Giants not concerned about stars playing in WBC

Giants not concerned about stars playing in WBC

SAN FRANCISCO — Before he officially committed to playing for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Brandon Crawford received a text from Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado.

“Come on, man. I really want to play with you. I want to play on the left side with you,” wrote Arenado, who shares an agent with Crawford. 

The two will team up this spring to form just about the most imposing infield duo imaginable. Arenado has won four straight Gold Glove Awards at third base. Crawford has two straight at shortstop. They’ll be side by side in the WBC, providing no daylight for grounders. For much of that run, Buster Posey will be calling the pitches 90 feet away. There’s a good chance, too, that the All-Star group will face Giants co-ace Johnny Cueto at some point. 

Given the importance of the three Giants playing, there’s reason for pause. But manager Bruce Bochy said he’s not concerned about the risk to his stars. Bochy recently talked to Team USA manager Jim Leyland about the way he will use Posey and Crawford. 

“He’s a guy that’s going to look out for players,” Bochy said. “It’s just who he is.”

There are rules in place to make sure everyone stays healthy in what is supposed to be an international showcase event for the sport. The biggest concerns have always been with pitching, but the WBC is played with expanded rosters and pitcher restrictions. The Giants are fine with Cueto representing the Dominican Republic, even though they watched last spring as the right-hander eased himself into the season. 

“Johnny has a way of pacing himself in games and as far as making sure he’s ready,” Bochy said. “Last year in the early part of the spring we slow-played him, but there he was. He was ready.”

The Giants learned during the season that Cueto will even pace himself during starts. He often takes it easy in the early innings, only to ramp up the fastball and intensity when he sniffs a complete game. The same is expected this spring. 

“He knows himself,” Bochy said, “And he knows his body.”

Cueto will not attend FanFest this weekend, but Crawford and Posey were both in the house for a media availability Friday and Posey downplayed any concerns.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Posey said. “It’ll definitely be different than any spring training I’ve been a part of. I started to get myself ready a little sooner. Nothing drastic, just maybe being a little more aggressive with my swings and throwing. But I think it’ll be fun, it’ll be a good experience for sure.

“I can understand (any concerns) but I think (fans) would also be frustrated if we didn’t have the Giants represented in some way. I think there are two sides to it. I can definitely understand that, but I think — I can’t speak for Craw or Cueto — but for myself I feel that I’ll be where I need to be, and having (three catchers) there I don’t expect it to be something where I’m catching every inning.”

Posey’s routine shouldn’t be drastically different from a normal spring. He generally doesn’t get many Arizona at-bats, so he should end up around the same range as always. Crawford did have to make a slight change this offseason after taking time the last two years to rest his throwing arm in February. Crawford told WBC organizers that he would pull out if any issues popped up, but he feels good on the eve of camp.

“My arm feels a lot better already than it did the last couple of years,” he said. “That’s a good sign.”

Even so, the Giants will take one more precaution. There was some surprise when the only other shortstop on the roster ended up being young Astros infielder Alex Bregman, who was drafted as a shortstop but moved to third base as he got to the big leagues. Bochy is expected to reach out to organizers to see if additional insurance might be added to make sure Crawford isn’t pushed too hard.

All three Giants are playing for teams that should go deep. Team USA is favored, and the Dominican is right behind the host country, according to oddsmakers. A different kind of title would be a nice way to start the odd year, but regardless, the players expect to take a lot away from the experience.

“It’s great for baseball,” Posey said. “For me, I think that’s part of it as well, just trying to help grow the game if I can.”

Giants spring training Day 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

Giants spring training Day 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Madison Bumgarner aims to get all 27 outs every time he takes the mound, but on Tuesday the coaching staff gave the ace a nice view of the man who will help out if his nights are cut short. 

Bumgarner threw his first live batting practice session of the spring on the main field at Scottsdale Stadium. Mark Melancon, the new closer, followed him. Both players said they felt good. Both also found things to work on in advance of opening day. 

“Strength-wise I felt pretty good, really good, actually,” Bumgarner said. “My command up in the zone was right where I want it. I’m pretty happy with that. My cutter was pretty straight, but that usually comes around pretty quick.”

Melancon didn’t even throw his go-to cutter, saying he usually pockets it until later in camp. He’s getting the feel for his curveball back because he doesn’t throw it until he reports. Like Bumgarner, Melancon said he’s where he needs to be physically.

“I feel really good,” he said. “In years past there has been some slowness but I don’t feel that this year. I’m right where I want to be.”

The Giants have not finalized a Cactus League rotation, but Bumgarner will likely throw an inning in Friday’s opener. Melancon could follow him, as he’ll throw in the early innings until late March. He said he’ll talk to pitching coach Dave Righetti about closing a game or two over the final days of camp so he can start locking his routine down. It’s probably a lock that he’ll close out that first Bay Bridge Series game back at AT&T Park. 

ICYMI: Here’s actual (shaky) footage of Bumgarner throwing today. At one point, he gave Denard Span a hard time for missing a slider that he was told was coming. Span had a good reason. “I didn't understand him when he said it because of his accent,” he said. 

ICYMI, PART II: The latest podcast is a couple of interviews with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Law explained how he ordered 800 chicken nuggets for his wedding. 

CUETO UPDATE: The Giants now expect Johnny Cueto to join camp this weekend. His status for the WBC is up in the air. Speaking of the WBC, trainer Dave Groeschner will be leaving camp on Feb. 27 to work with manager Hensley Meulens and the Netherlands. Bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu is also working with the team, which opens play in Seoul. Anthony Reyes will be head trainer while Groeschner is gone.

PROSPECT WATCH: Bruce Bochy said right-hander Ray Black was a standout during early live BP sessions. “He had a hell of an outing yesterday,” Bochy said. “They said he was really good.”   Black, 26, still throws 100-plus. He still has command issues, though, with 32 walks in 31 1/3 innings last year. If he can get over that hump and stay healthy, he might rocket to the big leagues.

QUOTABLE: After just about every start last season — most of which were dominant — Bumgarner said he wasn’t happy with his mechanics. He said Tuesday that he’s still searching for the perfect feeling. “I was being a perfectionist,” he said. “If you’re being a perfectionist, I really haven’t had (my mechanics) where I wanted the last couple of years. It’s not like it’s too far off, obviously.”

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants have been watching high-quality clips of Johnny Cueto all spring, even though the co-ace has remained in the Dominican Republic. On Monday, manager Bruce Bochy finally managed to get face-to-face with Cueto. Kind of. 

Cueto spoke to Bochy, trainer Dave Groeschner and others via FaceTime, and all involved finally managed to hammer out a schedule for Cueto’s arrival. Cueto has been in the Dominican Republic tending to his ill father, Domingo, but he is expected to arrive in Scottsdale this weekend. Cueto is working to secure a visa for his father, who will travel with him.

Bochy wanted to have a long discussion with Cueto to get a sense of how ready he’ll be for the World Baseball Classic. Cueto’s participation is still up in the air, and not just because he has missed the first week of camp. There is a chance, Bochy said, that Cueto will choose to stay in Scottsdale to continue taking care of his father. The Dominican Republic opens play in Miami on March 9.

“He said he knows he’s got to make a decision real soon regarding what he does,” Bochy said. “Pitching or not pitching, he’s got to let them know as soon as possible.”

Cueto has been throwing to hitters at a facility in Boca Chica. He threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.