Wilson has pain-free bullpen session, discusses elbow injury

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Wilson has pain-free bullpen session, discusses elbow injury

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brian Wilson was out of character in two ways Monday. First, he dialed back the intensity in his first official bullpen session of the spring. Then he dialed back the personality while discussing his day with reporters.But a subdued and serious Wilson also made a fairly big revelation, saying the right elbow he strained in August was an issue that actually bothered him most of the season. His left hip didnt feel so good, either.Its no wonder his strikeouts were down and his walks were up.

Asked to explain those numbers, Wilson said, Probably pitching with a hurt elbow the whole year, and a bad hip. You could blame a ton of things. But Im the one throwing the ball.Wilson plans to throw again in two days. Both he and Giants coaches were pleased with his first session, even though he didnt come close to throwing full bore. He estimated his intensity was 75 percent, although he "tested the waters" with a couple of firmer fastballs toward the end.I feel like Im right on schedule, Wilson said. Its a check on the checklist. Its a standard bullpen. I dont look too deep into it. But as far as pain, I was pain-free. No ailments, no tweaks, no inflammation.Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti said Wilson was better than I expected him to be, adding that the All-Star closer finished his pitches with full extension rather than recoil or short-arm the ball.Its not something you get excited about right away, but this was a good start, Righetti said. I dont know that it changes our thinking on the timetable at all. But there was nothing there to cause me any concern.The timetable calls for Wilson to build gradual intensity; hes not likely to appear in a Cactus League game until the club is at least a week into the exhibition schedule. He might not pitch back-to-back outings until late in camp.I dont think he needs a lot of outings, to be honest, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Hes pretty simple with his delivery and I think thats going to help with his command.He was getting extension there. I liked where he was with his arm slot, with everything. I was happy today. Hes on pace. Hes where he should be. Hes been through a lot. He had to do the rehab road and that can get a little old. But hes been relentless with it.Wilson hasnt always struck the greatest balance between relentlessness and conservatism. He said the elbow issues havent changed his mentality on the mound.Not at all, he said. Youll have to physically take me off the mound. If it means I have to pitch left-handed, I will. I dont care if I get injured. I pitch to get three outs, then worry about tomorrow when I wake up.Wilson switched his off season routine to de-emphasize weight training and do more sports-specific movement. He said he feels good and hopes his increased flexibility will help stave off the left hip and side issues that seem to crop up every year.Its bothered me my whole life, Wilson said. It happens on your land leg as a pitcher. Mine gets tighter than most.If Wilson seems tighter in general this spring, maybe its because the Showtime cameras have moved on to South Florida and his Got Heem catchphrase has been appropriated by the MLB Network.No, Wilson probably wont drive a different crazy car to the ballpark every day this spring. (Including an unmarked police cruiser one morning, when he memorably locked Sergio Romo in the passenger seat.)But even if Wilson walks a straighter and more boring line this spring, he'll still manage to do it his way. He took off his socks to reveal his toenails, brightly painted black and red.

Giants ready to give young players a shot in left field

Giants ready to give young players a shot in left field

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Bobby Evans kicked some big tires before giving a record deal to Mark Melancon, and he didn’t limit himself to the robust closer market. The Giants checked in on Yoenis Cespedes and they talked to the Pirates when it became clear that Andrew McCutchen was available. 

“You check in on everything,” Evans said. “You have to.”

Cespedes got $110 million to stay in New York and the Giants are no longer in any sort of mix for McCutchen, who comes with an overwhelming asking price. There are other big outfield names out there, but the Giants don’t expect to make a splash. The Melancon deal put the organization over the competitive balance tax, but even before that, the intention was to give Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker a shot to win the left field job next spring. 

“They’re not getting any younger and they deserve an opportunity,” Evans said. “But we also are not going to give them the jobs. They have to come out there and earn them and there will be competition and other options. There may be trade scenarios or other scenarios that allow us to bring in a guy that’s going to be hard to beat, but right now we just have to give them the opportunity if nothing develops. That's really how I look at it. 

“We’ve got to keep our doors open but an opportunity where they’re competing in the spring is a win for us. But ultimately they have to go out and prove it. Part of our organization being strong is giving young players a chance, and again when they get to be past 25 and 26 they’re not as young anymore, and these guys are getting older and they need that opportunity.”

In the lobby of the Gaylord National Resort here outside of Washington D.C., there is often skepticism that the Giants are being truthful. National reporters want to shoehorn them in as a fit for any slugger on the market. When Evans was at the GM Meetings in November, he was surrounded by New York reporters who thought the Giants represented the greatest outside threat for Cespedes. But executives from other teams have conceded that Evans and the rest of the front office have not been aggressively asking about outfielders. 

“You can’t lose sight that your (minor league) system is there for a reason,” Evans said.

Both young outfielders have shown flashes of what might be lurking. Parker hit .347 and slugged .755 in a September cameo in 2015 that included a memorable three-homer, seven-RBI game in Oakland. He had an uneven sophomore year, but still hit five homers in 127 at-bats, showing the front office that he could be a 20-homer guy if given a full-time shot. Williamson has batted just .222 while being pulled back and forth from Triple-A to the Majors, but he was highly thought of as a prospect and scouts marvel at his raw power. During a 26-game stretch before the trade deadline last year, Williamson posted a .277/.382/.538 slash line and hit five homers. 

Evans said others will be in the mix next spring, including Gorkys Hernandez (a likely replacement for speed/defense reserve Gregor Blanco), prospect Austin Slater, and Wynton Bernard, a 26-year-old career minor-leaguer who signed last month and is known for his speed. The Giants also are curious to see what they have in Chris Marrerro, a 28-year-old former top prospect who signed in November. He hit 23 homers last season in Triple-A. 

The Giants are open minded about adding as the market shapes out, and they can be patient now that the heavy lifting in the bullpen is done. There's a chance a power bat is still sitting there in late January, although those players traditionally have not chosen AT&T Park as a place to rebuild value. The price could dramatically drop for a player like Detroit's J.D. Martinez. 

The likelihood right now, though, is that Williamson or Parker starts in left field on opening day. If either sticks, it would be a huge boost for a front office that is trying to control costs in certain spots.

The Melancon deal, with an average annual value of $15.5 million, put the Giants into the tax for the third consecutive season. The penalty for that is a 50 percent tax for every dollar spent over the $195 million limit. The Giants have committed $313 million to free agents the past two offseasons, but that plan isn’t sustainable without the support of pre-arbitration players who are contributing at or just above the MLB minimum of $535,000. Buster Posey won an MVP award in 2012 while making $615,000. Joe Panik made $545,000 last year as a Gold Glove second baseman, and he'll continue to be a bargain this season. Until a pair of extensions, the Giants had Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford in the lineup for about the cost of a middle reliever. 

“When you’re invested (heavily) in the ‘pen, rotation, first base, shortstop, catcher, right field, center field — at some point, you’re going to need your farm system to rise up,” Evans said. 

The Giants hope Williamson and Parker can do that.

“The final stage of development comes at the big leagues,” Evans said. “Until they get those at-bats, you’ll always wonder.”
 

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

TOKYO -- Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani says he could move to the major leagues after the 2017 season.

The 22-year-old right-hander, who has also put up big numbers at the plate, signed a $2.37 million contract for next season with the Nippon Ham Fighters on Monday.

Otani will not become eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season and will need the Fighters' approval to negotiate with a major league club through the posting system before that time.

He says "we discussed the possibility of me going. ... The club will respect my wishes whenever I decide I want to go."

Otani went 10-4 as a pitcher and batted .322 with a career-high 22 home runs this season for the Fighters.

New rules in MLB's collective bargaining agreement make it more difficult for players like Otani to get paid big bucks right away. But there is a definite curiosity about his abilities, even from those who haven't seen him play much.

"I don't know which side you're worried about more: his ability to pitch or hit," former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Hopefully he stays healthy because he's an addition whatever league he winds up with, whether he stays in Japan or comes to the U.S. he's certainly going to be an exciting player for people to look forward to watching."

Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was reluctant to talk about Otani because he's under contract in Japan. But he's intrigued about Otani's ability to pitch and hit.

"We have reports on him," Dombrowski said. "Do I think a player could be a two-way player? Yeah, it could happen. It is very difficult? Yes. But I'm not saying that there's not a player out there that can't do that because some of them are rare, rare guys. Babe Ruth could do it. He was pretty good. So it can be done."