Pagan, Schierholtz make strides at plate

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Pagan, Schierholtz make strides at plate

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Giants manager Bruce Bochy saw a bunchof tired, overworked hitters the past week. So he locked the cages Wednesdaymorning, pushed back the workout by a half hour and limited drills to defensivestuff on a back field.

The Giants didnt exactly bust out in a 4-1 victory over thebillion-dollar Los Angeles Dodgers, but a couple of their struggling hittersshowed signs of life.

Angel Pagan lined a double for the second consecutive day his two-bagger on Tuesday broke an 0-for-24 streak and said he felt betterafter making a mechanical tweak. And Nate Schierholtz, who still hasnt sewn upthe starting right field job, hit a two-run home run to the opposite field.Schierholtz also threw out a runner trying to go from first to third on asingle.

RECAP: Giants use long ball to top Dodger, 4-1

Hes been working hard and he got better swings today,Bochy said of Schierholtz. Its time for all of us to swing the bat better.

Schierholtz got six at-bats in minor league camp on Tuesdayand that might have helped his timing at the plate. Pagan did the same thing aweek earlier and will go back to load up on at-bats in the minors again as earlyas Thursday.

Bochy said Pagan has had a couple rough springs and welooked into that. I talked to him about that. He says hes feeling better.

EXTRA BAGGS: Pagan can't buy a break

Pagan probably wasnt in danger of losing his job as theGiants leadoff hitter and center fielder, but club officials were beginning toworry as his average plummeted near the .170 mark. They also have a worthyalternative in non-roster outfielder Gregor Blanco, who has been the surpriseof camp.

Although his body language didnt always send the samemessage, Pagan said he was never truly worried.

To me its not about results, he said, denying he knew aboutthe 0-for-24. Im feeling better at the right time. I just want to feelcomfortable and not feeling youre jumping at the plate.

Pagan watched video from 2010 and realized he had changedhis hands.

I made that adjustment and its a great sign, Pagan said. Imseeing the ball really good and my timing is perfect. I just had to get mymechanics right.

Obviously, I wasnt feeling great but I wasnt worriedbecause I work too hard. I know Im going to get that feeling. To me, its veryimportant to feel good at the end of spring, and I do now.

Assuming Pagan is the leadoff man on April 6, hell get thehonor of being in the batters box for the first pitch of the season.

This is my fourth (opening day) as a leadoff hitter and Imvery proud of myself that Ive been this far, he said. I take a lot of pridein that first day. I play with my heart and hopefully the fans like it and itswhat we need to win a championship.

It seems like everybody is committed to win and thats agreat attitude.

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jae-Gyun Hwang’s day started with an ovation from teammates who had selected Hwang as the Barney Nugent Award winner. It ended in style, too. 

Hwang’s walk-off single in the ninth gave the Giants an 8-7 win and raised his spring average to .308. Barring an injury or sudden change, Hwang will not make the team out of camp, but he’ll travel to San Francisco for the Bay Bridge Series next week and the Giants expect him back at AT&T Park soon.

“He can keep the award now,” Bochy joked after Hwang’s walk-off. “Good for him. Players love him, and the way he’s come out every day and the effort he puts in. He’s been inspiring with how hard he has gotten after it every day.”

The Barney Nugent Award is given to the player in his first big league camp “whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.” It is meaningful in large part because the voters are teammates, trainers and coaches. Hwang was called to the middle of the clubhouse by trainer Dave Groeschner on Saturday morning to accept the award. 

“With this being my first time coming to spring training to play baseball, I wanted to work hard and show that I belong here,” Hwang said through interpreter Mark Kim. “I think my teammates have noticed how hard I’ve worked for the team.”

The rest of the Giants have also noticed how easy Hwang has made the transition look. He said that, outside of learning a new strike zone, the adjustment hasn’t been a difficult one. He has four homers this spring, but doesn’t necessarily view that as a shining positive. Hwang said he wants to show more of an all-around game, especially on defense, and a stint in Triple-A Sacramento should provide that opportunity. 

If the rosters play out as expected, Hwang should see most of the time at third base in Triple-A. He can also play first, and he’s eager to show that he’s viable in left field. 

“I want to show I’m a versatile player,” he said. 

GAME RECAP: Chris Stratton was having a good spring, but he got knocked around by the Padres early … Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford both hit deep homers in their second game back from the WBC … Mark Melancon still has not allowed a run this spring … Hunter Pence's March slump got a bit deeper with an 0-for-3 ... Bryan Reynolds, last year’s top pick, entered as a pinch-runner and flew home from first on a Gorkys Hernandez double off the wall. 

BULLPEN BATTLES: In the front office’s perfect world, Josh Osich would be the one to take over for Will Smith, giving the team a hard-throwing lefty capable of neutralizing lefties and righties. It’s been an up-and-down spring for Osich, but he was filthy Saturday, striking out a pair in his lone inning. 

George Kontos looked even better in his inning, striking out the side. Kontos has allowed just five hits in 10 innings this spring, with 15 strikeouts. He seems forever stuck in that sixth-seventh range, but given his splits have been just about even over the years, maybe it’s time the Giants see what he can do in a more high-profile role. 

Cory Gearrin followed the previous two with a perfect eighth. Neil Ramirez struck out one and allowed one hit in the ninth. In 9 1/3 innings this spring, Ramirez has struck out 16 and allowed just five hits and two runs. He has a real shot to take someone’s job in the bullpen next week. 

ICYMI: The big news from this morning: Michael Morse will stick with the team and try to rehab/play his way back to the big leagues. And from the early afternoon, Johnny Cueto had a ton of fun with a 19-year-old he faced in a minor league game. 

NOTABLE: Bochy said that all of the players left in camp are slated to head home on the team flight Tuesday, but some guys have opt-outs on March 30, so moves are coming. This would seem a great sign for Aaron Hill, who is due a $100,000 retention bonus on Tuesday. Hill has slumped late in camp, but he’s still in position to make the team. Also noteworthy: Tyler Beede is scheduled to start Saturday’s game in Oakland. The Giants surely want to knock some MLB-stadium-nerves off before Beede heads down to Triple-A to wait for a call-up.

 

Cueto toys with young prospect in Giants minor league game

Cueto toys with young prospect in Giants minor league game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There is no way to really ramp up the intensity when an All-Star pitcher makes an appearance in minor league camp, so Johnny Cueto instead found a way to have a bit more fun. 

While getting his work in against A-ball hitters, Cueto had a prolonged, smile-filled battle with 19-year-old Jasrado Chisholm, one of the Diamondbacks’ top prospects. The sequence between Cueto and the shortstop from the Bahamas: 

  • Cueto just missed with a two-strike inside fastball, so he went right back to the same spot, freezing Chisholm, who smiled and nodded at Cueto, who laughed back. 
  • The next time up, Chisholm took two vicious hacks, trying to crank a homer onto Hayden Road. He missed both breaking balls by about a foot. 
  •  Before the third pitch, Cueto yelled something at Chisholm and smiled. “I was telling him to keep his eye on the ball,” Cueto said. “Because every time he was swinging, he was taking his eye off the ball.”
  •  The advice worked. Chisholm hung in on the third pitch, lining a single to left-center. Cueto laughed and pointed his glove at the teenager. He promptly picked him off of first base. “He probably doesn’t know I have a quick move,” he said. “I was having fun with a kid who wanted to actually hit against me.”

Nobody has more fun than Cueto, even on a sun-baked minor league field. He capped his day by standing in for an at-bat of his own, and he stood and watched as a young Diamondback struck him out.

The work on the mound was just what was needed: 7 innings, 85 pitches, 10 strikeouts, 0 runs. Cueto, who missed the opening weeks of camp, is ready for the season.

“I feel strong,” he said. “I feel really good."