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.

 

Not a chicken-and-egg discussion: Three reasons why Giants are so boring

Not a chicken-and-egg discussion: Three reasons why Giants are so boring

To best understand what has happened to the San Francisco Giants, one must first decide whether or not they have abandoned hope, or just energy.

I mean, that is the new kneejerk position based on losing 18 of 22 games this month by an average margin of more than a run and a half per game, losing to the Phillies, Royals, Braves and Mets, falling five games behind the San Diego Padres and eight games behind the non-noisy neighbors in Oakland, and since the All-Star Break last year, they are 57-93, the equivalent of the third-worst record in franchise history.

Really, to see a happy thing in this team other than Buster Posey is an act of rankest delusion. What hope would you expend on this team?

But there’s a new element involved now, if you take Ken Rosenthal’s report for FoxSports.com on the team’s internal crises at face value.

Apparently the Giants are boring their own management.

According to Rosenthal, the almost stultifying quiet of the clubhouse has become a concern to general manager Bobby Evans and perhaps even to those to whom he reports.

In citing the contributions of such ‘edgy” personalities as Pat Burrell, Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff in 2010, Hunter Pence in ’12 and Pence, Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval (huh?) in ’14, Rosenthal suggested that the team is too staid – something that winning 38 percent of your games for an entire calendar year will do to you.

“I don’t think I can be definitive in my answers,” Evans was quoted by Rosenthal as saying, “but it’s not lost on us that we’re maybe a little quieter clubhouse than we’ve been in the past. I can’t answer that as being a factor or not.” He then followed up with the always circuitous they’d-be-louder-if-we-weren’t-such-a-tedious-watch argument, which seems self-evident but can’t really be proven one way or another.

But Rosenthal also credited “some with the Giants” as suggesting that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who allegedly help unite the clubhouse because so few of them liked him.

And now we’ve hit the motherlode of bizarre excuses. Angel Pagan is hurting the Giants far more by leaving them than by being with them. And this is, if you’ll pardon the expression, richly stupid.

Not Rosenthal, whom we can presume did his usual diligent work and correctly quoted “some with.” No, our problem is with the thinking that inspired “some with,” because you have to go a long way to make that explanation stick.

The Giants are playing terribly because, well, they are. Their pitching, which has to be in the top sixth of the league for this plan to work, is below average in many of the important metrics. Their offense is horrendous. Their outfield is a disaster. They are 27-51 purely on the merits.

That they are also boring is coincidence rather than causation, because nobody said they were boring after the All-Star Break last year, and nobody accused them of being boring in Game 4 of the National League Division Series with Chicago.

Boring is what you seize on when every other excuse, including the Mark Melancon-doesn’t-stretch-when-he’s-supposed-to straw man Rosenthal also threw up for chewing.

The truth is this, as much as anything. They are bad. They didn’t think they would be bad. They thought the second half of last year was an aberration rather than a harbinger, and they thought they could have gone to the World Series but for one hideous inning. And they are apparently shocked by this for some reason.

So, are they moping, or are they quitting? Do they need a clubhouse visit from Brian Sabean at his most pissed? What’s the thing that makes them fun guys again – other than, say, a five-way trade that gets them Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger and Nolan Arenado?

Because there’s your problem. Yes, they certainly are boring – downright stultifying, in fact. But this is not a chicken-and-egg discussion. They’re boring because they’ve been brutal, because they were slow to address their needs after misdiagnosing their problems, and because all their calculations from years gone by have gone badly wrong.

But if you really think boring is the issue, let’s have Bruce Bochy dress in a clown suit and Pence play outfield in just a sliding pants and a derby, and have one inning per game designated as the Wild Dingo Surprise Inning, in which wild dingoes are loosed upon the field to terrorize the players and/or fans.

See how many wins you get then.

What's wrong with Giants? 'There's no trust, there's no belief...'

What's wrong with Giants? 'There's no trust, there's no belief...'

The Giants have dropped 12 of their last 13 games and 21 of the last 26 en route to a NL West-worst 27-51 record.

Their play on the field is making it tough for one of their broadcasters to watch what's going on.

"It is unbelievably bad right now. It was hard to watch this weekend," Mike Krukow said on KNBR 680 on Monday morning. "They got beat every way that was possible. They got out hit, they got out hustled, they got out defended, they got out pitched."

So what is the problem with the team that just got swept by the Mets?

"There's no rhythm, there's no trust, there's no belief that if you don't get a hit, the guy behind you is going to pick you up. They set the table and day after day, they just don't get the hit. It has zapped them of all their strength. You get the sense they're searching, they're looking for an ignitor that just doesn't exist anymore," Krukow said.

The former Giants pitcher compared the feeling around the team to that of the 1985 Giants team that went 62-100.

"It is dismal, as low of a point in a Giants clubhouse and a confidence level that I've seen in a long time," Krukow said.

Krukow pointed out the most concerning part about what he's watching.

"It just doesn't feel like there's a belief that it can get better. And that's what is so concerning. These guys are proud," Krukow said.

Krukow had one lasting message for the Giants.

"They have to fight through this. They have to stay together. That's their only chance," Krukow said.