EXTRAS: Posey's baserunning still a concern

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EXTRAS: Posey's baserunning still a concern

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he was encouraged after watching Buster Posey slide on a pad and push his ankle a little harder as he ran along the cut of the infield grass Monday.

But Bochy acknowledged that Posey still has some major mental hurdles to clear, and running the actual bases is one of them.

"I thought overall, he loosened up," Bochy said. "He was running better there. That's going to be a confidence factor. Once he does it and realizes, Hey, I'm OK,' he'll be fine."

Posey could start running the bases on Tuesday, Bochy said. He'll need to feel comfortable with that before he plays in an exhibition game -- something that could happen as early as Friday.

As for the sliding?

"It was easy," Bochy said.

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After gas-leak evacuations and swarms of bees the first two days of Cactus League play, Monday night's game went off without any strangeness. (Unless you count Travis Ishikawa hitting a home run against his former team.)

Bochy turned to hitting coach Hensley Meulens late in the game and wondered why that flock of bats hadn't arrived.

"We used them all up yesterday, huh?" Bochy said.

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The Giants like what they see in Gregor Blanco. The MVP of the Venezuelan winter league, Blanco was 1 for 2 with a walk and a pair of stolen bases Monday night. Bochy even tried to use his shiny new weapon to score on a squeeze play, but catcher Chris Stewart fouled off his bunt attempt.

It's hard to say any non-roster player could make the kind of impact that Andres Torres did in 2010. But there are some parallels. Blanco certainly will get a long look this spring, and Bochy plans to put him in motion.

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After Blanco, the second hottest hitter in Venezuela this winter was Hector Sanchez. he nearly won the league's batting title and said he's feeling especially good from the left side.

It showed Sunday, when he strode to the plate after the 41-minute bee-swarm delay.

"First pitch, whack!" Angel Pagan said. "I said, This guy must be locked in.'"

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Nerves, thy name is a 48-foot David Quinowski breaking ball.

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Speaking of nerves, I'm happy to report that I survived my dugout interview with Kruk and Kuip during Monday's game. Nobody was happier than me that it was a brisk, 1-2-3 inning.

It's strange. I've covered baseball for 15 years and that was my first time in a dugout during an actual game (or exhibition, in this case). It was pretty neat to be so close to first base when Aubrey Huff made a nice shorthand pickup and Matt Cain narrowly avoided colliding with the baserunner. It was a glimpse, for me, of how fast the game really gets.

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants always put together a long list of potential minor league free agents as the offseason approaches and they tend to go hard after two or three players from that group. One of the guys who got the hard sell over the winter was speedy outfielder Wynton Bernard, and the Giants were attractive for reasons beyond the departures of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco.

“I thought it was a good opportunity, and it also was a good fit for me because I’m from California,” Bernard said. 

Bernard is technically from Padres territory, but that gives him a connection to one of the men he’s hoping to impress. When Bernard was playing for Rancho Bernardo High, he often went up against a Poway High team that included a young Brett Bochy. Bruce never saw Bernard play because his job kept him away from most of Brett’s games, but he should see plenty of the 26-year-old this spring as the Giants look for a needed speed dimension. 

A big part of the staff overhaul was about making sure the Giants fare better on the bases. Roberto Kelly and Billy Hayes are out and Phil Nevin and Jose Alguacil are in. The Giants stole 79 bases last season, ranking eighth in the National League, and it’s not like they made up for the lack of small-ball by hitting the ball out of the park. Advanced metrics — tracked externally and also by the Giants — showed an inability to make an impact on the bases. According to BsR, an all-encompassing metric tracked by FanGraphs, the Giants were below average, ranking 17th in the majors. 

“We just want to be smarter baserunners,” Bochy said. “You always want to be aggressive. Everyone has the same philosophy — run hard — but it’s the old adage ‘strong to compete, smart to win.’”

A full season of Eduardo Nuñez will help, as would 162 games of Hunter Pence — who tends to make things happen on his own — and Joe Panik, one of the team’s smartest runners. Jimmy Rollins could provide speed off the bench, and Bernard hopes to make himself a viable option in the outfield. He stole 23 bags in 28 attempts last season for the Tigers’ Double-A and Triple-A teams and he stole 88 total bases the two seasons before 2016. 

The Giants know the kind of potential Bernard has, so early in the offseason he got a call telling him to hook up with fellow San Diego resident Vince Coleman, a legendary baserunner who would be joining the staff. The two worked out often in advance of spring training. 

“The Giants said he was in the area and I called him 20 minutes later,” Bernard said. “I feel like I can add a different dynamic with my speed.”

Bernard can play all three outfield spots and he sports a .360 on-base percentage in the minors. He’s likely ticketed for Triple-A for now, but a player with the same profile showed up in camp in 2012, and it wasn’t long before Gregor Blanco had locked up a roster spot. 

Whether Bernard is part of the mix, or it’s a Gorkys Hernandez or Nuñez or Kelby Tomlinson, Bochy knows he needs a little more athleticism and baserunning savvy in a division where the games are often won by one run. 

“We probably made more mistakes than we should have last year,” he said. “The numbers show it.”

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace remains in the Dominican Republic, where he is tending to his father. The Giants don’t have a timetable for Cueto’s arrival, but he didn’t miss anything Saturday. The workout was banged because of rain. 

Cueto is at a hotel a few minutes from the club’s Santo Domingo facility and he has been working out there. The hope is that Cueto’s father soon gets well enough to travel to Arizona, where Cueto can continue to take care of him. 

NEW FACE: Slade Heathcott, a former Yankee, signed a minor league deal with the Giants on Friday. He will be in minor league camp this spring, not big league camp. The Giants liked his athleticism. 

QUOTABLE: “You can always look back, study it, learn from it … the second half, I think for everybody, you learn from it. Did we drop our guard? Hopefully it wasn’t complacency, which lets you think you have a bigger margin for error. Hopefully you learn from it.” — Bochy, when asked about the lesson learned last season. 

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

The Giants reportedly added to their outfield competition by signing former Yankees top prospect and 2009 first-round draft pick, outfielder Slade Heathcott. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was first to report the news

Heathcott, 26, has only appeared in 17 MLB games, all in the 2015 season for the Yankees. In his short promotion, the lefty batted .400 (10-for-25) with two home runs and two doubles. 

Through multiple stints in the minors, Heathcott has slashed .266/.343/.390 with 26 home runs for his career. 

San Francisco reportedly signed Heathcott to a minor league deal with a big league invite for spring training.