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 lineup: Panik leading off in series opener vs Cubs

panik-joe-giants-gray-swing.jpg
AP

Giants lineup: Panik leading off in series opener vs Cubs

Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for today's series opener in Chicago:

Giants (19-26)
1. Joe Panik (L) 2B
2. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Eduardo Nunez (R) LF
7. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
9. Ty Blach (R) P (1-2, 4.15 ERA)

Cubs (22-20) 
1. Ben Zobrist (S) LF
2. Albert Almora Jr. (R) CF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Willson Contreras (R) C
6. Addison Russell (R) SS
7. Jason Heyward (L) RF
8. Javier Baez (R) 2B
9. John Lackey (R) P (4-3, 4.37 ERA)

Former Giants top prospect earns first career MLB win with Twins

Former Giants top prospect earns first career MLB win with Twins

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS -- Adalberto Mejia made the most of his brief stint back in the majors with the Minnesota Twins by getting his first big-league win.

Robbie Grossman, Max Kepler and Chris Gimenez all homered to help Mejia and the Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 8-4 in the second game Sunday to salvage a split of a doubleheader.

Mejia (1-1) was the Twins' 26th active player for the second game and allowed three runs in seven innings, on two home runs by Salvador Perez - who also went deep in the first game.

Mejia's reward for his first win? A trip back to Triple-A Rochester.

"I'm going to go down there and work on the things they told me work on," Mejia said through interpreter Carlos Font. "Then it will be up to them to see when I get back."

Grossman and Kepler each hit two-run homers in the first inning, and Brian Dozier had an RBI double in the second off Ian Kennedy (0-4) in his first game back from the disabled list.

Brandon Moss hit two of Kansas City's four home runs in the opener of the doubleheader, and Perez and Jorge Bonifacio each hit two-run homers to lead the Royals to a 6-4 win earlier in the day.

With the split, the Twins are now 7-1 on the year against the Royals. Kansas City's win in the first game snapped a seven-game losing streak against Minnesota.

Kennedy, who returned after missing time with a hamstring strain, said he felt fine physically. He walked three batters and gave up a pair of two-run homers in just two innings Sunday.

"He was way out of whack," manager Ned Yost said. "His leg was fine. He felt normal, felt good. Just timing was off, rhythm was off."

MINOR'S WIN

Mike Minor's road back to the majors was not an easy one. Shoulder surgery kept him out of the majors for two years and resulted in a move to the bullpen.

Minor got his first victory since 2014 with 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in the first game Sunday. He relieved Jake Junis with a 5-2 lead in the fifth, two outs and two on. The 29-year-old left-hander walked Max Kepler, then retired Kennys Vargas on a popup. Minor retired the side in order in the sixth.

Minor had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder in May 13, 2015, and did not appear in the major leagues in 2015 and 2016. Minor, who signed a $7.25 million, two-year contract with the Royals in February 2016, got his first major league victory since Aug. 28, 2014, for Atlanta.

JUNIS' FIRST START

Kansas City's Jake Junis, a 24-year-old right-hander, was recalled from Triple-A Omaha and made his first big league start after a pair of relief appearances. He allowed two runs, five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings, leaving after RBI singles from Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano.

Junis found out Saturday that he would be making his first career start. He didn't pitch deep enough to get the win, but impressed manager Ned Yost before the Royals optioned Junis back to Omaha after the game.

"I thought he did a nice job," Yost said. "We tried to get him through that fifth inning, but we needed to win this game."

ROYALS MOVES

Kansas City left fielder Alex Gordon missed the second game to join his wife, who is due to give birth on Monday. Infielder Raul Mondesi replacing Gordon on the roster but was optioned to Triple-A Omaha after the game. That means LHP Miguel Almonte, initially the Royals' 26th active player Sunday, remains on the 25-man roster. ... RHP Al Alburquerque was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Junis.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Royals: RHP Nate Karns had his pitching arm evaluated after Friday's start against Minnesota. Manager Ned Yost said fluid was found in the elbow area but Karns does not have a strain. Karns exited his start Friday after five innings and threw just 72 pitches due to stiffness in his arm.

Twins: RHP Phil Hughes was placed on the 10-day disabled list Sunday with shoulder discomfort. Hughes took the loss in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader. Right-hander Kyle Gibson will take Hughes' place on the roster.

UP NEXT

Royals: LHP Jason Vargas (5-2, 2.03 ERA) starts Monday's series opener at the New York Yankees.

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (0-4, 8.20 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start Monday against Baltimore.