Playoff decisions still loom for Bochy, Giants

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Playoff decisions still loom for Bochy, Giants

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Since the Giants are going all Hamlet on the subject of Melky Cabreras October plans, it might be time to help prod them on other players.

Say, like announcing that Matt Cain will be in the playoff rotation. Sure, that seems obvious, but it isnt official until the Giants say its official, right?

In fact, Cabrera has commanded remarkably little of Bruce Bochys thoughts down the stretch. He is the afterthoughts afterthought, a distant maybe-in-an-emergency-situation in a series the Giants have not qualified to play in yet. Apparently, we obsess so he doesnt have to.

No, he spends far more time on the rest of the jigsaw puzzle, and has spent more time on this playoff team than his five others, which when you consider the margin of divisional victory is a bit odd. More decisions should, well, make themselves.

No, this is different than the others, and not just because we clinched so early, he said after Cain shepherded the side to a 6-0 shutout of the Arizona Diamondbacks. There are a lot of things weve got to make our minds up on, and we havent made our minds up on a lot of things yet.
RECAP: Giants 6, D'backs 0

Bochy has a way of speaking in large groups that leaves great gaps between what he says and how it can be interpreted. For example, there is no guarantee that Aubrey Huff will be on the postseason roster at all, despite the assumptions of the past several days. Nor can you bank heavily on Tim Lincecum in a place of rotation honor because of his history. Nor can they say 11 pitchers or 12, or whether theyll use three catchers.

Brian and I and the staff met today, talking about different things and different ways to go, Bochy said. And were going to keep doing it in San Diego and L.A.

The biggest reason for all the meetings is that he isnt really sure of a lot of things this time. The infield is pretty well set, one would think, and with Cabreras absence the three outfield spots as well.

But the pitching staff, the strength of the team, the engine that moves the transmission, that is a profound muddle.

Cain and Madison Bumgarner will almost surely go in Games 1 and 2, no matter who the opponent might be. Theyre pretty similar teams, Bochy said of the Washingtons and Cincinnatis, so were going to go with what we think is our best rotation no matter what. The team we play wont factor in a lot, and neither will the ballpark.

But Lincecum, whose last outing Tuesday was thoroughly shambolic, is not guaranteed Game 3 just on reputation. His next start is going to be pretty important, is all Bochy would give up as information, but it says volumes in its own way.

And there is still the matter of Barry Zito v. Ryan Vogelsong, and who might be more prepared to pitch Game 4 and who might be more prepared pick up the pieces of the Lincecum start if needed. And, if Bochy doesnt have the full confidence of his rotation, whether hell need to use eight relievers against either the Nationals or the Redlegs.

In short, Bochys days are full, and not full of Melky Cabrera, either. His chances of participation, minimal though they might be, seem far more hinged to bad fortune for one of the other outfielders than it does his own eagerness to return and atone. Cabrera is our fixation, not his.

RELATED: Melky to be left off Giants' playoff roster

Besides, he has plenty of fixations already without worrying about someones fitness to play a series he cant even be sure theyll ever play.

This ones different, he says with a weary sigh, a brief profanity, and one more in a series of full face-rubs. Thats the international sign of a man who will win his division by 12 games and still looks like hes five games out with seven to play.

Baseballs a lot more fun when the decisions take care of themselves.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants always put together a long list of potential minor league free agents as the offseason approaches and they tend to go hard after two or three players from that group. One of the guys who got the hard sell over the winter was speedy outfielder Wynton Bernard, and the Giants were attractive for reasons beyond the departures of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco.

“I thought it was a good opportunity, and it also was a good fit for me because I’m from California,” Bernard said. 

Bernard is technically from Padres territory, but that gives him a connection to one of the men he’s hoping to impress. When Bernard was playing for Rancho Bernardo High, he often went up against a Poway High team that included a young Brett Bochy. Bruce never saw Bernard play because his job kept him away from most of Brett’s games, but he should see plenty of the 26-year-old this spring as the Giants look for a needed speed dimension. 

A big part of the staff overhaul was about making sure the Giants fare better on the bases. Roberto Kelly and Billy Hayes are out and Phil Nevin and Jose Alguacil are in. The Giants stole 79 bases last season, ranking eighth in the National League, and it’s not like they made up for the lack of small-ball by hitting the ball out of the park. Advanced metrics — tracked externally and also by the Giants — showed an inability to make an impact on the bases. According to BsR, an all-encompassing metric tracked by FanGraphs, the Giants were below average, ranking 17th in the majors. 

“We just want to be smarter baserunners,” Bochy said. “You always want to be aggressive. Everyone has the same philosophy — run hard — but it’s the old adage ‘strong to compete, smart to win.’”

A full season of Eduardo Nuñez will help, as would 162 games of Hunter Pence — who tends to make things happen on his own — and Joe Panik, one of the team’s smartest runners. Jimmy Rollins could provide speed off the bench, and Bernard hopes to make himself a viable option in the outfield. He stole 23 bags in 28 attempts last season for the Tigers’ Double-A and Triple-A teams and he stole 88 total bases the two seasons before 2016. 

The Giants know the kind of potential Bernard has, so early in the offseason he got a call telling him to hook up with fellow San Diego resident Vince Coleman, a legendary baserunner who would be joining the staff. The two worked out often in advance of spring training. 

“The Giants said he was in the area and I called him 20 minutes later,” Bernard said. “I feel like I can add a different dynamic with my speed.”

Bernard can play all three outfield spots and he sports a .360 on-base percentage in the minors. He’s likely ticketed for Triple-A for now, but a player with the same profile showed up in camp in 2012, and it wasn’t long before Gregor Blanco had locked up a roster spot. 

Whether Bernard is part of the mix, or it’s a Gorkys Hernandez or Nuñez or Kelby Tomlinson, Bochy knows he needs a little more athleticism and baserunning savvy in a division where the games are often won by one run. 

“We probably made more mistakes than we should have last year,” he said. “The numbers show it.”

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace remains in the Dominican Republic, where he is tending to his father. The Giants don’t have a timetable for Cueto’s arrival, but he didn’t miss anything Saturday. The workout was banged because of rain. 

Cueto is at a hotel a few minutes from the club’s Santo Domingo facility and he has been working out there. The hope is that Cueto’s father soon gets well enough to travel to Arizona, where Cueto can continue to take care of him. 

NEW FACE: Slade Heathcott, a former Yankee, signed a minor league deal with the Giants on Friday. He will be in minor league camp this spring, not big league camp. The Giants liked his athleticism. 

QUOTABLE: “You can always look back, study it, learn from it … the second half, I think for everybody, you learn from it. Did we drop our guard? Hopefully it wasn’t complacency, which lets you think you have a bigger margin for error. Hopefully you learn from it.” — Bochy, when asked about the lesson learned last season. 

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

The Giants reportedly added to their outfield competition by signing former Yankees top prospect and 2009 first-round draft pick, outfielder Slade Heathcott. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was first to report the news

Heathcott, 26, has only appeared in 17 MLB games, all in the 2015 season for the Yankees. In his short promotion, the lefty batted .400 (10-for-25) with two home runs and two doubles. 

Through multiple stints in the minors, Heathcott has slashed .266/.343/.390 with 26 home runs for his career. 

San Francisco reportedly signed Heathcott to a minor league deal with a big league invite for spring training.