Notes: Giants hopeful Cain takes final rotation spot

Notes: Giants hopeful Cain takes final rotation spot

SAN FRANCISCO — As the Giants gathered at AT&T Park on Friday morning, one player walked into a room and asked a reporter, “How many spots do we even have available this spring?” The answer is “not many,” but general manager Bobby Evans and manager Bruce Bochy did their best Friday to keep the spirit of competition going.

There will a battle in left field, of course, and the bullpen and bench need to be fully sorted out. Then there’s the fifth starter spot, and while Evans and Bochy said they’re open to competition, it’s not hard to read between the lines.

“In a perfect world, Matt Cain would be Matt Cain and he would take that spot,” Evans said. “That’s preferable, but we do have to allow an opportunity to evaluate everybody.”

Cain hasn’t often been that desired version over the last three or four seasons, but he will get a chance to keep his rotation spot, and he’ll enter camp as the frontrunner when pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale Stadium on Monday. Ty Blach will get a chance to knock him off, but the clear preference is to have Cain — the longest-tenured Giant, and a player in the final year of a massive deal — lock up a spot. Blach, the young challenger, will be the next man up in Sacramento in management’s ideal world. 

“We have to give Matt Cain a nod relative to what he’s accomplished but we also can’t disregard what Ty Blach did last season as well as at the big league level, as well as other guys that will come in and compete and try to make their case for that fifth spot,” Evans said. “There is an element of competition there because we want to see who the best fit is.”

--- All is said to be good on the health front, although Evans was a little coy, signaling that some players might be held back early in camp. That’s the case every year, though. There are no significant tweaks or injuries, he said. Hunter Pence had to back off during some of his offseason workouts after feeling something in his side, but Pence said he’s fine. The tweak was not to the same side as an oblique injury he suffered two years ago. Expect the Giants to take it slow with Pence. He’s shown that you can pretty much drop him in the lineup when healthy and he’ll be Full Throttle. 

--- Josh Osich was one of the Giants who did have offseason issues. He had a minor procedure on his left knee and said it’s all set right now. Osich said the knee bothered him most of last season, but surgery would have been season-ending so he pitched through it. Remember, two years ago he was looked at as a possible closer. The Giants hope that version of Osich returns in 2017. 

--- Javier Lopez, who retired this week, will be in camp as a guest instructor. (He will teach Swag 101.) 

“As good a player as he was, he’s an even better person,” Bochy said.

--- No surprise here, but Evans said Derek Law, Hunter Strickland and Will Smith are the frontrunners to pitch the eighth. Law, by the way, is one of several Giants on a podcast I taped today. Look for that here or here in the coming days, and subscribe on iTunes if you haven’t already!

--- Evans was asked if Mike Morse is still viable in left field and he said the first priority will be making sure Morse’s bat speed is still there. If he shows that, the Giants will try to shoehorn him onto the roster. Evans reiterated that he would rather not see Brandon Belt play any left field, but it hasn’t fully been ruled out. 

--- Look, they’re not going to actually go through with that “put a runner on second in extra innings” plan, but it got headlines this week so players and coaches were asked about it. “I’m not a big fan of it,” Bochy said. “I probably never would be.” Bochy did say that he likes the concept in the minors since it saves young arms a bit. 

--- Here’s my story from earlier on the Giants who are playing in the WBC.  

--- Bochy on Sergio Romo choosing the Dodgers: “It’s always strange at first. We’ll probably see him in spring training. You’ve got to move on just like he did, and we have. It’s part of the game.” Crawford said he expects Romo to get a huge ovation the first time he returns to AT&T Park. After that, it’s probably a different ballgame. 

--- Nick Hundley was here, and he said he’s excited about his new role.

“If you get the opportunity to play for an organization like this one that’s all-in, you take it. You don’t get that opportunity often,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer. I always admired the continuity over here and the environment as a visiting player.”

Hundley has had plenty of time here with the Padres and Rockies. 

“As a visiting player, it’s invigorating,” he said of playing at AT&T Park. “I’ve been trying to beat the Giants for a long time without a lot of success.”

Down on the Farm: Is there a two-way star in MLB's future?

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AP

Down on the Farm: Is there a two-way star in MLB's future?

This game is supposed to be hard. Somehow in the 2017 MLB Draft, two of the top prospects have so much talent they put teams in a tough spot. 

High School phenom Hunter Greene and University of Louisville star Brendan McKay were both options to go No. 1 overall to the Minnesota Twins. The only question with them was, where would they play? No, this isn't because the two are DH-type players who can't stay on the field. Instead, the two are marvels at the plate and on the mound, making the idea of a possible two-way MLB star, start to seem real. 

“I think it’s really just that hard," says Sacramento River Cats pitcher Michael Roth. "I don’t really know if that’s possible." 

If it was up to Roth, he would have made MLB scouts fret over what to label him as well. Roth, who wound up as a College World Series legend on the mound for South Carolina, came to the school with intentions of a career at first base. 

The most games Roth appeared in as a hitter in college were 17 as a senior. He batted .211 that season and the lefty wound up going to the Angels in the ninth round of the draft after completing one of the greatest college careers ever as a pitcher.

As strictly a pitcher, and serving as both a starter and reliever, Roth knows the rigors he must put in before a game. This is hours of work, all prior to a three-hour game. 

"From a pitcher’s perspective, I know how much work goes into honing our craft and you’re never perfect," said Roth. "I mean, you’re always working on it and there’s still something each day that you don’t think you did well enough."

With his past of a former two-way player himself in college who focused more on offense when first arriving on campus, Roth says the same when it comes to position players. 

"I mean they have to put time into honing their craft whether it be on the field fielding ground balls or taking fly balls in the outfield and then taking swings. And it’s a lot of work,” Roth continues. 

For Greene and McKay, the numbers speak for themselves. Maybe they really are the ones.

Greene, a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher and shortstop, hit .324 with six home runs in 30 games as a senior at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. On the mound, with a fastball that can touch 102 miles per hour, Greene allowed a total of three earned runs in 28 innings pitched with 43 strikeouts.

Maybe he is the one.

College baseball's Colossus of Clout put up numbers among the best bats and arms in the country for the Cardinals. McKay led Louisville to the College World Series where his amateur career ended in a 4-3 loss to TCU, going out with a bang as he bashed his 18th home run of the year, 20 rows deep into the right-field bleachers. He finished his junior year at the plate hitting .341 with 18 home runs. His pitching stats weren’t far behind, going 11-3 as he posted a 2.56 ERA and struck out 146 in 109 innings pitched. 

McKay is the only person to win the John Olerud Award, given to the top two-way college baseball player in the country, more than once. He won it three straight years, every single season of his college career. 

Maybe he is the one. 

These are two supreme athletes at 17 years old (Greene) and 21 (McKay). They have not peaked and theoretically can only improve their bodies in the next few years. That’s not the problem.  

“As a pitcher, we’re constantly doing things for our body and same thing for position players,” Roth said. “That’s the biggest thing, recovery. 

“I remember days where I would actually pitch and hit sometimes. I would start on a Friday and then every once in a while on Sunday I would get the DH spot in college and at DH sometimes I could feel on the follow through of my swing, I was tight in my shoulder. Things like that can inhibit your swing.” 

On draft night, Greene went No. 2 overall to the Reds while McKay was selected No. 4 overall by the Rays. Officially, Greene was announced as a right-handed pitcher and McKay a first baseman. Maybe their way to the majors is a one-way street. But maybe in the case of Greene or McKay, there's a two-lane road.

Roth is running down the path of a realist. Don’t mistake him for a pessimist. Like any other baseball fan or player that grew up throwing as hard as they could and trying to hit balls to sights unseen, he wants to see a two-way star in the bigs. 

“I just don’t know how it would really work. Obviously, they’d have to be a specimen too,” Roth said before he smiles with a short laugh and says, “I think that would be really cool if someone could do it because that means they’re a freak. That would be cool, but tough.”

All it takes is one. 

Blach only lasts three innings as Giants get mashed by Mets in loss

Blach only lasts three innings as Giants get mashed by Mets in loss

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yoenis Cespedes had three hits including a two-run homer and Lucas Duda had three hits including a solo blast as the New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 11-4 on Friday night.

The win snapped the Mets' four-game losing streak. They had lost seven of eight.

The Giants have lost 10 of their last 11 games, 12 of their last 14 and 19 of their last 24.

Along with Cespedes and Duda, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto all had three hits.

After being held to five runs over their last three games, the Mets broke out their hitting slump, combining for 20 hits.

All but one Mets starter (Jose Reyes) had at least one hit and all but two (Reyes and Cabrera) drove in at least one run.

Seth Lugo (2-1) won for the third time in his last four starts. He gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings and was 1 for 2 with one RBI.

Gorkys Hernandez hit a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth off Lugo that spoiled his bid for a fifth straight quality start.

Cespedes' ninth homer of the season highlighted a six-run second inning in which the Mets sent 10 batters to the plate.

Cespedes had a double in the sixth that highlighted a three-run inning.

In 13 games since coming off the disabled list Cespedes is 17 for 43 with seven extra-base hits including three home runs.

He's 8 for 18 with three home runs in his last four games at AT&T Park going back to last season.

Ty Blach (4-5) gave up seven runs in three innings. He's 0-3 with a 6.84 ERA in his last five starts.

Cabrera was activated from the disabled list and inserted into the New York Mets' starting lineup at second base rather than shortstop and he said he wants to be traded. Cabrera had three hits Friday night.

The 31-year-old, a two-time All-Star and a veteran of 11 big league seasons, had not started at second since Sept. 28, 2014. The Mets started Jose Reyes at shortstop against San Francisco on Friday night and Wilmer Flores at third.

TRANSACTIONS:

Mets: Second-round draft selection Mark Vientos signed out of high school for a $1.5 million signing bonus. The infielder was the 59th overall selection in this year's draft. . The Mets also signed their third- and fifth-round picks, OF Quinn Brodey and 1B/OF Matt Winaker (both from Stanford). . Brodey signed for a $500,000 bonus and Winaker for $280,000.

Giants: LHP Bryan Morris was designated for assignment and Steven Okert was called up from Triple-A Sacramento.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner (separated left shoulder) threw 45 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday at the team's spring training complex in Scottsdale, Arizona. . Utilityman Eduardo Nunez went on the 10-day DL with a hamstring injury. The Giants activated 3B Conor Gillaspie (back spasms).

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Jacob deGrom (6-3, 394 ERA) has allowed one earned run over 17 innings in his last two starts. He's 3-1 with a 3.62 ERA in five career starts against the Giants. San Francisco RHP Johnny Cueto (5-7, 4.42) is 1-6 with a 4.13 ERA in his last nine starts. He's 4-4 with a 3.75 ERA in 12 career starts against the Mets