Giants spring training Day 36: Hill adds to strong showing with start in LF

Giants spring training Day 36: Hill adds to strong showing with start in LF

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Aaron Hill, the 34-year-old career infielder trying to win a bench job, started in left field Monday. Asked to think back to the last time he lined up in the outfield, Hill smiled.

“It was my freshman year of college,” the LSU alum said. “We had Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot up the middle.”

Fontenot and Theriot eventually made their way to San Francisco. With eight days left in camp, it looks like Hill will, too.

A hitless day Monday dropped his spring average to .242, but the majority of the outs in recent days have been scorched, and Hill has already shown that he can handle three infield spots. He has taken grounders at first base, too, and with Johnny Cueto on the mound, he looked just fine in left. 

Hill’s biggest test came in the fourth, when Peter Bourjos led off with a triple. Leury Garcia lofted a fly ball down deep down the left field line and Hill made a strong one-hop throw to the plate. There was no shot at Bourjos, one of the faster players in the game, but the throw opened some eyes. 

“How’d it look?” Hill said.” It felt alright.”

Cueto noted the strength of the throw and Brandon Belt, who was playing first, joked that it looked like 95 mph out of the arm. Manager Bruce Bochy liked what he saw.

As they zero in on an opening day group, the Giants have thrown a number of infielders into the outfield during workouts. Hill has been joined by Gordon Beckham and Jae-gyun Hwang during drills with instructor Cody Ross, and he said he’s having a blast. 

“That was fun, honestly,” he said. “It’s been talked about the last couple of weeks, getting me in there. That’s the first time in a game and it was fun. It’s challenging and it’s different, and I’m always up for a challenge. In my position, anything can help.”

BAD NEWS: Will Smith will have a second MRI on his left elbow. Here's the story.

ICYMI: The main story today: Johnny Cueto looks ready. Cueto had some fun as he came off the mound in the fifth. 

Also, here's my story on Steven Okert. He could end up being really important if Smith misses serious time. 

PROSPECT WATCH: Ryder Jones blasted a three-run shot in the eighth and made a very slick pick of a short-hop grounder in the bottom of the inning. He doesn’t get brought up much, but he’s a really interesting guy because of his athleticism. I’ve seen him at first and he’s pretty good there, and the Giants are going to get him some time in left. As much as we talk about Christian Arroyo’s age, remember: Jones is still just 22 years old, and he'll continue to grow into power. 

"He's just what you like from a corner guy," Bochy said. "First base, third base, with power. He's got a good arm. They're going to move him around in Triple-A."

 

Giants lineup: Posey, Arroyo out against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey, Arroyo out against Braves

Mired in a big slump, rookie Christian Arroyo is getting a night off, while Nick Hundley is catching in place of Buster Posey Saturday.

Atlanta Braves:
1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Tyler Flowers (R) C
7. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
8. Danny Santana (S) 3B
9. Mike Foltynewicz (R) P

San Francisco Giants:
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) LF
3. Joe Panik (L) 2B
4. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Aaron Hill (R) 3B
7. Nick Hundley (R) C
8. Mac Williamson (R) RF
9. Ty Blach (R) P

 

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”