Do Giants have next Vogelsong in their midst?

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Do Giants have next Vogelsong in their midst?

Rael Enteen
CSNBayArea.com staff writer 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The San Francisco Giants caught lightning in a bottle with Ryan Vogelsong. They say lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, but that didn’t stop the organization from bringing back two former players for second chances.

The Giants selected Boof Bonser with the 21st overall pick in 2000 and the right-handed pitcher got off to a promising start to his professional career. While Vogelsong was part of a package deal to acquire Jason Schmidt, who enjoyed immense success as a Giant, Bonser was involved in Brian Sabean’s infamous trade with the Minnesota Twins to acquire A.J. Pierzynski, who lasted one disappointing season in San Francisco.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Bonser said. “People still say it was the worst trade ever for the Giants.”

Now Bonser is hoping to follow in Vogelsong’s footsteps. The two pitchers share a connection other than returning to the team that drafted them before sending them to another organization: Tommy John surgery. While Vogelsong had his in 2001, Bonser is just two years removed from the complicated procedure.

“I feel like our story is about the same,” Bonser said. “He got traded right before I did and came back here to the big leagues. I got hurt and now I’m back here trying to get myself back to the big leagues.”

“Clearly injuries set him back a little bit, but when healthy he’s a guy that could provide that [long relief] role at the big league level,” Giants vice president and assistant general manager Bobby Evans said. “He didn’t sign here to play Triple-A; he signed here to help the big league club. But he’s prepared to go to Triple-A if he doesn’t make the club.”

“I’m not going to sit here and say ‘I want to be a starter or I want to be a bullpen guy,’” Bonser said. “Whatever they need, I want to do. My biggest goal is to be back in the big leagues, that’s the bottom line, regardless of what I’m doing.”

That’s a sentiment that bodes well for any player, let alone one with a history of injuries and inconsistent pitching performances.

Another familiar name in camp this year is Andres Torres, who, like Bonser, is willing to accept any role the Giants deem him fit for. Unlike Bonser, Torres signed a major league contract. But he’s not guaranteed the starting job he held in 2010 and has no qualms with his situation.

“Whatever [Bruce] Bochy needs me for,” Torres said. “I just want to help them. Whenever they need me I’ll be ready.”

That attitude is part of what attracted Evans and the rest of the Giants’ front office to reach out to Torres and Bonser about coming back.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve and there’s sometimes not a lot that separates some of that talent from one another,” Evans said. “So you have to consider the fact that you’ve had that talent in your system, you know they’re coachable, you know that they fit in well with your clubhouse.

“They’re guys that have always been players you believe in and have some investment in. There’s some satisfaction for us to bring them back and continue to see the fruit of both the work that’s gone into them in the past, but also the potential for what could come out in the present and future.”

While intangibles like familiarity played a part in the desire to bring back Vogelsong, Torres and Bonser, Evans said that all three offered something the Giants needed.

“There’s always a projection made as to what could this person potentially do if healthy and if successful and [Torres, Bonser and Vogelsong] had relative value. We brought [Torres] back partly after evaluating what he did in 2012 offensively against left-handed pitching. That was something we felt we needed to match up with [Gregor] Blanco.”

The switch-hitting Torres hit .296 against southpaws last season and owns a .291 lifetime average as a right-handed batter. That’s a big reason why he’s back, as is his knowledge of the expansive AT&T Park outfield.

“We look at how we won in 2012 and one of the key components was defense,” Evans said. “Andres being able to play all three [outfield spots], as can [Angel] Pagan and Blanco, it really gave us an advantage to have three guys that are athletes that can cover territory.”

While many Giants fans clamored for an offseason addition with a little more pop, such as Scott Hairston, Evans said the club made an educated decision.

“We weren’t necessarily out there looking for the big bat that was going to play a corner and possibly compromise our defense. There were other options we talked to and other options we made offers to. Ultimately [Torres] ended up being the best fit.”

Torres couldn’t be more excited Evans arrived at that conclusion and brought him back a year after he was sent to the New York Mets along with Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan. Now Torres has his locker right next to Ramirez’s in Scottsdale and will flank Pagan in the AT&T Park outfield.

“For me it’s an honor to be back with the 2012 World Champion team,” Torres said. “What they did in the playoffs and World Series was amazing. I’m looking forward to playing with them and helping them win games.”

Torres, barring injury, will certainly get a chance to contribute as early as Opening Day on April 1 in Los Angeles since the Dodgers are scheduled to send left-hander Clayton Kershaw to the mound. But Bonser has a lot of work to do before getting his opportunity. Evans was candid about what he wants to see from Bonser before considering a promotion.

“He’s got a little bit of a ways to go right now,” Evans said. “The only way to get yourself back into the position to do what Vogelsong did is pitch. [Bonser] missed a lot of time in 2011 and a lot of time in 2012. So the goal in a lot of ways for him is to have a healthy 2013 and then the sky’s the limit for what could happen.”

Lucky for Bonser, all he has to do is look at what Vogelsong has accomplished over the last two seasons to buy what Evans is selling.

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — In a quiet moment in the dugout Friday, manager Bruce Bochy tried to figure out a nickname for his new budding star. During a week where Christian Arroyo has made the game look so easy, this has turned out to be the most difficult part. 

Bochy briefly settled on “Yo” before that was scuttled because the team’s video coordinator is Yo Miyamoto. Joe Panik said some players have tried C.A. or YoYo, but admitted that neither is all that good. The team’s Twitter account spent a few days trying to make Boss Baby a thing, but Arroyo wasn’t thrilled with that one and the experiment appears to be over. In a back room of the clubhouse, there’s a printout showing Arroyo and Buzz from “Home Alone,” but that comparison is much better made with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman. 

Perhaps the answer is as simple as the path Arroyo’s bat takes to a fastball. As he watched Arroyo field grounders during batting practice, Dick Tidrow was asked about the 21-year-old. Tidrow, the team’s senior VP of player personnel, has seen and worked with Arroyo since he was drafted. 

“We always just called him The Kid,” Tidrow said. “He would turn around when I called him Kid.”

The Kid is growing up quickly. Arroyo’s second homer of the week was the game-winner Friday, an eighth-inning blast that put a lead in Mark Melancon’s hands. The new closer made sure the new third baseman’s homer didn’t go to waste, clinching a 4-3 win that got the Giants out of the National League West’s cellar. 

The homer might have surprised Arroyo as much as anyone. He came here with a reputation as a mature and talented hitter, but power is not his calling card. 

“I’m not trying to hit a homer there,” he said. “Get the head out, see a pitch over the plate, barrel something, just keep the line moving. I got a good pitch, elevated it, and fortunately it went out.”

Arroyo already speaks like a hitting coach, but he is not afraid to admit that there are things he doesn’t know. It’s easy to get film on opposing starters, but there’s little a rookie can do to prepare for late-inning pitching changes. Arroyo consulted Buster Posey and Conor Gillaspie before facing Ryan Buchter, who has been in the division for two years. Gillaspie told him Buchter’s fastball has some late life and gets on a hitter. 

“I wanted to see it and the first pitch was a little low so I got a good read on them,” Arroyo said. 

The second one was right at the belt and Arroyo pulled it down the line for his second big league homer. He had just three last year in Double-A, but the Giants felt the 36 doubles showed that power was on the way. 

“He’s got pop,” Bochy said. “He’s not a guy trying to hit homers. He tries to put a good swing on it. But he drives balls and you saw it tonight. We see him more as a gap guy, but he’ll get more power as he gets older. We’re not asking him to hit homers, trust me, but it’s good to see him letting it go.”

The homer secured a win on a night when a lot went right. Jeff Samardzija was sharp, paying for one pitch to Ryan Schimpf that left the park but otherwise pitching seven strong. Panik and Brandon Belt ignited the offense early and Michael Morse came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth. Derek Law and Mark Melancon closed it out, with Melancon getting help from Panik, who made a spectacular tumbling catch on a flare to shallow right-center. It was a big first out given that Melancon was pitching for the third straight day. 

“It was going to be in no man’s land,” Panik said. “You give it everything you’ve got. Fortunately the ball stayed in the glove.”

When it was over, the youngest Giant was in for another round of interviews to cap a hectic week. On Monday he made his debut and on Tuesday he picked up his first hit. Wednesday brought the first homer and Thursday was the first multi-hit game. What will the weekend include? Maybe a real nickname? 

For now, the Giants are fine with leaning on The Kid, because many of them didn’t even know how young the star of the week was until he was a couple of days into his big league career.

“I was thinking he was 23 or 24,” Samardzija said. “This has been really impressive.”

Instant Replay: Arroyo's late-game heroics lifts Giants past Padres

Instant Replay: Arroyo's late-game heroics lifts Giants past Padres

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, Christian Arroyo made his MLB debut. Tuesday brought his first hit and on Wednesday it was the first homer. Thursday’s game was his first multi-hit game as a big leaguer. What was in store Friday? The best swing yet.

Arroyo hit a go-ahead shot to left while leading off the eighth, giving the Giants a 4-3 win in their series opener with the Padres. The player coaches simply call “The Kid” has two homers in his first five games, and both have come in huge spots. Friday’s sent another jolt through AT&T Park and got a lead to Mark Melancon, who closed out the Padres. 

For four innings, a long-haired right-hander was no-hitting the Padres. Jeff Samardzija was sharp early and he got a nice cushion in the first. Joe Panik and Brandon Belt led off with singles and Panik scored on Erick Aybar’s two-out error. A Conor Gillaspie knock made it 2-0. 

The first hit allowed by Samardzija was a painful one. He plunked Yangervis Solarte to open the fifth and Ryan Schimpf hit a long dinger to dead center to tie the game. Cory Spangenberg followed with a single to left that skipped under Belt’s glove. Spangenberg went to third on the play and scored on a bloop. 

Belt made up for the play in the bottom of the inning, beating the outfield shift with a double and scoring on Mike Morse’s sacrifice fly to right two batters later. Samardzija ran into trouble in the seventh, but with two in scoring position and one out, he got a strikeout and a grounder to third. The Giants put the go-ahead run on second in their half, but Hunter Pence and Morse struck out. 

Starting pitching report: Samardzija has allowed six homers. He’s tied for fourth in the NL with a handful of players, including Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore. 

Bullpen report: Melancon has five straight saves since blowing his first opportunity as a Giant. 

At the plate: Belt reached base four times. His on-base percentage is sitting at a cool .390. 

In the field: Panik made a brilliant diving catch in center for the first out of the ninth. 

Attendance: The Giants announced a sellout crowd. One of the fans looked just like Samardzija, possibly on purpose. 

Up next: Matt Cain has a 2.42 ERA but he left his last start with a tight hamstring. He’ll face Jhoulys Chacin (2-3, 5.90).