Crawford returns to Giants after WBC lives up to high expectations

Crawford returns to Giants after WBC lives up to high expectations

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Stuck in a strikeout-filled slump late in the World Baseball Classic, Nolan Arenado grabbed one of Brandon Crawford’s bats before a seventh-inning at-bat. Arenado, the Colorado Rockies superstar, singled the next two times up. 

“I told him, ‘You can keep it, you just can’t use it against us,’” Crawford said Friday upon returning to camp. 

Arenado won’t need it against a team he seemingly hits .750 against. Crawford doesn’t need a lucky charm, either. He went 10-for-26 during the tournament, driving in six runs, including two on a big single in the championship game. Crawford was starting to lock in before he left camp the first week of March, and he said an early WBC game against White Sox lefty Jose Quintana helped him find his groove. 

While Buster Posey found himself pleasantly surprised by the experience, Crawford went into the WBC with high expectations. They were met, and not just because he came home with a medal. Crawford enjoyed his time alongside Arenado, and he noted that it was fun to watch guys like Marcus Stroman from his position at short. He found that Jonathan Lucroy and Danny Duffy were different personalities than he expected, and Christian Yelich opened eyes with his work at the plate over eight games. He was thrilled to be at shortstop when Adam Jones made a stunning over-the-wall catch at Petco Park.

“That was one of the best catches I’ve seen -- no offense, Gregor Blanco,” he said. “That was definitely up there with it. The timing and the crowd being there with him. Blanco’s catch was pretty good, too. (Jones’ catch) was one of the top two outfield plays I’ve seen, I guess.”

Crawford had his whole family with him throughout the tournament, from Florida to San Diego to Dodger Stadium. He had previously represented the United States as an amateur, but his team was heavily favored in that tournament. Against teams like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Japan, Team USA often felt like the underdog. 

In the end, Crawford, Posey and Mark Melancon found themselves celebrating a title that they hope will be the first of two this season. Crawford said that as much as he enjoyed the experience, it doesn’t quite compare to getting to a World Series. 

“It’s a lot different,” he said. “They’re as big of games as you can get in March, but it is still March. This lasted three weeks. The World Series, you win after ups and downs with these guys for seven months. With the grind of a long season, it’s satisfying to win.”

On one of the team’s flights, Lucroy told Crawford that the WBC was basically an All-Star Game combined with a playoff series. He found that to be an appropriate comparison, and as he has in postseasons, Crawford found a way to keep it light. When he walked into the trainer’s room on Friday, Crawford saw Melancon, who pitched just two-thirds of an inning after joining Crawford and Posey.

“I asked him if he’s tired,” Crawford said. 

Giants release right-hander David Hernandez

Giants release right-hander David Hernandez

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There were three veterans in big league camp with $100,000 retention bonuses due on March 28. Two of them have now been released. 

Right-hander David Hernandez was granted his release a day after the same situation played out with infielder Gordon Beckham. Like Beckham, Hernandez was told he would not make the opening day roster. He requested an early release so he could pursue opportunities elsewhere. Infielder Aaron Hill is the third player with a retention bonus, and he is a near-lock to make the team at this point. 

Hernandez, 31, was in camp in hopes of breaking into the bullpen mix. He allowed six runs in six appearances, all coming in back-to-back outings. The Giants are just about set from the right side, and Neil Ramirez appears to be the favorite to break through if a newcomer makes the bullpen. 

If Hernandez does not find a big league job elsewhere, he could return to the organization. He lives in the Sacramento area, where the Giants have their Triple-A squad.