Giants

Giants notes: No move for Posey; six-starter plan

Giants notes: No move for Posey; six-starter plan

SAN FRANCISCO — The last press conference of the year tends to reveal fresh information about the health of players, but general manager Bobby Evans said Thursday that there are no surgical procedures scheduled for current Giants. 

That includes Buster Posey, who played through several issues, including nerve irritation in his right thumb. Posey was out for five days in June and required a cortisone shot. He had just three homers after the All-Star break, and just two in his final 63 games. Evans wouldn’t go into the extent of any injuries that might have sapped power.

“He keeps a lot of things close to the vest. That’s who he is,” Evans said. “But nobody works harder or prepares more.”

Posey started a career-high 122 games behind the plate. His time at first base dipped from 37 starts in 2015 to 11 in 2016, in part because Brandon Belt put together an All-Star campaign. Posey posted a .292/.366/.478 slash line in the first half but was at .282/.357.383 in the second half. Evans said the drop in slugging does not make it more likely that Posey sees more time away from the squat next season.

“It doesn’t make me think more about first base,” he said. “We’re always monitoring his health. We’re still confident that (catcher) is the best spot for him. Whether he has better power numbers next year, I couldn’t predict, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does because he's very competitive.”

The Giants would love more power in the heart of their lineup, obviously, but as those numbers have dropped, Posey has turned himself into the best defensive catcher in the league. That's a tradeoff they're willing to make. 

The majority of Thursday's press conference revolved around the bullpen, and there's much more coming on that here, on TV and in podcast form. There were also changes to the coaching staff. There were plenty of other notes from the final day at AT&T Park. Here are some highlights:

--- Evans said Eduardo Nuñez (hamstring) would not have been healthy enough to start Game 5 of the NLDS. He wouldn’t have started, anyway. Conor Gillaspie had four hits in the final game. The staff isn’t sure about Angel Pagan. He was to be tested on Wednesday to see if his back could hold up, but obviously that wasn’t necessary. Pagan instead got on a flight home. 

--- The Giants would like Christian Arroyo to get at least a few months in Triple-A next season. The internal evaluation is that he isn’t ready, not after a season in which he hit .274/.316/.373 with three homers. Arroyo is just 21 years old, and there’s no desire to rush him. The Giants believe they have a budding superstar if they handle this right. 

Nuñez and Gillaspie are locks to make the roster as third basemen next year, and while Joe Panik’s name will come up in trade talks, it’s very unlikely the Giants part ways with a young All-Star-caliber player after dealing Matt Duffy away. Arroyo is mostly focused on third base right now. 

“l’ll go into spring training hoping Christian continues to show progress in his defensive role and with the bat,” Evans said. “I anticipate him starting next year in the minor leagues.”

Arroyo will be in camp for a second straight year. Evans said, “I love it when a player tells us he’s ready by how he performs,” and the Giants did once put Duffy on the Opening Day roster because he forced the issue. 

--- Evans said Albert Suarez will come into camp as a guy providing depth. He’ll be competing for a long reliever role on the Opening Day roster. Suarez posted a 4.29 ERA in his first year with the Giants and provided some valuable spot starts. 

--- Ty Blach and Matt Cain will go into camp competing for the fifth starter job, and Tyler Beede will be around to try and swipe it away. The guess right now is that Blach wins the job. Players raved about the young left-hander as they packed up Thursday. But Cain has earned the right to compete, Evans said. 

“Matt wants to be a starting pitcher,” Evans said. “He’ll come into spring training expecting to start and he’ll be given every opportunity, and he deserves that.”

If Cain doesn’t blow the Giants away, it would be worth seeing if he could transform into a Joe Blanton-type. Blanton is much further removed from starting success than Cain, and posted a 2.48 ERA in 75 appearances for the Dodgers this season. There are some in the Giants’ organization who wonder if Cain — with a rare four-pitch mix out of the bullpen — could make a similar transition. 

--- Before you look forward, you must first look back. In case you missed it, here's a pitch-by-pitch recap of the ninth inning.  Bochy said Thursday that he has no regrets about the pitchers he used. "We just had a hard time getting that last out," he said. 
 

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

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AP

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore knew there was something different about his final home start at AT&T Park this season, and not just the fact that he received a loud ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. Moore noted later that the outing was the first shutout he has been a part of this year. In fact, it was the first time in 30 starts that he walked off the mound without having allowed a run. 

“I guess it’s better late than never,” he said. 

The Giants are hoping it’s actually a preview of things to come. They counted on Moore to be a big part of their 2017 push, but instead, he likely will finish with the worst ERA of any full-time starter in the National League. Still, general manager Bobby Evans has informed Moore that his 2018 option will be picked up, something that Moore appreciated given the time of year. 

“I always pictured myself here,” he said. 

Whether coincidence or some kind of “weight off the shoulders” situation, Moore’s first start since the public revealing of the decision was his most encouraging of the year. Facing a good lineup, and a team that needed a win desperately, he pitched six shutout innings. The Giants beat the Rockies 4-0. 

Moore was already showing signs of life, with a 3.76 ERA over his seven previous appearances. Bruce Bochy viewed this as another step forward. 

“It’s been getting better and better with each start,” he said. “What he did really well today was on the arm side. He had good balance to both sides of the plate.”

Moore peppered the outside corner with fastballs, and he credited catcher Nick Hundley with stealing a few strikes. The plan allowed Moore to put hitters away in big spots, one of three points of emphasis he brought into the second half. The other two: limiting lefties and getting ahead of hitters.

That’s Moore’s roadmap back to being the player the Giants acquired. For the team as a whole, the roadmap back to relevance is similar to Wednesday’s plan. This is not a home-run hitting lineup, but the Giants are 47-21 when scoring four runs, and Wednesday was a reminder of the different paths to that magical number. 

Brandon Crawford had a solo homer, but the first two runs came on sacrifice flies and the fourth on a walk-wild pitch-single combination. Bochy said he liked “the brand of ball” his team played.

“They executed so well today,” he said. “It’s just good baseball, and that’s what I felt good about.”

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of weeks ago, a Giants official expressed amazement about how little was known about the desires of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani.

“Teams know just about as much as you guys (in the media),” he said. 

The Giants are hoping that changes this week. General manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley have traveled to Japan to take a look at the 23-year-old, who reportedly will come over to play in Major League Baseball next season. 

“There’s going to be a lot of attention on him and it’s part of the scouting process every club goes through,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s doing our due diligence, as you say.”

Otani is a rare prospect, a potential ace on the mound and lineup-altering bat in the outfield. He has 47 homers in just over 1,000 professional at-bats, and this season he’s batting .341. As a hard-throwing pitcher with a wipeout breaking ball, Otani has a 2.57 career ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He had a 1.86 ERA last season with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. 

Because he’s said to be coming over at such a young age, Otani will sacrifice the chance to sign a massive contract. The CBA limits him to collecting money from a team’s international bonus pool, and the Giants are limited to $300,000. Still, some other big-market teams are in the same boat, and despite their lack of pool money and poor season, the Giants surely believe they have plenty to offer. 

It’s not known what Otani is looking for, but perhaps he wants to play in a big city to make up some of his lost earnings? Perhaps he wants to play on the West Coast, closer to his home country, or in a region with a big Japanese population? Perhaps he’s just a big Buster Posey fan? The Giants intend to find out, and to be in the bidding. 

It’s possible that Otani has seen the way Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter, but Bochy said he can’t imagine using a true two-way player. 

“I don’t think it would work,” he said. “You’re talking more of something that might work in the American League. That’s a lot of throwing and wear-and-tear.”