Giants won't make it official yet, but Span will play center


Giants won't make it official yet, but Span will play center

SAN FRANCISCO — Social media has led to some awkward moments for teams recently. Coaches sometimes find out over the phone that they’re getting fired, and players often hear the news of trades and deals on Twitter before a team official can dial their number.

The Giants go out of their way to avoid such instances, and thus Denard Span was introduced to the media Friday and was never explicitly called the team’s opening day center fielder or leadoff hitter. Bruce Bochy won’t make that declaration before speaking to Angel Pagan, the incumbent, and the two have only been able to exchange texts in recent days.

You didn’t need a public declaration, though: Denard Span will be the center fielder, and he will hit atop the lineup.

In his opening remarks, Bochy noted Span’s ability in center and hitting leadoff. Later, he was asked directly about his opening day lineup.

[RELATED: Krukow: Denard Span 'the whole package' for Giants]

“I always like to get with my players when there could be a change or a tweak,” Bochy said. “It’s a very workable situation. (Span is) one of the best center fielders in the game and as I mentioned, a proven leadoff hitter. I would like to, out of respect, touch base with Angel.”

Span’s agent, Scott Boras, marketed him as a premier leadoff hitter and center fielder, saying he’s “like a defensive back” when he breaks on a ball and comparing him to Jacoby Ellsbury. Asked about the crowded outfield market, Boras said Span was in a different lane. “The difference is he’s a leadoff hitter and a center fielder," Boras added.

Span has made 778 out of his 923 career starts in center, but he let others speak to the situation Friday.

“I told Boch I’ll do whatever,” he said. “I’ve been a center fielder for a lot of my career. Center field is sentimental to me, but at the same time, I’m at the stage of my career where I want to do whatever it takes to help me win a championship. If that means me being in center field, I’ll take that with pride and will do the best I can. If they need me in left field, if they need me to catch for Buster a couple of games, I’ll do that as well.”

The Giants, in chasing Span, never even discussed a move to left, and now it will be up to Bochy to smooth things over with Pagan, who takes great pride in playing center and hitting atop the lineup. They made one change last year when Nori Aoki took the No. 1 spot, but a move to left will be complicated by the fact that Pagan is entering his contract year. He wants to play center, but for his sake, showing the ability to be a plus or average defender in left instead of a below-average one in center may help his cause. It will certainly help the Giants. 

With Span in center, the Giants will be as strong up the middle as any team in the National League. Brandon Crawford is a Gold Glove winner at short, Joe Panik likely would have been a finalist had he not gotten hurt, and Buster Posey should unseat Yadier Molina one of these years and win his first Gold Glove. Span was a Gold Glove finalist for the Nationals in 2013 and 2014.

“We’re set everywhere right now,” Bochy said. “Usually you go to spring training and you have some question marks, but across the infield and outfield this is as set as we’ve been. And not just set, but as good a defensive club as I’ve ever had. If we all play up to our capabilities, I think we have a chance to be one of the best defensive teams in baseball.”

It shouldn't be long before the Giants make the outfield changes official, but just in case, one last hint was dropped Friday afternoon. About an hour after his press conference, team officials led Span onto the field at AT&T Park to take some shots in his new No. 2 Giants jersey. The photo shoot took place in center field.

Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers


Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — A 2-1 victory Saturday night at Dodger Stadium all but assured that the Giants will not lose 100 games. They still could, sure, because any sort of downslide is possible in this 2017 season, but they would really have to finish with some sort of ugly stretch. 

Still, it’s been a long season, so it was no surprise when Madison Bumgarner admitted to some sleepless nights since Opening Day. As for Saturday night …

“It’s going to be much easier to go to sleep tonight, because we won,” Bumgarner said.

The big lefty did the heavy lifting, throwing 7 2/3 dominant innings and offering one more reminder that his shoulder is 100 percent fine after a season-halting dirt bike accident. Bumgarner topped out at 93.5 mph, and even though Bruce Bochy thought Dodger Stadium might have had a hot gun on this night, the swings told the story of a good fastball. Bumgarner said this was as good as he has felt in a while. 

“He did look strong,” Bochy said. “He did have really good stuff tonight. It was really crisp.”

It was the kind of night that reminds you that, for all their issues, the Giants will start 2018 with a leg up on many others. They have Madison Bumgarner and you don’t, and that should lead to plenty of good over the course of 32 or 33 starts. 

“I think it’s good for the club to know, hey, he’s back,” Bochy said. “This is the kind of ball we can play.”

It was the brand Bochy appreciates: A strong start, a good bullpen, strong defense, and just enough offense. That’s how the Giants will win in 2018, if they are to do so, which bodes well for the man at the center of Saturday’s offense. The Giants plan to move Denard Span to left field and acquire a new center fielder, but they still lack depth in the organization, and Gorkys Hernandez has made it clear he would like to stick around. He had three hits — including two doubles — and a walk, scoring both Giants runs. 

After a slow start that almost got him released, Hernandez took off over the summer, providing a high average and sparkling defense at three spots. A left wrist tendon issue has slowed him in September, but he surprised the staff by being available for the final two weeks of games, and he said he’ll play through the end of the year before considering any rehab options 

“He certainly has made a statement,” Bochy said. “He’s one of our better athletes. He can play anywhere in the outfield, and what’s impressive is how he’s come on with the bat. A kid like this that plays defense the way he can, and shows he can do some things with the bat, he’s in the mix.”

Hernandez said he loves playing in San Francisco. He intends to spend his offseason getting healthy at his home in Scottsdale before competing for an outfield job. 

“Every time Bochy puts me in the lineup I’m trying to show everyone that I can be here and that I can be part of this team for a long time,” he said. 

Giants lineup: Span back in center, batting third vs Dodgers


Giants lineup: Span back in center, batting third vs Dodgers

Even with the Giants facing a left-handed pitcher Saturday night vs. the Dodgers, Bruce Bochy is going with Denard Span as his three-hitter.

San Francisco Giants (60-94)

1. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Denard Span (L) CF
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Hunter Pence (R) RF
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Kelby Tomlinson (R) 3B
8. Ryder Jones (L) 1B
9. Madison Bumgarner (R) P

Los Angeles Dodgers (98-56)

1. Chris Taylor (R) CF
2. Corey Seager (L) SS
3. Enrique Hernandez (R) LF
4. Yasiel Puig (R) RF
5. Logan Forsythe (R) 3B
6. Austin Barnes (R) C
7. Kyle Farmer (R) 1B
8. Charlie Culberson (R) 2B
9. Hyun-Jin Ryu (R) P