Programming note: For all the latest baseball news from spring training, watch Raising Arizona every Tuesday night at 6:30 and 10 p.m. only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Already, Michael Morse is proving to be a conscientious presence in the Giants clubhouse.
On the first day of live batting practice, he helpfully reminded left-handed prospect Edwin Escobar that it’s dangerous to leave a pitch up in the strike zone.
Morse was the star of the first truly interesting day of spring training. He crushed not one but two opposite-field home runs off Escobar, with the deep drives smacking the wall behind the bullpen beyond the right field fence.
No, this is not AT&T Park. But you can imagine Morse sending a few off the bricks – if not into the arcade.
“All I was trying to do was work on my timing,” Morse said. “Turns out it was pretty good.”
Morse is known as a spring training terror and a fast starter, which is exactly what the Giants need as they look to reestablish themselves with 22 games (and 25 of their first 28) against NL West rivals to start the season.
Morse is proud of another new toy this year. He received a personal bat humidor from Ichiro Suzuki, and plans to use it to transport his lumber all year long.
Even though he took Escobar deep twice, Morse said he was impressed with the 21-year-old.
“He had a great changeup,” Morse said. “He was working both sides of the plate as well, and keeping the ball down.”
Well, except for two pitches, maybe.
The first day of live BP is always a treat for the baseball deprived, and it was no different this time.
Matt Cain continued to scoff at using an L screen, even though he’s been pelted by comebackers on more than one occasion during the first live BP session of the spring.
He faced plenty of fearsome bat speed while Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval stood in against him. Both of them lined an apparent single, but overall, Cain looked sharp – and didn’t have to dodge anything back up the middle.
He threw one curveball that Hector Sanchez waved through, causing Sandoval to burst into laughter.
Sandoval later faced Javier Lopez, who experimented with several arm angles – including a knuckle-dragging pitch that didn’t fool Sandoval, who hit an apparent single to right field.
On the back field, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he was encouraged after watching Jeremy Affeldt and Madison Bumgarner face hitters. Bochy reiterated the importance of a healthy Affeldt in the bullpen, since he has the versatility to face left-handers or right-handers and be stretched over two innings if necessary. Affeldt had groin surgery in September, correcting what he believes to be the underlying cause to the other nagging injuries that have cropped up over the last couple seasons.
Right-hander Eric Cordier (pronounced the French way) displayed a live arm if not the greatest control while facing hitters. Cordier’s jersey has drawn attention this spring, for more than one reason. First, his name was accidentally misspelled “COREIER” and he had to wear the mistake jersey for the first four days in camp while a replacement was on order. Also, he was issued Barry Zito’s No. 75, causing Lopez to walk up to him and say, “You have some big shoes to fill. You’re replacing the nicest guy in baseball.”
Cordier, who hails from Green Bay, does seem like a nice guy. And hey, this No. 75 can break 90 mph, too.