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.”

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.