Javier Lopez joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

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AP

Javier Lopez joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Javier Lopez walked through the clubhouse the other day casually flipping a weighted ball into the air. He looked like a left-hander getting ready for another season, and Lopez will in fact spend plenty of time in San Francisco this year. He won’t be on the field, though. He’ll be watching it. 

Lopez will join NBC Sports Bay Area as a studio analyst this season, adding to a schedule that also will include a fair amount of time in the booth with Duane Kuiper. The transition is one Lopez has been thinking about for years, and he said he used to do mock broadcasts from the bullpen in order to mix it up and keep his attention on the game. 

[RELATED: Matt Williams joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage]

“It’s something I definitely was considering toward the end of my career,” Lopez said. “Being recently retired and knowing a good amount of the guys that are on this team still, I think it’ll be a different perspective that I’ll be able to give.”

Lopez is the second left-handed reliever and Core Four member to jump into TV work in the first year of retirement. Jeremy Affeldt joined the network last season and the two will split the road games that Mike Krukow will miss this season, with Affeldt focusing primarily on NL Central series and Lopez handling most of the East Coast trips. 

To prepare, Lopez, who has had two stints in camp as an instructor, has been chatting with former teammates about the intricacies of playing other positions and taking at-bats. He has bounced ideas off players like Buster Posey, but he’s also looking forward to providing the unique perspective of a side-arming left-handed reliever

“Even with the pitching staff, I see things through a different lens than most people,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from everybody.”

Lopez was a clubhouse leader throughout his time with the Giants and he was a co-winner of the Willie Mac Award last season, his seventh in San Francisco. When the postseason was over, Lopez wasn’t sure he would be taking the TV step right away. He made a small list of contenders he would play for in 2017, with a focus on trying to win a fifth ring. 

“There were a couple of phases for me in particular,” he said. “I think I was thinking about knowing for sure that I wasn’t going to be a San Francisco Giant again. That was tough, but in another sense, this isn’t my first team that I’ve been on. I know how the business works. They have a lot of hard throwers as they’ve shown this spring and that’s the way that baseball is trending in the bullpen. We knew that the opportunity here wasn’t going to be there, and I was okay with that. 

“There were some teams I really wanted to go to and some places that I wanted to play, but ultimately those places started filling up pretty quickly with the relievers. The opportunities were available and I could have played — there were offers out there — but I didn’t see myself in those uniforms. If my heart’s not in it, that’s not a good way to go.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.