Giants

Giants spring training Day 23: Right-handed bats make noise vs Dodgers

Giants spring training Day 23: Right-handed bats make noise vs Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tuesday’s lineup appeared to be an open challenge from Bruce Bochy to all the right-handed hitters in camp trying to win an opening day job. You’re facing Clayton Kershaw. Go make your case. 

Kershaw threw three innings against the non-roster-invitee-heavy lineup and … allowed zero hits. So, there is still no correct answer to that quiz, but the spring competition heated up considerably once the world’s best pitcher departed. 

Jae-gyun Hwang hit a solo homer in the fifth after earlier saving two runs for Matt Moore with a diving stop down the line. Moore was appreciative, and he said a former teammate who is currently playing in South Korea said he’s grateful that he no longer has to face Hwang. 

“He’s opened up some eyes," Bochy said. "You get somebody from Korea, you can look at video or the scouting report, but until you see them firsthand, you don’t get to appreciate the player.”

Mac Williamson hit his second opposite-field homer in two games. Chris Marrero got into the action an inning later, clearing the home bullpen with his third homer of the spring.

“Mac has really turned it up a notch,” Bochy said. “And Marrero, he’s had a great spring. It’s not going to be easy (to make roster decisions).”

Another right-handed hitter made sure he would be front and center in Bochy’s mind on the long ride back to Scottsdale. Trevor Brown made his Giants debut at second base, playing four innings after Joe Panik’s departure. Brown, who was drafted as an infielder, is trying to add some versatility in case the Giants decide to keep three catchers.

His day as a utility man started innocently, with a grounder up the middle in the seventh that was flipped to Christian Arroyo for an inning-ending force. With two outs in the ninth, Jose Miguel Fernandez hit a smash toward right that Brown knocked down with a diving stop. He threw Fernandez out to end the game. 

“How ‘bout that play,” Bochy said, smiling. “That’s a heck of a play by Brownie. He’s been getting ground balls there. We’re going to take a look at it. He looks comfortable out there.”

The franchise has never lost a game when Brown gets time at second base. 

GAME RECAP: The Giants have won two straight. Break up the Giants. Bochy was pleased with a pitching staff that’s really starting to come around, and on Tuesday it was led by Moore. You can read about him here. Tyler Beede pitched two more shutout innings, keeping his spring ERA at a tidy 0.00. 

STOCK RISING: Jose Dominguez, the former Dodger, pounded the bottom of the strike zone in a perfect ninth. In 3 1/3 spring innings, he has given up just one hit. 

“I really like the way he’s throwing the ball,” Bochy said. “He’s getting a lot of called strikes. The ball is jumping that well out of his hand right now.”

ICYMI: I wrote a feature about Conor Gillaspie’s defense and also sat down with him for an interview that ran on our Giants podcast. You can stream that here or download it on iTunes here. 

 

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.”