SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Brandon Belt filled the box score to the brim with his 4-for-4, two-home run game Friday, but Nick Noonan might have hit the most significant longball of the afternoon.
Noonan is back in major league camp and getting another look for the utility infield job, and right now, he looks as unopposed as a Berkeley democrat in a general election.
Noonan struck out in his first two at-bats before sending a fly out to the warning track and then lofting his homer halfway up the berm in right-center field. The 23-year-old infielder wandered off the prospect track for a time, but he built himself into an above-average defender at three spots and hit .296 with a .347 on-base percentage at Triple-A Fresno last year.
I have it on good authority that teams were asking about Noonan at the trade deadline last year, and the A’s in particular were interested.
It sure appeared that Noonan had a place on the big league roster after the Giants brought him back to big league camp and released veteran infielder Wilson Valdez Friday morning. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that wasn't the case yet. Bochy said he met with Tony Abreu, who is going to get a second opinion on the injured knee that has limited him to one game all spring.
The Giants are holding out hope that Abreu can get on the field in short order and show enough to claim a job that management clearly planned for him to take.
“We’ll see if we can speed this up and get him on the field,” Bochy said. “It’s been frustrating for him and for us. This kid’s got talent.”
As for Noonan?
“Well, we tell these guys even though they’re optioned out, they’re not out of the picture,” Bochy said. “You’ve got to like his versatility and he’s got some pop in his bat. It’s a need for us right now."
Belt and Noonan weren’t the only ones hitting 'em hard at Talking Stick. The Giants combined for five home runs. Hunter Pence connected for one, and minor league Mark Minicozzi hit the other.
That had to be a great moment for Minicozzi, who was up for the day to fill out the roster. He’s a veteran of back, wrist AND Tommy John surgeries who spent three years in the Giants system from 2005-07 before getting knocked out of baseball. From 2009-11, he bounced around the rosters of four independent clubs (Kansas City, Winnipeg, Camden and Worcester) before the Giants signed him back last season.
Now 30 years old, he’s still chasing the dream, and for a moment, he got to slow it down to a trot.
Pretty neat to see something like that happen two days in a row to a minor leaguer with desire to spare. On Thursday, it was Ryan Cavan who got to levitate around the bases.
I just hope George Kontos was there to track down Minicozzi’s home run ball, too.
Gregor Blanco wasn’t kidding about feeling like himself again at the plate. He was 3 for 4 with a triple and two runs scored. In around four or five games, he’s boosted his average from the .180 range to .280.
Pablo Sandoval told Bochy that his elbow was feeling much better. He'll be reevaluated again Saturday and it'll be determined when he can begin baseball activities again. As for Marco Scutaro, his back remained stiff, but no tests were scheduled. He'll likely be out "another day or two," Bochy said.
Madison Bumgarner went down to minor league camp to get his work in against the kids – although come to think of it, Bumgarner is just 23 himself. I’ll bet some of the Angels Single-A hitters he faced were older than him.
Bumgarner wanted to work on his curveball, which he felt had been “kind of loopy.” He wasn’t getting many calls from the umpire, who was, shall we say, less than major league quality. That’s one reason his linescore was a bit messier than it otherwise might have been: five-plus innings, four hits, four runs (two earned), three walks, five strikeouts, one hit batter.
More important for Bumgarner was that he got up and down six times while throwing 86 pitches. The Giants had him face one last batter in the sixth; he walked him on eight pitches.
“That’s what I wanted to do – get out there six times,” Bumgarner said. “I felt good the whole time out there. The curveball we were able to work on quite a bit. I’m feeling pretty good about where I’m at now.”
Bumgarner also recorded two outs with pickoff throws.
“How ‘bout that?” he said. “It’s something I’ve been working on.”
Bumgarner doesn’t need his curve as long as his other pitches are working. But he’d like to establish it early when possible, just to plant another idea in hitters’ heads.
“ I tried to be aggressive with it,” he said. “I felt I made some good pitches with it.”
On the other diamond at the Giants’ minor league complex, left-hander Jose Mijares (elbow impingement) appeared to be throwing hard while recording a 1-2-3 inning (ground out to shortstop, strikeout looking, strikeout swinging).
I didn’t think Mijares would be able to get healthy in time to make the opening-day roster, but after watching him today, it looks like he’s not far away.
The Giants released outfielder and former first-round pick Wendell Fairley, according to Baseball America. Fairley, 25, was the 29th overall selection in the 2007 draft but never developed into the hitter the Giants envisioned. He had a .257 average and hit just eight home runs in five seasons.