EXTRAS: Pill gets third chance

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EXTRAS: Pill gets third chance

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. The Giants consider Brett Pill a part of themix at first base along with Aubrey Huff and Brandon Belt. But youll findseveral more fielding gloves in Pills locker, and all of them will get a fairamount of use this spring.

Pill took some ground balls at third base during Tuesdaysworkout and also will get tested at second base and left field, Giants managerBruce Bochy said. Its all part of the plan to make Pill as versatile aspossible.

Well move him around, Bochy said. Hes got a window inthe workout where he can take some ground balls.

Pill has appeared at third base in just six career games inthe minor leagues and received six total chances. In his only chance lastseason, at Triple-A Fresno, he made an error.

Pill wasnt a dynamo at second base when he saw time therefor the Grizzlies last season, either. The Giants tried that experiment becausethey wanted to keep Pills bat in the lineup after first baseman Brandon Beltwas optioned to Fresno. But even if Pill was no better than serviceable at secondbase, he made an impression on management by showing no hesitation aboutlearning a new position. He shows up every day ready to punch the clock, with not a peep of a complaint.

If Pill makes the Giants opening-day roster, barring injuries to others, itll be as aright-handed pinch hitter and reserve player. Club officials believe that Pillcould be an asset in a bench role because his right-handed swing is simple andrepeatable. It doesnt rely on any complicated weight shifts or timingmechanisms. So he wouldnt gather rust as easily as someone like Belt, whoneeds to play every day to stay sharp.

Theres one more reason to give Pill some work at thirdbase: The Giants dont have a plethora of backup options to Pablo Sandoval.Bochy mentioned Ryan Theriot as a candidate to get innings there. EmmanuelBurriss is expected to play third base as part of his projected utility role,too.

Here are some other quick updates from Day 10 in Scottsdale:

--Freddy Sanchez (right shoulder surgery) still isntparticipating in workouts with the rest of the team. He was held out Mondaybecause his back flared up, Bochy said. Sanchez was improved enough to taketwo dozen ground balls and play catch Tuesday. But theres still no timetable for Sanchezto begin making throws to bases or participate fully in workouts; the best-casescenario calls for him to appear as a designated hitter after the first week ofexhibition games.

--Ryan Vogelsong (lower back strain) played catch for thesecond consecutive day and continues to make progress, Bochy said. He wasexcited to get his spikes on, the manager said. The hope is that Vogelsong canbegin throwing off a mound in another week. Although Vogelsong appears to bemoving past his back injury, any further setbacks would endanger his ability toopen the season as the No.4 starter.

--Matt Cain has a nice, fat welt just below his left kneefrom where Hector Sanchezs line drive pelted him on Sunday. But he took histurn throwing live batting practice on Tuesday with no issues, Bochy said.Jeremy Affeldt also threw to hitters, and managed not to tickle anyones ribcage this time.

--Prospect Heath Hembree throws hard and doesnt always knowwhere its going. "Now they know how Robb Nen used to throw, yelled outspecial assistant Shawon Dunston.

--Great observation by beat colleague Alex Pavlovic of BayArea News Group: At 22 years old, Madison Bumgarner is the youngest pitcher onthe roster. Not only that, he still ranks as the youngest pitcher in camp.Amazing.

--Buster Posey's last big league at-bat was so long ago, it came against a guy who no longer exists. Posey hit a single in the ninth inning May 25 against Florida Marlins closer Leo Nunez. The world found out in September that Nunez's real name is Juan Carlos Oviedo and he's had a few more slices of birthday cake than he was letting on. Impressively, the good folks at baseball-reference.com already updated all the box scores, replacing references to Nunez with Oviedo. Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent, I suppose.

--It wouldnt be spring training in Scottsdale withoutWillie Mays and Mike Murphy sitting at the same circular clubhouse table,shooting the breeze. Its always neat to see a new crop of rookies stare in aweas they walk past with their equipment bags.

Most are too shy to say anything. Not top center fieldprospect Gary Brown, though.

Hi Willie, how are ya? said Brown, as he rushed through the clubhouse.

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today. 

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament.