Giants spring training Day 35: Veterans scuffling as camp nears an end

Giants spring training Day 35: Veterans scuffling as camp nears an end

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants have watched with pride as Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have helped lead Team USA to the final round of the World Baseball Classic, but back in Arizona, the plate appearances haven’t been quite as fruitful. 

After a 6-4 loss to the Brewers during which many of his regulars continued to struggle, manager Bruce Bochy said some veterans could head down to minor league camp over the next week to get six or seven at-bats in one game. Bochy said the final decision is up to the veteran players, but it’s not hard to figure out who he’s talking about. In Sunday’s lineup, there were two starters (Hunter Pence and Denard Span), a potential backup outfielder (Gorkys Hernandez) and a reserve infielder candidate (Jimmy Rollins) hitting under .200.

Span has started to pick it up in recent days, but Pence was hitless in three at-bats, dropping his average to .125. 

“He’s still searching, it’s pretty obvious. He’s still searching,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some guys who are searching. You can look at the numbers.”

The positive news is that Pence is healthy. Also, spring training numbers don’t matter at all for veterans who are locked in for Opening Day. Still, Pence would like to see some better results before the April 2 opener at Chase Field. 

“Hopefully I can figure it out before the lights go on,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to be feeling like this when the season starts, I know that.”

The results weren’t much better on the mound Sunday. Jeff Samardzija gave up nine hits and six runs in four-plus innings. 

“The pitches were a little flat today, there’s no getting around it,” Bochy said. 

ROSTER CUTS: Tyler Beede and Christian Arroyo were sent down to minor league camp, where they’ll probably join up with Austin Slater and Steven Duggar and others to form a loaded Triple-A team. The Giants also reassigned lefty Kraig Sitton and optioned Orlando Calixte to Triple-A. 

ICYMI: Mark Melancon is officially headed to the World Baseball Classic. Also in that story, Johnny Cueto’s reaction to some fans back home calling him a traitor. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: Mac Williamson has been sidelined this weekend by left quad tightness. It’s not serious (Williamson blasted four straight homers during one of his BP rounds) but the Giants are going to be careful here. Obviously, the timing sucks for a guy who was having a good spring and was trying to win a job. There’s nothing standing between Jarrett Parker and an Opening Day look at Zack Greinke. 

FAMILIAR FACE: Andrew Susac didn’t make the trip with the Brewers. He’s sidelined by a neck issue, and it sounds like that could hurt his chances of winning a three-guys-for-two-spots camp battle. Brewers people think he’s on the outside looking in. 

QUOTABLE: “No, not at all. Not at all. We’ve seen what he’s done for the years he’s been here and how he steps up in those big situations in the playoffs. That’s what we have him for.” — Matt Cain, when asked during a recent interview if Bumgarner’s wild card performance surprised him. You can listen to that podcast online here or on iTunes here.

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

SAN FRANCISCO — The momentum generated by Christian Arroyo and Michael Morse late Wednesday night lasted just a few hours. By the end of this four-game series, the Giants were left with a harsh reality: Even with two injections of new blood, they are not hitting. 

Arroyo drove in another run Thursday, but that was it for a lineup that couldn’t support Matt Moore’s effort. The bullpen, which had kept Bruce Bochy’s guys in close games all series, finally broke in the 10th. The Dodgers walked away with a 5-1 win and a split of a series that was rather uninspiring for both sides. 

After scoring 10 runs on the last road trip, the Giants scored just eight during the four games against the Dodgers. Three of those RBI came from Arroyo, called up Monday. A fourth came from Morse, called up Wednesday.

“We’ve got to get this offense going,” Bochy said. “It’s a better offense than what we’re doing right now. You need to find a way to put a few runs on the board. We had our chances, we just couldn’t find ways to get the big hit.”

With Denard Span out for at least another week, Bochy moved Hunter Pence to the top of the lineup. His temporary No. 3 hitter against lefties, Eduardo Nuñez, has one hit in his last 20 at-bats. Buster Posey, the cleanup hitter, is batting .357, but he has driven in just three runs this month. With two on and one out in the eighth, he bounced into a double play. The production closer to the bottom of the order has been nonexistent, leading to constant shuffling that has moved Nuñez and Belt to left at times. Bochy said the staff will continue to search of a lineup that works. 

“You talk about it and do thing to adjust, and it will get better, but right now we’ve got some guys who aren’t swinging the bat well, to be honest,” he said. “You look at the order and we don’t have a lot of guys swinging well.”

The list does not include Arroyo, the rookie who will eventually have to deal with adjustments from pitchers. It doesn’t appear that’ll be a problem. Arroyo has been making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. He did so against Sergio Romo for his first career homer and said he learned about the depth of Julio Urias’ curveball during their first two battles Thursday. In the sixth, the 21-year-old Arroyo drove in the game-tying run against the 20-year-old Urias. The lefty had walked Posey to face Arroyo, who singled up the middle. 

“He handles himself so well,” Bochy said. “They walked Buster and he smokes the ball. This kid has shown he’s not in awe. The upper deck, the bright lights, he comes to play.”

Arroyo’s effort briefly backed Moore, who was sharp in seven innings. Moore struck out eight, six of them looking, but he didn’t get much help and the bullpen fell apart in the 10th with a series of walks.

Bochy challenged his starters on Saturday at Coors Field and they responded with a strong series back home. The bullpen was tested during the first week but — Thursday’s result aside — it has settled down. The Giants are not as worried about their pitching as they were as they flew back from Denver. They know, however, that this team is going nowhere if two runs per game continues to be the nightly output. 

“We’ll tweak it again,” Bochy said of his lineup. “We'll see if we can get this thing right.”

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Quietly over the past couple of weeks, Bruce Bochy’s bullpen had started to settle. Bochy praised the group before Thursday’s game, noting that roles were being defined by pitchers who entered the series finale with the Dodgers with a 0.94 collective ERA this season. That changed in the 10th inning Thursday.

Three relievers combined to give up four runs on four walks and three singles. The implosion ended with a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers and a split of this four-game series. 

For most of the game, this was a day when youth shined. Corey Seager celebrated his 23rd birthday with a solo homer in the first on a two-strike pitch from Matt Moore that caught the heart of the plate. The Giants will be dealing with Seager for years, and if all goes according to plan, there will be years of Julio Urias vs. Christian Arroyo battles, too. 

The 21-year-old third baseman won the first matchup, lining a single to center. Arroyo flew out in his second at-bat against the 20-year-old Urias, but they faced off a third time in a big spot. Brandon Belt drew a one-out walk in the sixth and went to third when a pickoff throw skipped down the line. After an intentional walk of Buster Posey, Arroyo lined another one back up the middle. Urias stuck his glove up but it ticked off and into center for a game-tying single. 

Arroyo ended the young lefty’s day. Moore was done after seven sparkling innings. He struck out eight, six of them looking. 

The game went to extras, and Cory Gearrin walked pinch-hitter Adrian Gonzalez to lead off the 10th. Chase Utley was called up to bunt but he couldn’t get it down. Instead, he hit an infield single off Steven Okert that stayed true to the third-base line. After a walk of Yasmani Grandal, the third straight pinch-hitter, Andrew Toles lined a single to center to give the Dodgers a lead and the wheels soon came off. 

Utley alertly tagged up and scored on a pop-up to foul territory. Justin Turner’s single extended the lead to three and Hunter Strickland’s four-pitch walk of Chris Taylor pushed another across. 

Starting pitching report: Moore gave up 19 hits and 11 earned runs in his two previous starts, but the Dodgers had just two hits, the Seager homer and a Chris Taylor single. Taylor reached third with one out, but Moore got Scott Van Slyke and Cody Bellinger to go down looking. 

Bullpen report: Mark Melancon came on in a non-save situation for a second straight day and pitched a scoreless ninth. 

At the plate: Buster Posey’s hitting streak ended at 12 games. He twice bounced into double plays.

In the field: Posey chased a high pop-up down the right field line in the fourth, but he was going to come up short. Kelby Tomlinson came out of nowhere with the helping hand, making a running catch near the visiting bullpen. Posey smiled and shook his head as Tomlinson whipped the ball back to the infield. 

Attendance: The Giants said they sold out a 500th consecutive game.

Up next: The Giants have a three-city road trip coming up, so it’s time to take advantage of a weekend at home against the Padres. Jeff Samardzija and Luis Perdomo get the opener.