Giants spring training Day 34: Moore working hard to improve hitting

Giants spring training Day 34: Moore working hard to improve hitting

PEORIA, Ariz. — While discussing his first full season in the National League, Matt Moore brought up an NL West game the Giants would rather forget. 

“It is exciting to think about being able to do, like, what (Clayton) Kershaw did on opening day a few years ago,” Moore said. “He hit a solo home run and threw a nine-inning shutout. It’s like, ‘Wow, you literally had very little help that day.’”

The Giants know that well. They were on the other side on April 1, 2013, when Kershaw spun a four-hitter and scored the game’s first run with a leadoff homer in the eighth. Kershaw and the league’s other preeminent left-hander, Madison Bumgarner, have set the bar high as two-way players. Kershaw has 70 hits over the past six seasons. Bumgarner, who is practically another slugger out there, has 76, including 14 homers. 

Moore knows he won’t ever reach those heights. But he likes hitting, and he’s working hard this spring to make himself a serviceable option. 

“I know I’m not very good at it, but I do enjoy just the whole game,” he said. “I think there’s a strategy to what you have to do.”

Giants pitchers regularly compete with each other during batting practice, and that carries over into games. Moore got into the act before games last season, peppering Triples Alley, but he had just one hit in 24 at-bats after an August 1 trade. He’s 3-for-38 in the big leagues, but at 27 years old, he’s not far removed from being a two-way contributor. Moore followed Kyle Blanks as the first baseman at Moriarty High in New Mexico and he was set to play first and pitch in college. Instead he was drafted and signed by the Rays, but a decade later, he’s ready for a crack at National League ball. 

“I’ll be honest with you: If I was betting, I’d probably rather have another hitter up there, but I do like the opportunity and the style of baseball in the National League,” he said. “I like to play. I’m not saying I could play the everyday stuff, but just being in the box makes you feel like, ‘Alright, I’m playing baseball again.’ The perspective of seeing the ball at the knees gives you a little more confidence.”

Moore will get to hit in his next start, which comes Thursday at Scottsdale Stadium. At the Mariners’ home park on Saturday, he showed that there’s little work to be done on the mound before opening day. In five innings, Moore allowed just two hits and struck out four. He retired the first 11 hitters he faced. 

“He was on today,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s hitting his spots, good stuff, everything. I’m really, really happy with where he’s at right now.”

STOCK WATCH: Jarrett Parker is simply a different guy this spring. In each of his first two at-bats, he took good two-strike pitches to keep the battle going. One of those led to a monster homer to dead center, his fourth of the spring. Parker came in as the favorite to start the season in left field and he’s done nothing to lose his grip. 

Chris Marrero also went deep, giving him five homers for the spring. With Michael Morse swinging a hot bat it’s hard to see how Marrero fits in, but he certainly has opened eyes over the past month. 

FLASHING THE LEATHER: Gordon Beckham took some fly balls in left field on Friday, but Saturday was all about showing off at his natural position. Beckham went a long way to snag a pop-up for Moore and he later made a leaping grab of a shot up the middle.

Slade Heathcott might have made the play of the spring when he went into the right field corner for a sliding grab. Heathcott was up from minor league camp. 

STREAKING: Tim Federowicz has a double in five straight games, but no other hits during that span. Six of his last seven hits have been doubles. Now you know. 

“I like him,” Bochy said. “He’s made some noise in this camp.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: A day after making his spring debut, Will Smith said all felt right in his left arm. Smith threw all his pitches in an inning Friday, and he’ll play catch for a couple of days before getting back into games on Monday and Wednesday. 

“No setbacks so far,” he said. “I’m still looking to be ready for opening day.”

Cory Gearrin (cracked nail) will throw a bullpen session Sunday. 

FAMILIAR FACE: When the non-playing Mariners crossed the field to head off to the golf course or wherever, Chris Heston stopped by the dugout to hug Bochy and see some former teammates. Mariners people say Heston won’t make the team, but he’ll be one of the top options for a call-up should the team need a starter.

 

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

AN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Pharmacies and beauty stores across Puerto Rico are running out of hair dye with even a top economist joining men going blond in support of the island's baseball players who bleached their hair ahead of the World Baseball Classic.

What began as a joke among team members playing in California has spread across the island in a trend that spiked Tuesday just hours after Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands in 11 innings to reach the championship game undefeated in the tournament, which is held every four years. Puerto Rico will play Wednesday night in the final against the United States, which defeated Japan.

"Ever since they began winning, this has not stopped," said Myrna Rios, a manager at a Sally Beauty Supply store in the capital of San Juan. "We have run out of the product in most of our stores."

Copper blond, platinum blond, golden blond - all shades of blond (even burnt orange) are turning heads in a U.S. territory where the majority of men have thick, dark hair. Bald men dyed their beards or goatees in a nod to Puerto Rico coach Carlos Delgado.

"We have been able to unite our country with our blond hair," said star Carlos Correa, who hit a two-run homer and scored the winning run against the Netherlands. "That's what we want as players to unite our country, our people, and give them the best."

Men ranging from news anchors to university students to professionals have embraced a trend that has sparked the rallying cry of "Team Rubio!" or "Team Blond" in Spanish.

Among them is civil engineer Christian Rodriguez, who dyed his beard Saturday after visiting four different pharmacies to find the product he needed. At first, he didn't dye his hair as well because he thought it would be too much at church on Sunday. But he noticed six male churchgoers had dyed their hair blond and decided to take the plunge, calling a hair stylist friend to help him go platinum.

Rodriguez complained of an intense burning sensation during the two-hour process and sent pictures to his wife, who responded with the emoticon of a monkey with its eyes covered.

"Anything for my island!" he said as he lifted his arm to cheer the team.

Rodriguez then sent a picture of his dyed hair to his mechanic, who responded with a selfie taken underneath a car of him smiling with a bleached beard.

Puerto Rico's undefeated run to the championship has boosted the spirit of an island mired in a decade-long recession that faces a rocky recovery amid looming austerity measures for its government. Even young students have been sporting blond do's, prompting public schools to suspend them until the island's education secretary stepped in and said in a letter made public Tuesday that they should be allowed to dye their hair during the tournament.

"We wanted to do this to unite the team, and then the people of Puerto Rico, they started dying their hair, too," pitcher Edwin Diaz said. "I saw that there were some students that were suspended from school. I think they shouldn't be doing that because it just means that we have united our nation."

Even the prominent Puerto Rico-based economist Sergio Marxuach joined the trend, sporting yellow hair as he walked into a seminar in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, drawing laughs.

"My youngest son asked me, 'Why did you paint your hair like Donald Trump?'" he recalled with a laugh. "If this team can give us hope, we're going to need it given what's coming down the pipe."

Giants spring training Day 38: Cain still on track for fifth starter job

Giants spring training Day 38: Cain still on track for fifth starter job

MARYVALE, Ariz. — After a series of questions the other day about getting extra rest between starts, Madison Bumgarner smiled and pointed at the personalized calendar taped to his locker. He said he simply operates by the schedule set out by pitching coach Dave Righetti.

A glance at the calendar in Matt Cain’s locker might show a reason why the longest-tenured Giant is still in a good position to win the No. 5 starter spot despite continued spring struggles. Because they have two off days sandwiching a two-game series in Kansas City in the middle of April, the Giants can potentially use their No. 5 starter just twice until April 25, a span of 20 games.

If there’s any concern about Cain’s ability to hold up during the regular season, the early slate could help. The Giants can throw Cain against the Padres and Diamondbacks to start the season, and if it's not working out, they can go a stretch with just their top four as they reevaluate. 

"We'll see once we get a little closer how guys are doing, but it certainly gives you some options," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Cain has been preparing all along to start April 7 at Petco Park. That hasn’t changed.

“That’s what I’m looking at,” he said. “That’s the only thing I’m preparing for, to make sure I’m ready to go 100 pitches.”

Cain had another mixed-bag day against the Brewers. The first inning was full of loud contact and Cain was charged with three runs on four hits. But he settled down from there, allowing just one run over the next four innings. In all, Cain allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out four. He said he tried to change speeds more often after the early ambush. 

“I was maybe getting the timing different for them,” he said. “Those guys were getting balls where they could hit them. You’ve got to make a quick adjustment to that, and I had to do that.”

Cain threw 70 pitches, another sign that he’s locked in for April 7. His competition, Ty Blach, has not been fully stretched out this spring. 

TRAINER'S ROOM: Will Smith will head to Los Angeles on Thursday to get a second opinion on his left elbow strain. The Giants will then know if Smith needs Tommy John surgery, which would end his season. Eduardo Nuñez flew back to San Francisco with Smith earlier in the week to get a corisone shot in his sore right shoulder. He's back, but he'll be down a few days. 

GAME RECAP: Hunter Pence has been slumping for several weeks, but he got on the board in the sixth with a double that spun off the end of his bat and down the first base line. A classic Pence hit ... Jae-gyun Hwang hit a two-run shot to right-center ... Steven Okert did some nifty work to keep his spring ERA at 0.00. With runners on first and third and no outs, he got a double play and a fly ball to left.

ICYMI: Barry Bonds has arrived. Here is a story about his return to the Giants, and here’s video from his media session this morning. 

GOOD NEWS: First base coach Jose Alguacil returned to camp Wednesday morning, and he said he’s only a few days from returning to game action. Alguacil, who had surgery earlier in March after taking a line drive off the face, was cleared for full activity. Hensley Meulens, Dave Groeschner and Taira Uematsu also returned from a stint in the WBC. 

FLASHING THE LEATHER: Aaron Hill started the prettiest double play of the spring by snagging a Hernan Perez liner with a dive and making a perfect throw to second baseman Gordon Beckham. Hill later smashed a double into the left field corner. That dude is making the team. 

QUOTABLE: "I figured Barry is in town, so I'd show him how it's done." -- Denard Span on a very long two-run homer he hit to right.