Team USA's Leyland: Crawford 'the kind of guy you want on your team'

Team USA's Leyland: Crawford 'the kind of guy you want on your team'

Jim Leyland had a front-row seat of watching slick-fielding shortstop Brandon Crawford crush his heart as the Giants swept his Tigers in the 2012 World Series. Over four years later, Leyland is now all smiles as Crawford will be on his side this time. 

Earlier in the week, Crawford confirmed to Team USA manager Leyland that he intends to play for him in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

"I talked with him on the field during the playoffs [in 2014], and I expressed to him that he is -- without question -- one of my favorite players in the big leagues today," Leyland said to MLB.com. "I love the way he plays the game. I love the way he goes about his business."

Crawford hit .250/.308/.250 in the 2012 Fall Classic against Leyland's Tigers. 

"He is in, as of now," Leyland said on Crawford. "He's fired up about it, and so am I. I'm just thrilled about it, that he's accepted the invitation."

Crawford is coming off a season in which he won his second straight Gold Glove Award in arguably his best all-around season. The 29-year-old set a multitude of career highs in 2016, including batting average (.275), on-base percentage (.342), hits (155), triples (11), RBI (84), runs scored (67), and stolen bases (7). On defense, Crawford also set a career high in fielding percentage (.983). 

For Leyland, Crawford is the definition of a pure baseball player. "He's one of those guys where, to me, you talk about athletes and you talk about baseball players," Leyland added. "He's a baseball player. He's a good athlete, obviously, but I look for baseball players."

Notably, when Crawford beat Leyland in the World Series, it was the first of two rings he's won with the Giants in his six-year career. On the biggest stage, Crawford has continued to deliver. In 11 World Series games, Crawford has slashed .286/.350/.286 with 10 hits and five RBI.

"In just about every situation I've ever seen him, he makes big plays," said Leyland. "He does it all. He knocks in runs. He makes big plays in the field. He'll run into one [and hit a home run].

"He's a big-time player on a big stage. That's one of the reasons I was so interested in him. He's come out on top quite a bit. He's the kind of guy you want on your team."

Giants lineup: Span leading off vs Cubs after missing two games

Giants lineup: Span leading off vs Cubs after missing two games

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Giants-Cubs coverage begins at 4pm with Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming right here.

After missing the last two games with a sprained left thumb, Denard Span is back at the top of the Giants lineup Wednesday in Chicago.

San Francisco Giants:
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Eduardo Nunez (R) LF
7. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
8. Mac Williamson (R) RF
9. Matt Moore (L) P

Chicago Cubs:
1. Javier Baez (R) 2B
2. Albert Almora Jr. (R) CF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) LF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Addison Russell (R) SS
8. Miguel Montero (L) C
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) P

Down on the Farm: Beede earns third win with River Cats on 24th birthday

beede-ball-ap.jpg
AP

Down on the Farm: Beede earns third win with River Cats on 24th birthday

Tyler Beede stepped on the hill at Raley Field in Sacramento on Tuesday night one year older and came away with one more win after the River Cats defeated the Memphis Redbirds, 6-2. 

Beede, now 24 years old, didn’t churn out his most impressive or dominant performance, but he limited hits and found a way to earn his third win of the year. On the night, he completed 5 1/3 innings pitched and only allowed four hits and two earned runs. He did, however, walk more batters (3) than strikeouts (2), which is his lowest strikeout total in a game this season. 

Those numbers shouldn’t be too surprising when looking at Beede’s trends this season on the mound. In his nine starts for the River Cats, he is walking slightly more batters than last year when he was in Double-A Richmond, and he’s significantly striking out less batters. Through 49 innings pitched, which leads the River Cats, Beede is issuing 3.31 walks per nine innings (3.24 BB/9 in 2016) while only striking out 5.88 batters per nine, compared to 8.25 K/9 last year. 

Instead, the Giants’ top pitching prospect is turning to ground balls, setting him up smarter for the future. After forcing seven groundouts to three flyouts on Tuesday, he is now rolling ground balls 56.5 percent of the time, an increase from 47.9 percent last season. 

Sacramento plays in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. All teams outside of the River Cats, who are last in the league with a team batting average of .238, are averaging just over five runs per game and almost one homer every game. Beede, isn’t letting the ball fly through air and has only allowed three homers off of him this season. This plays well for his and the Giants’ future. 

Whenever Beede finds his way to San Francisco, he doesn’t need to rely on his mid-90s fastball to get outs. The strikeouts will come, but life will be much easier watching a Gold Glove infield scoop up grounders for years to come. 

While Beede waits his turn to join the bigs, he’s showing maturity on the hill and stayed undefeated at home on a birthday night to remember. 

Around The Horn

— The Giants’ top power prospect, Chris Shaw, has been called up from Double-A Richmond to Triple-A Sacramento. Shaw, 23, played only first base in the minors before this season, but has transitioned to left field. He played 18 games at first and 18 games at left for the Flying Squirrels, registering no errors in the outfield. 

— Kelby Tomlinson is working in center field while with the River Cats. Insider Alex Pavlovic spoke to Bruce Bochy about the move

— Bryan Reynolds, the Giants’ top pick in 2016, finished a home run short of the cycle on Sunday. He went 5-for-6 with four RBI in the San Jose Giants’ win. On the season, Reynolds now has 14 multi-hit games in 38 games played. Here’s the breakdown: Six two-hit games, seven three-hit games and one five-hit game.