Giants pick up 2014 options, plan to further extend Bochy, Sabean

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Giants pick up 2014 options, plan to further extend Bochy, Sabean

NASHVILLE – In a decision plucked straight out of what Giants CEO Larry Baer called “no-brainer land,” the club formally exercised its 2014 contract options on manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean.

Baer acknowledged the move was made official a week ago, and added that the parties absolutely would engage in talks about an extension “for 2015 and beyond” some time during the coming year.

“I'm thrilled," Bochy said. "This is what I love to do, and I couldn't be in a better place. With Brian giving me the tools to do what we’ve done these last three years, this appetite only grows.”

Baer called the coach/general manager relationship “the most key in sports – any sport. And so we are very fortunate in that regard.”

“One of the hallmarks of the Giants and a chief reason for their success is their stability together and the working relationship they have,” Baer said. “It’s hand-in-glove connectivity in making decisions and results, I think, speak for themselves.”

Two World Series titles in three seasons tends to do that.

Sabean, who was named Baseball America’s Executive of the Year on Tuesday, is entering his 17th season as the Giants’ head of baseball operations – the longest tenured GM in the major leagues with one club. It’s a high-pressure position that typically has a short half-life and leads to chronic burnout. But Baer said he sees the same fire and hunger in the silver-haired 56-year-old former Yankees scouting director as he did nearly two decades ago.

“He’s surrounded himself with the right people,” Baer said of Sabean, who replaced Bob Quinn after the 1996 season. “Our scouts are really good and we’ve built a homegrown pitching staff with the exception of Barry Zito, which is really hard to do. That doesn’t happen by accident.

“He’s got a solid information base and he commands loyalty from his group. As I’ve become more involved, it’s been gratifying to see how smooth functioning it is.”

Said Bochy: “Brian, I think, is the best GM in the game. He’s passionate about the game, he’s fiery and he cares about the players. He cares about the fans and about winning.

“He’s not just my boss. He’s a good friend and we spend a lot of time together talking about the team and the ways we can win.”

Sabean has heaped just as much praise on Bochy, calling him a shoo-in Hall of Fame manager following the Giants’ sweep over the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Both Baer and Sabean have called the hiring of Bochy following the 2006 season as perhaps the organization’s best decision in the last two decades.

“He’s just so good and so easy to work with,” Baer said. “You respect the thought process and the way the wheels move, which isn’t something you necessarily see when you meet him. That’s because he’s low on ego and high on aptitude. That’s not a combination you get very often, especially in sports.”

Add desire.

Bochy, 57, is entering his seventh season with the Giants and his 19th as a major league manager. Now one of the game’s elder statesmen on the bench, he said he hopes to continue managing for a long time – especially if he is able to continue to work with Sabean.

Sabean is not at baseball’s winter meetings at the Opryland Resort because of a sinus issue; his doctor advised him to stay home. He continues to do business by phone and text, though, and sent a message of gratitude when informed of the Baseball America award.

Bochy has won six NL West titles in his 18 seasons. The Giants have made the playoffs in seven of Sabean’s 17 seasons as GM, winning three NL pennants and two confetti-strewn trips down Market Street.

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

BOX SCORE

At Scottsdale, Arizona, Chris Marrero hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and drove in four runs as the Giants rallied after Madison Bumgarner gave up two runs on two hits in the top of the first.

Marrero, a 2006 first-round draft pick of the Nationals trying to revive his career as a non-roster invitee, had an RBI single in the fifth.

Kevin Shackelford, the seventh Cincinnati pitcher, walked Orlando Calixte to open the ninth and Christian Arroyo blooped a single into left field before Marrero hit a line drive over the wall in left centerfield.

Patrick Kivlehan had a two-run single off Bumgarner in the first and Hunter Pence doubled in a run off Reds starter Rookie Davis. Davis, acquired from the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal, is likely to open with Double-A Pensacola this year.

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy thought he might take it slow with Hunter Pence this spring. Pence, of course, had other ideas. 

Pence, who was held back by intercostal soreness during the first week of workouts, insisted on playing the Cactus League opener. He drove in the first Giants run of the new year with a double off the wall in the bottom of the first inning. 

“I just like to be out there Game 1,” Pence said. “It’s a message. It’s good to be out there. I have every intention of being ready to play every game of the season, so getting out there Game 1 is important to me.”

Bochy played plenty of regulars on the first day, but they were long gone when this one was decided in dramatic fashion. Chris Marrero, a non-roster invitee, hit a three-run walk-off homer as the Giants topped the Reds 6-4.

Marrero, 28, was one of the lead targets for a scouting staff that has made a habit of finding non-roster gems. The former first-round pick hit 23 homers for Boston’s Triple-A team and the Giants went after him hard when he became a minor league free agent. Marrero said his agent got a call within the first five minutes. It was an easy decision, in part because of the non-roster history here and in part because Marrero never got a call-up despite minor league success with the Red Sox. 

“If this team wants you, it’s a good thing,” Marrero said of the Giants. 

Marrero plays first base and the outfield, and while there are plenty of longtime big leaguers in camp, he certainly made a statement on the first day. The slider he hit went out to left in a hurry. 

“He’s a right-handed bat with power,” Bochy said. “He threw out good at-bats on the first day. We’re excited he signed with us. He’s going to get some at-bats here.”

THE ACE: Bochy gave Madison Bumgarner the option of skipping this game and making his debut next week, but Bumgarner — who typically doesn’t throw off a mound until he gets to camp — wanted to face hitters. “I thought it’d be good to get out there and get my feet wet,” he said. Bumgarner worked with Nick Hundley, who made some friends the first time out. 

PROSPECT WATCH: Clayton Blackburn delivered a bit of a message with two perfect innings: Don’t forget about me. 

Blackburn has been bumped down the depth chart by Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, but he was sharp while striking out three. “He was right on, wasn’t he?” Bochy said.

Blackburn was a big story last spring, coming off a season where he led the PCL with a 2.85 ERA. He had a 4.36 ERA last season and that led to some offseason changes. Blackburn said he threw off a mound 10-12 times before coming to camp last year, but he limited it to a handful of sessions this year, instead focusing on flat-ground throws into a net.

“You only have so many bullets,” he said, noting there was some fatigue last season. “You can’t waste them all in the offseason.”

Blackburn was called up last season but never got into a game. 

“There’s definitely a lot more hunger,” he said. “It’s always cool to get called up, but it was disappointing not to get in and not see any more time the rest of the year. It’s disappointing, but it’s part of the game.”

With a few more outings like Friday’s, Blackburn will get that second shot. His peripherals were just about the same across the board in 2015 and 2016, with the glaring difference being 12 additional homers in a hitter-friendly league. If he cuts back on the home runs, there’s no reason why Blackburn can’t get back in the mix here. 

NOTEWORTHY: Jimmy Rollins was 1-for-2 in his Giants debut, with a run scored … Wynton Bernard, the speedy outfielder plucked from Detroit’s system, scored on a double and two wild pitches … Jae-gyun Hwang didn’t have the best debut. He struck out twice and stumbled (for an error) on a slow roller to third ... Healthy Joe Panik had two hits in two at-bats ... Orlando Calixte played second and short and Bochy lit up when talking about his versatility. Calixte will see time in the outfield this spring, too. 

FAMILIAR FACES: It was 2010 Day at the ballpark, as Freddy Sanchez, Bengie Molina and Jeremy Affeldt were all on the field during BP. Molina and Affeldt were part of broadcast teams, but Sanchez was here with his under-9 travel ball team. Per Sanchez, the team is the best U9 team in Arizona. 

QUOTABLE: “We feed off each other and I know he feeds off of me. Hunter is a special cat. He’s the most positive person you’ll ever come across, but it’s hard because he plays with the team-first mentality and he puts himself second and sometimes that gets really hard on a person and can weigh a person down. I like to be there with him and bounce things off of him and try to keep him light and energetic. I’m not saying I take anything away from him, but don’t let him carry this big burden. Be that guy for him. He can be Batman, I’ll be Robin.” --- Mike Morse during an interview that airs on my podcast this week. You can stream it online here or download it on iTunes here.