Reliever Otero has degrees in history, accuracy

689290.jpg

Reliever Otero has degrees in history, accuracy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Giants right-hander Dan Otero wants youto know something.When he plays golf, he brings two extra sleeves of balls. Hecold-tops his drives, skulls his chip shots and four-putts his way into theclubhouse.
Lies, all lies.Cmon, Otero said. You cant let everyone know.Oteros minor league coaches and teammates already know.I usually bet when I play golf, said Bert Bradley, theGiants organizational pitching instructor. I didnt bet with him.Yes, Otero is a scratch golfer. But its his accuracy on themound that could lead him to factor into the Giants plans at some point thisseason.
He throws strikes, Bradley said. His location is as goodas anybody Ive ever had.Otero turned 27 on the day the Giants held their firstworkout two weeks ago. So hes not exactly the young hotshot prospect in campthis spring. But his minor league numbers are dazzling enough:In five seasons, he has a 1.90 ERA. He has thrown 213innings and walked just 30 batters. Six of those were intentional.Everything he does is what you try to teach, Bradley said.He gets ahead. He changes speeds. He goes after people. He pitches inside. Hejust knows how to pitch, and he controls everything. He is a smart controlpitcher.How smart? Well, Otero played baseball at Duke University.When he decided to transfer to South Florida after his junior year, hedalready graduated. His degree is in history, with a concentration in Caribbeanstudies.The team wasnt very good, but being in the ACC, I got topitch against Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Wieters, Ryan Braun Otero said. Facingthose kinds of hitters helped me grow as a pitcher.The South Florida move turned out to be a smart play, too. Oterowasnt drafted as a junior but he pitched well for the Bulls and the Giantsspent a 21st-round pick on him in 2007. Otero dominated from theget-go and surprisingly took to the closer role when it was offered to him.In July of 09, he was cruising along with a 1.15 ERA in 39games for Double-A Connecticut no home runs allowed, either when he feltsomething pop in his elbow.I tried to throw another pitch and it went 50 feet, hesaid.Otero needed Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his medialcollateral ligament. He wasnt a first-round pick and he threw 87 mph. He wassmart enough to know the rest.Oh, absolutely, definitely, it goes through your mind thatthis is it, he said. But I did the rehab and I came back knowing Id have tostart all over again.It was tough. But it had its perks. I got my arm stronger.Now that were past 18 months, I can start to see extra life again.Otero is throwing at nearer to 90-91 mph and can hump up to92 when needed. Hes getting the sinking action back on his two-seam fastball.His cutter and changeup have become dependable pitches. And hes working withBradley to get more depth on a slider that he tries to throw at two speeds.After missing most of 2010, Otero posted a 1.42 ERA atDouble-A Richmond last season. Not only did he earn a promotion to Triple-AFresno, but he was used as the Grizzlies closer, too. Following the season, he wasa surprise addition to the 40-man roster a move designed to protect him frombeing taken in the Rule 5 draft.Being on the 40-man also clears the way for Otero to be calledup when the Giants need an extra arm. And manager Bruce Bochy likes pitcherswho throw strikes.I dont try to miss bats, Otero said. Just the barrel.Otero grew up on a golf course near Miami and spent plentyof afternoons sneaking in a few holes. He said swinging a golf club is similarto repeating a delivery, especially because of the way the hips trigger therest of the body.A few days ago, he got together a foursome with minor leaguepitchers Matt Yourkin, Heath Hembree and former Giants prospect Clayton Tanner,who is now in the Reds organization. They paid out for sand saves and played closest-to-the-pinon par 3s.But nothing straight up. The Giants know better than to betagainst Dan Otero.

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

BELT RIVER FIELDS, Ariz. — Earlier this spring, Brandon Belt moved his schedule around so he could get additional at-bats. That led to some random trips across the desert, but there was never any doubt Belt would be in Friday’s road lineup.

Belt demolishes the ball at Salt River Fields, spring home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks. After coming out of Friday’s win, he shook his head in mock disgust when talking about the day’s stats.

“One for four, you’ve gotta be kidding me,” Belt said. “That’s terrible.”

That one happened to be a homer, a three-run shot off Jon Gray, the likely opening day starter for the Rockies. Belt thought he crushed the ball but it ended up pretty high, so it simply dropped onto the berm in right. 

“It squeaked out,” Belt said. “Good mojo, I guess.”

The mojo kept his remarkable run going at Salt River. His updated career stats here: 22 for 35, with eight homers, four doubles, one triple and 18 RBI. Belt said he’s not quite sure why he turns into the flames emoji every time he steps onto this field. 

“I don’t know what it is, but I like hitting here,” he said. “Maybe it’s the batter’s eye?”

Salt River has a dark green batter’s eye with no distractions on either side, and the Giants certainly saw the ball well Friday. They had seven straight hits in the third before Gray was pulled with a sore foot. Belt hit second, and manager Bruce Bochy said that wasn’t simply because Joe Panik had the day off. Bochy will look at several different lineup permutations over the next week, and a Span/Belt/Pence/Posey/Crawford one-through-five is one option. 

“I like (that spot) a lot,” Belt said. “I feel good getting started and knowing I’ll get to bat in the first inning. It’s a good spot. I don’t think my approach changes that much: Get a pitch to hit and try to hit it hard.”

GAME RECAP: Jeff Samardzija was sharp in four innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three. He threw about 45 pitches on the field and then went down to the bullpen for 45 more. Samardzija certainly benefited from having Buster Posey back in the lineup. He said Posey noticed during warmups that Samardzija’s delivery was a little flat and his arm was dragging too low. 

“That doesn’t happen often,” Samardzija said of having a guy like Posey back there. “You have a lot of catchers who are afraid to say something.”

The rest of this one was a laugher until the ninth, when the Rockies rallied and brought the winning run to the plate. It hasn’t been a great spring for the bullpen.

STOCK WATCH: Chris Marrero hit a deep homer, his seventh of the spring. He also made a nice pick at first, where he looks much more comfortable. At this point, it appears it’s either Marrero or Kelby Tomlinson for that final bench spot.

TRAINER’S ROOM: The news on Will Smith was as expected. He will have Tommy John surgery next week. 

There is good news for Trevor Brown: The catcher, who has a sore ankle, took some swings and he’s feeling much better. Brown did not, as first reported, get hurt hiking on an off day. It happened during a game. Brown won’t be ready in time to return to Cactus League action, so he’ll likely stay here during the Bay Bridge Series and then travel home with Triple-A Sacramento. 

ICYMI: Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and Mark Melancon are back in camp. Here’s a story on Posey’s WBC experience, with the catcher saying he’d like to play again in four years. Here’s Crawford on his month, which ended with him giving an NL West rival a slump-busting bat. 

ROSTER UPDATE: The Giants released David Hernandez, at his request. They have started to tell others that they’re not making the opening day roster, so there should be a series of minor transactions this weekend. (You know where to go.)

QUOTABLE: "I swung at a heater and a slider went right into my bat. I was happy to be able to track (pitches), and happy that the next time the bunt didn't go off my beautiful face." -- Samardzija, when asked about his double off the wall. 

Plenty of high-profile MLB players wearing new uniforms in 2017

Plenty of high-profile MLB players wearing new uniforms in 2017

Chris Sale traded socks (AP) -- or Sox - from white to red. Edwin Encarnacion took his big bat to Cleveland. Aroldis Chapman returned to the Bronx.

Plenty of All-Stars, Cy Young winners and MVPs are wearing new uniforms this season.

The biggest move occurred when the Boston Red Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox. The five-time All-Star left-hander left a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2008 for one that's won three World Series titles since 2004.

Encarnacion left Toronto for the team that beat the Blue Jays in last year's ALCS. He averaged 39 homers and 110 RBIs over the past five seasons in Toronto and gives the Indians a major boost.

Chapman is back in New York after spending the first half of last season with the Yankees before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs and helped them win the World Series.

Here's a 25-man roster of familiar faces in different places this season:

STARTING LINEUP

1. CF: Dexter Fowler. Jumped from World Series champion Cubs to rival St. Louis. Gives the Cardinals stability atop the batting order.

2. RF: Adam Eaton. Traded from White Sox to defending NL East champion Nationals. He'll play center field in Washington between Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.

3. DH: Kendrys Morales. Joined Blue Jays to help fill Encarnacion's void after spending past two seasons with the Royals.

4. 1B: Encarnacion.

5. C: Brian McCann. Traded from Yankees to Astros, giving Houston's stacked lineup another slugger.

6. SS: Ian Desmond. Returns to NL to join Rockies after one season playing outfield in Texas. He'll play first base for Colorado, but he's back at shortstop on this squad.

7. LF: Matt Holliday. Signed with Yankees following 7 1/2 seasons in St. Louis. The seven-time All-Star will likely DH in New York though he'll see some action in left field.

8. 2B: Brandon Phillips. Waived no-trade clause to go to rebuilding Braves after 11 seasons with Reds.

9. 3B: Howie Kendrick. Comes east after spending his entire career in Los Angeles - nine seasons with Angels and last two with Dodgers. Kendrick is playing left field for Philadelphia but he starts at third to fill this lineup.

BENCH

1B: Chris Carter. Landed with Yankees after swatting 41 homers for Milwaukee last season to tie for NL lead.

INF: Jimmy Rollins. Former NL MVP is trying to land a roster spot with San Francisco as a utility man after playing all but one-third inning of his 17-year career at shortstop. Has bounced from Dodgers to White Sox to Giants after 15 seasons in Philadelphia.

OF: Michael Saunders. All-Star for Blue Jays last season and will start in right field for Phillies.

OF: Carlos Beltran. Returns to Houston after spending half the 2004 season with the Astros and hitting eight postseason homers for them.

C: Matt Wieters. Left Baltimore for Washington to replace All-Star Wilson Ramos, who joined Tampa Bay and is still recovering from knee surgery.

STARTING ROTATION

Sale.

Edinson Volquez. Goes from Royals to Marlins.

Jaime Garcia. Lefty joins Braves after eight seasons in St. Louis.

Jered Weaver. Stays in California, switching to Padres after 11 seasons with Angels.

R.A. Dickey. Knuckleballer returns to NL East after four seasons in Toronto. One of two 40-plus former Cy Young award winners signed by Braves.

LONG RELIEVER

Bartolo Colon. Other veteran Braves signed to bolster rotation. He'll be long man on this staff.

BULLPEN

Chapman.

Mark Melancon. Signed with Giants after finishing last season in Washington.

Sergio Romo. Went from San Francisco to rival Dodgers.

Wade Davis. Traded from Royals to Cubs to replace Chapman.

Santiago Casilla. Stays in Bay Area, going from Giants to A's.