SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – From a logistical standpoint, it’s not easy for a major league manager to make 21 roster cuts in one day. It’s even harder when one of them is your son.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy got that bit of business out of the way over dinner Thursday night. He told his son, Brett, that he’d be reassigned to minor league camp on Friday.
“He was disappointed I didn’t bring him in (the office) to cut him,” the manager said, smiling. “Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow to make him feel better.”
It doesn’t work like the movie, “Major League.” There aren’t any red cards or black spots or other marks of doom in the locker stalls. Usually one of the coaches, Ron Wotus or Mark Gardner, will tap a player on the shoulder and tell them to go to Bochy’s office. Then the door will close for a few minutes and they’ll hear a few words of encouragement, maybe some special instructions for what they should work to improve, and then they pack their equipment bag to move down the street to the minor league complex.
But it was so busy Friday morning that Bochy couldn’t meet with every player individually.
“A couple of them, those guys in the similar boat, we brought them in threes,” Bochy said. “They knew it was cut-down day. When the (major league) meal money is coming due, they can figure it out.”
That’s the old joke. Players get a much bigger stipend on the major league side. Usually, cuts arrive the day before they get the weekly envelopes of cash get passed out.
We’re assuming Papa Bochy picked up the dinner check Thursday night, though.
Brett Bochy might not be a top prospect and he’s got some major durability questions. An inflamed elbow limited him to three appearances, in which he had a 6.75 ERA. But he’s coming off a great year at Double-A Richmond and he expects his elbow to be sound enough to be ready when the season starts.
“It was awesome, a great experience to be here,” Brett Bochy told me. “I’ve grown up being in the clubhouse, but to actually be a part of it, to play and go through all the drills, that was definitely a new experience for me and a great one.”
He said he got “some razzing” from his dad, “but pretty straightforward stuff coming from a coach.
“I’m sure he’s been happy to see me throw, because he hasn’t gotten that chance much,” the younger Bochy said.
The right-hander picked up a few things in his delivery he can clean up. Being around Gardner and Dave Righetti and getting instruction from them was one of the best parts of being on the big league side.
But nobody enjoyed watching him throw more than his father.
“You spend so much time away from your kids when you’re in baseball, and here he was every day,” Bruce Bochy said. “Just watching him pitch, go through the drills … he worked hard to get here and to this point, so I was very proud of him.”
Outfielder Gary Brown and right-hander Heath Hembree were the biggest prospects to get reassigned to minor league camp, where they’re expected to work with the group ticketed for Triple-A Fresno.
Bochy (the skipper) said he thought Brown had “a good spring” and was working with coaches to make an adjustment with his hands so he wouldn’t get tied up by inside stuff from right-handers.
Brown hit .259 with a homer, a triple and a double in 27 at-bats. He didn’t draw a walk and struck out eight times.
As for Hembree, he certainly got hit hard a couple times but showed coaches something with his ability to bounce back. He struck out one in a scoreless inning Friday to get his spring ERA down to 7.50.
I told Hembree that I thought the Fresno club probably had as much talent with upside as any Giants Triple-A affiliate I could remember in a long time.
“It’s going to be a pretty solid group,” Hembree said. “I’m excited about it, and I feel like we’re going to win some games.”
I asked Hembree if he felt he was close to ready for the major leagues.
“I do,” he said. “I feel I’m right there, honestly. I know there’s still stuff I need to work on, but I feel each time out I’m getting better and I’m learning myself as a pitcher.”
Hembree has a big arm, but his fastball is known more for its heat than its movement. So he’ll have to work on his fastball command, throwing to quadrants instead of just pumping it down the middle, and getting his slider over for strikes. That’s how you turn 2-2 counts into outs instead of baserunners.
It sure looked like the Giants’ opening-day lineup out there Friday at Scottsdale Stadium, minus Angel Pagan. He’s staring down Ryan Vogelsong as Puerto Rico and Team USA tangle in a WBC elimination game in Miami.
(Pagan singled and scored off Vogelsong in the first inning. Pagan also drew a walk in his next plate appearance. It's 1-0 Puerto Rico through four innings as of this writing.)
Other than that, this was the group that should face Clayton Kershaw on April 1 at Dodger Stadium. The one decision Bochy has to make is picking a left fielder from Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres. If he uses the platoon splits out of the gate, he’ll get the right-left matchup with Torres.
Torres had himself a day during the Giants’ 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers: Single, stolen base, thrown out by 20 feet trying to tag up on a shallow fly ball (I didn’t understand what he was thinking, either), and a two-run home run (left-handed, off the awesomely named Johan Yan).
And he kept his lunch down, too. All in a good day’s work.
Cain was sensational. He mixed in his slider for the first time all spring and it was devastating as he held the Rangers to two hits, no walks and two strikeouts in five innings.
Buster Posey’s arm looked first rate, too, as he threw out a pair of attempted base stealers. A third throw was right on the money but the runner got too good a jump, Bochy notes.
Cain looks more than ready to match up with Kershaw. It’s kind of funny … last year Vogelsong drew Kershaw three times. The year before, Tim Lincecum drew Kershaw five times. Might it be Cain’s turn in 2013?
“It might be,” Cain said. “We’ve had our faceoffs but not as many as those other guys. These are the games you get excited for – go out and be a stopper to whatever he’s done against us.”
Cain was eager to watch Vogelsong try to keep Team USA alive.
“He didn’t really think he was going to get another elimination game,” Cain said. “He probably thinks it’s still last year.”
Cain watched a postgame interview featuring Vogelsong on Thursday night and noticed that “he’s already mean-mugging everybody, so you can tell he’s ready.”
Hunter Pence got his first home run of the spring out of the way, and it came after working a count full.
It’s’ pretty simple with Pence: if he’s recognizing pitches, and not chasing the bad ones, he’ll put up some big numbers this year.
Jose Mijares (elbow impingement) was due to return Saturday from Venezuela, where he was handling a personal matter, and throw off a mound. He could face hitters early next week if all goes well.
As for infielder Tony Abreu, club officials haven’t given up hope that he’ll get his knee healthy and show enough to make the club. He’s out of minor league options, so it’s always a possibility he could start the year on the DL.
But for now, Abreu remains in a holding pattern. I asked Bochy if he was going to have an MRI after his latest knee flare-up. “He’s had three of them,” Bochy said.
“It’s coming along slow. That’s all I can tell you,” Bochy said. “It’s going to be a few more days.”
Hector Sanchez (shoulder) will try to start swinging again on Tuesday. No baseball work until then.
Most of the players trimmed from big league camp on Friday will remain to play in Saturday’s split-squad games. The lineups were posted and I’ll pass them along, in case you’re in the area
At Scottsdale vs. Reds: CF Torres, 2B Scutaro, 3B Sandoval, RF Pence, 1B Belt, LF Peguero, SS Crawford, C Quiroz, P Bumgarner. (Also on list to pitch: Lopez, Gaudin, Ramirez and Proctor.)
At Goodyear vs. Indians: LF Blanco, 2B Noonan, SS Arias, RF Kieschnick, DH Bond, CF Perez, 1B Oropesa, 3B Valdez, C Williams, P Heston. (Also on list to pitch: Runzler, Machi, Dunning.)
Bochy said he’ll go to both games but won’t manage the nightcap at Goodyear. Shawon Dunston will be coaching the night squad at first base, and if anyone reaches by walking, you can bet he’ll be in their ear about why they didn’t swing.