addtion to Heston, the Mariners also re-assigned former Giants reliever Jean Machi and former A's pitcher Cody Martin.

 

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jae-Gyun Hwang’s day started with an ovation from teammates who had selected Hwang as the Barney Nugent Award winner. It ended in style, too. 

Hwang’s walk-off single in the ninth gave the Giants an 8-7 win and raised his spring average to .308. Barring an injury or sudden change, Hwang will not make the team out of camp, but he’ll travel to San Francisco for the Bay Bridge Series next week and the Giants expect him back at AT&T Park soon.

“He can keep the award now,” Bochy joked after Hwang’s walk-off. “Good for him. Players love him, and the way he’s come out every day and the effort he puts in. He’s been inspiring with how hard he has gotten after it every day.”

The Barney Nugent Award is given to the player in his first big league camp “whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.” It is meaningful in large part because the voters are teammates, trainers and coaches. Hwang was called to the middle of the clubhouse by trainer Dave Groeschner on Saturday morning to accept the award. 

“With this being my first time coming to spring training to play baseball, I wanted to work hard and show that I belong here,” Hwang said through interpreter Mark Kim. “I think my teammates have noticed how hard I’ve worked for the team.”

The rest of the Giants have also noticed how easy Hwang has made the transition look. He said that, outside of learning a new strike zone, the adjustment hasn’t been a difficult one. He has four homers this spring, but doesn’t necessarily view that as a shining positive. Hwang said he wants to show more of an all-around game, especially on defense, and a stint in Triple-A Sacramento should provide that opportunity. 

If the rosters play out as expected, Hwang should see most of the time at third base in Triple-A. He can also play first, and he’s eager to show that he’s viable in left field. 

“I want to show I’m a versatile player,” he said. 

GAME RECAP: Chris Stratton was having a good spring, but he got knocked around by the Padres early … Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford both hit deep homers in their second game back from the WBC … Mark Melancon still has not allowed a run this spring … Hunter Pence's March slump got a bit deeper with an 0-for-3 ... Bryan Reynolds, last year’s top pick, entered as a pinch-runner and flew home from first on a Gorkys Hernandez double off the wall. 

BULLPEN BATTLES: In the front office’s perfect world, Josh Osich would be the one to take over for Will Smith, giving the team a hard-throwing lefty capable of neutralizing lefties and righties. It’s been an up-and-down spring for Osich, but he was filthy Saturday, striking out a pair in his lone inning. 

George Kontos looked even better in his inning, striking out the side. Kontos has allowed just five hits in 10 innings this spring, with 15 strikeouts. He seems forever stuck in that sixth-seventh range, but given his splits have been just about even over the years, maybe it’s time the Giants see what he can do in a more high-profile role. 

Cory Gearrin followed the previous two with a perfect eighth. Neil Ramirez struck out one and allowed one hit in the ninth. In 9 1/3 innings this spring, Ramirez has struck out 16 and allowed just five hits and two runs. He has a real shot to take someone’s job in the bullpen next week. 

ICYMI: The big news from this morning: Michael Morse will stick with the team and try to rehab/play his way back to the big leagues. And from the early afternoon, Johnny Cueto had a ton of fun with a 19-year-old he faced in a minor league game. 

NOTABLE: Bochy said that all of the players left in camp are slated to head home on the team flight Tuesday, but some guys have opt-outs on March 30, so moves are coming. This would seem a great sign for Aaron Hill, who is due a $100,000 retention bonus on Tuesday. Hill has slumped late in camp, but he’s still in position to make the team. Also noteworthy: Tyler Beede is scheduled to start Saturday’s game in Oakland. The Giants surely want to knock some MLB-stadium-nerves off before Beede heads down to Triple-A to wait for a call-up.