Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Aaron Hill didn't play in the final Cactus League game, but he didn't need to. By simply being on the flight to San Francisco on Tuesday, Hill got good news. 

The veteran infielder was due a $100,000 bonus on Tuesday, and while the Giants haven't formally announced their roster, you don't pay a man that much money to come play three exhibition games against the A's. Hill appears to have made this club as a second backup infielder, along with Conor Gillaspie. Another veteran, Jimmy Rollins, got the news that the Giants are headed in a different direction. 

Team officials spoke with Rollins this week about their future plans. He was not on the travel roster Tuesday and did not attend the game against the Cubs. 

"We're waiting to hear back from him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He knows the scenario and the situation. We're waiting to hear back."

Rollins, 38, showed the Giants that he can still handle shortstop defensively, and he was a quick learner when he moved to second. But he hit just .119, falling behind Hill, Kelby Tomlinson and others in the mix for bench spots. It would seem unlikely that Rollins would want to get additional at-bats in Triple-A, but that feeling hadn't been fully conveyed to team officials Tuesday. There was a hope that Rollins, an East Bay native, might join the team for the Bay Bridge Series, which finishes Saturday in Oakland. Rollins grew up an A's fan.

Rollins and Hill were part of a crowded infield group at the start of camp. Gordon Beckham also had a retention bonus and he asked to be released when he was told he wouldn't make the opening day roster. David Hernandez, the third player due a bonus, also was released. He promptly signed with the Atlanta Braves.

 

Giants spring training Day 36: Hill adds to strong showing with start in LF

Giants spring training Day 36: Hill adds to strong showing with start in LF

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Aaron Hill, the 34-year-old career infielder trying to win a bench job, started in left field Monday. Asked to think back to the last time he lined up in the outfield, Hill smiled.

“It was my freshman year of college,” the LSU alum said. “We had Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot up the middle.”

Fontenot and Theriot eventually made their way to San Francisco. With eight days left in camp, it looks like Hill will, too.

A hitless day Monday dropped his spring average to .242, but the majority of the outs in recent days have been scorched, and Hill has already shown that he can handle three infield spots. He has taken grounders at first base, too, and with Johnny Cueto on the mound, he looked just fine in left. 

Hill’s biggest test came in the fourth, when Peter Bourjos led off with a triple. Leury Garcia lofted a fly ball down deep down the left field line and Hill made a strong one-hop throw to the plate. There was no shot at Bourjos, one of the faster players in the game, but the throw opened some eyes. 

“How’d it look?” Hill said.” It felt alright.”

Cueto noted the strength of the throw and Brandon Belt, who was playing first, joked that it looked like 95 mph out of the arm. Manager Bruce Bochy liked what he saw.

As they zero in on an opening day group, the Giants have thrown a number of infielders into the outfield during workouts. Hill has been joined by Gordon Beckham and Jae-gyun Hwang during drills with instructor Cody Ross, and he said he’s having a blast. 

“That was fun, honestly,” he said. “It’s been talked about the last couple of weeks, getting me in there. That’s the first time in a game and it was fun. It’s challenging and it’s different, and I’m always up for a challenge. In my position, anything can help.”

BAD NEWS: Will Smith will have a second MRI on his left elbow. Here's the story.

ICYMI: The main story today: Johnny Cueto looks ready. Cueto had some fun as he came off the mound in the fifth. 

Also, here's my story on Steven Okert. He could end up being really important if Smith misses serious time. 

PROSPECT WATCH: Ryder Jones blasted a three-run shot in the eighth and made a very slick pick of a short-hop grounder in the bottom of the inning. He doesn’t get brought up much, but he’s a really interesting guy because of his athleticism. I’ve seen him at first and he’s pretty good there, and the Giants are going to get him some time in left. As much as we talk about Christian Arroyo’s age, remember: Jones is still just 22 years old, and he'll continue to grow into power. 

"He's just what you like from a corner guy," Bochy said. "First base, third base, with power. He's got a good arm. They're going to move him around in Triple-A."

 

Giants add veteran infielder Aaron Hill

Giants add veteran infielder Aaron Hill

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On the first day of full-squad workouts, the Giants added one more player to the backup-infielder mix. 

Veteran Aaron Hill joined camp on a minor league deal Friday. Hill will make $2 million if he's on the big league roster, and his contract includes an opt-out if he does not make it. 

Hill, 34, is a 12-year veteran who had a mixed season in 2016. He hit .280 with eight homers and a .780 OPS for the Brewers but batted just .218 after a trade to the Red Sox. Hill has played second, short and third, and he'll add another versatile glove to a crowded group of non-roster invitees looking to win a bench job. He lives in the Phoenix area and said that was part of the attraction of spending his spring with the Giants. Joining a winning group helped, he said. 

Hill knows he joined a huge crowd of familiar names playing for possibly just one or two bench jobs. Jimmy Rollins, Gordon Beckham and Jae-gyun Hwang are also in camp as non-roster invitees, and Kelby Tomlinson and Conor Gillaspie are incumbents. 

"Everybody is here," Hill said, laughing. "Any team is going to be (crowded) at this point and it's going to be a competition. For me personally, it's just about what I can learn from these guys. A lot of these (free agents) in the past have waited for a guaranteed roster spot. That's definitely been harder the last two years for a lot of guys."

General manager Bobby Evans has taken advantage of the shift in the market to build depth. Eduardo Nuñez is the starter at third base but the Giants will open it up for the backup jobs. Evans said Gillaspie is a frontrunner because he's a left-handed bat, an incumbent, and he's coming off a huge postseason, but the staff is open-minded. 

"Ultimately we'll have to determine who the best fit is for the spots we have, but at some level each of the guys we have here has the potential to help us off the bench in different ways," Evans said. "They've got different ages and different strengths. (Hill) struggled in Boston but he did have a good first half. He's very experienced at second and third, and his experience is attractive."