Giants

Hembree close to returning to Fresno

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Hembree close to returning to Fresno

DENVER Heath Hembree, the biggest arm in the Giants minorleague system, responded well after throwing live batting practice and shouldreturn to the active roster at Triple-A Fresno in the next day or two.

Hembree faced hitters on Friday and Im told his strainedflexor tendon responded well. The right-hander, who throws in the upper 90s, hasbeen sidelined since July 4.

Hembree, 23, began the season as Fresnos closer and posteda 2.00 ERA in April but struggled for a 6.10 ERA in May and the Grizzliesstopped using him on back-to-back days. A fifth-round pick out of the Collegeof Charleston in 2010, hes considered the best relief prospect in the Giantssystem.

Its still possible that Hembree could be a Septembercall-up if he rebounds well and throws strikes. He isnt on the 40-man roster,though.

As Arroyo is shut down, Sandoval's numbers nosedive

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USATSI

As Arroyo is shut down, Sandoval's numbers nosedive

SAN FRANCISCO — There is a Houston Astros prospect named Dean Deetz, and in a way, Pablo Sandoval can thank him for his second shot with the Giants. 

Deetz drilled Christian Arroyo on July 1, halting the young third baseman’s bid to return to the Giants for the final two months. With Eduardo Nuñez traded to Boston and Arroyo recovering from minor hand surgery, the Giants turned to Sandoval, who has been a fixture in the middle of their lineup the last couple of weeks. Arroyo hoped to get some time at the hot corner in September, but on Thursday the Giants conceded that won’t happen. 

Arroyo will miss the rest of the regular season, team officials said. The hope is that he can get healthy in time for the Arizona Fall League and then potentially make up lost at-bats in a winter league.

Arroyo is either the organization’s best or second-best hitting prospect, depending on which list you look at. He hit .396 in Triple-A this season and then provided a momentary jolt after he forced his way into the big league lineup. Then the slump came, and overall Arroyo hit just .192 in 34 big league games. He was sent back to the minors and promptly was hit by a couple of pitches. 

It was a season with plenty of highs but a disappointing ending, but Arroyo is still just 22 and looks to be a big part of the future. Has he done enough to go into next spring with a firm grip on a job? 

“I’ll have to answer that later on and see where we’re at,” manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday. “It’s all going to be competitive, that’s the way I look at it. You look at where we’ll finish, and not in the postseason, and you have to stay open-minded on everything.”

This could be setting up for a pretty intriguing spring battle. Arroyo and 23-year-old Ryder Jones were the internal candidates set for a competition, but Sandoval likely will be the everyday third baseman down the stretch. He has shown flashes of his old pre-Boston self and the Giants have been generally pleased with his play. Still, the results aren’t really there. 

Sandoval is hitting .200 since returning, with a .220 on-base percentage and .325 slugging percentage. That's good for a .545 OPS, which is nearly 100 points below his OPS in Boston this season. The Red Sox, at some point, had seen enough.  

Bochy said he has taken positives away from Sandoval's energy and some of his bigger moments, particularly the upper-deck homer he hit off Max Scherzer over the weekend. That’s his only homer with the Giants so far, but it made an impression. 

“He’s got the bat speed,” Bochy said. “That’s one of the longest homers we’ve seen this year. That shows (the bat speed) is there.”

Jones has been a fixture as well, playing first base in place of Brandon Belt. He has looked much better the second time around, but his average is still below .200 and his OPS of .559 is just about equal to Sandoval's. The Giants have not seen enough from anyone to have a favorite to play third base next season, and Bochy said the same holds true at other positions. 

"We've got to stay open-minded about who is going to be where next year (and) playing time," he said. "It's up to us to adjust and get better."

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span has played enough center field at AT&T Park that he knew not to assume anything when Jarrett Parker crushed a ball to dead center. Span, standing on second, held up for a second to make sure the ball got over Nick Williams. Hunter Pence, standing on first, had a better view, and he took off with the crack of the bat. As Pence approached Span, he tried to yell over the crowd. 

“Go!” Pence yelled.

Span didn’t hear him. 

“I just felt him,” he said later, smiling. 

Span raced around third and Pence roared up on his back like the third sprinter in a 4x100 relay trying to hand off a baton. Span crossed first and Pence was inches behind him, stretching the lead to three runs. 

“It’s one of those plays that’s a little weird but it worked out,” Pence said. 

Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher of record in a 5-4 win over the Phillies, said Pence “was on a mission.” Span said simply, “That’s Hunter being Hunter.”

“I knew he was right on my heels,” he said. “I was trying to run as fast as I could. In my defense, he had a running start. It was fun, though, it was fun. I’ve never had anyone chasing me like that on the bases.”

The moment brought some levity to a season that’s been lacking it. Span laughed as he crossed the plate and the dugout was full of smiles and jokes as the two returned. But on a grander scale, it was a reminder of what Pence has been and what the Giants need him to be if they are to recover from this season. Pence is signed for 2018 at a hefty price. The odds are good that he'll be in right field, so it’s been a relief for coaches and team officials to see Pence pick it up in recent weeks. 

Pence had a hit and two walks on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in another. He is batting .346 in August. 

“He has just been making more consistent contact and staying in the strike zone more,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

That has led to better results at the plate, and Pence has provided reminders that the physical skills are still there. After going 0-for-AT&T Park in the first half he hit a couple of homers on the last homestand. Statcast’s Sprint Speed shows that Pence is actually running faster at his top speed than in the past couple of years, when he battled injuries. Pence is at 28.2 feet per second this year, a tick up from 28.1 each of the past two seasons. 

“Baseball goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve had some tough stretches, but right now I’m in a stretch where I’m going better and I’m still trying to improve.”

On Thursday, he pushed a teammate to run just a little faster. But perhaps Pence’s good friend deserves some credit for Span’s speed, too. After stealing his fifth base a few days back, Buster Posey started needling Span. The leadoff hitter has three stolen bases in seven games since that point, getting to eight for the year. 

“He was just talking too much trash,” Span said of Posey. 

Span said Posey mentioned their equal stolen base totals two or three times. He didn’t respond because he couldn’t. Now, he has bragging rights again, and he’s enjoying it. 

“Check the tapes,” Span said as reporters started to walk away from his locker. “I think I’ve got a stolen base off of him.”