One Day Closer to #SFGSpring

With only 4 days until #SFGiants pitchers and catchers report to camp in Scottsdale, the Orange and Black are working hard to get ready for the season. Let’s catch up with our guys to see what they’ve been up to the past few weeks:

Hunter Pence vs Car

Gregor Blanco…Quick Feet

George Kontos: #HotelRoomCatch

Pablo Sandoval proving less is more

Jeremy Affeldt vs Car the sequel

#SFGFest – A perfect mix of sunshine, #SFGiants players, fans and Orange Jerseys!

On Saturday, 35,000 #SFGiants fans clad in Orange & Black descended upon AT&T Park for the 21st Annual Giants/KNBR Fan Fest.  Image

Among the highlights were the many autograph and photograph booths around the park, the Q&A Stages, as well as fans exploring the Clubhouse, dugouts and centerfield of AT&T Park.  Every Giant in attendance was donning their new #OrangeFriday Jerseys.  Here’s a look back through the eyes of Social Media

https://twitter.com/gendelprete/status/429727645387874304/photo/1

#SFGMediaDay 2014

Not quite as big as the Super Bowl Media Day, but definitely more entertaining, the @SFGiants held their annual Media Day at AT&T Park.  For many players, this is the 1st time they get to see each other after the offseason.  After a brief team meeting, the team got to preview some of the new promotion items, as well meet the media. Here’s what you missed:

The #RomoTakeOver

On Thursday night, #SFGiants closer @SergioRomo54 took over the @Warriors account during the 2nd quarter.  The Warriors defeated the LA Clippers 111-92, and Romo dominated the night….Here are some highlights:

2014 #SFGiants Commercial Campaign

The 2014 #SFGiants television commercial production got underway as Wednesday kicked off 3 days of filming at AT&T Park.  The script and spots have been kept under wraps, but here are some previews that were released via Social Media from Day 1

Flying Panda

A quick post to show some photos of Pablo Sandoval in Venezuela Friday for the big Caracas v. Magallanes championship game.
As you probably know, Pablo flew from the Sharks game in San Jose on Thursday night (view video) to Miami, then to Caracas, where a helicopter was waiting. It flew him to Valencia, then Pablo was whisked to the ballpark with a police escort. 
And all of it was shown live on national television. 
“I didn’t have permission but I talked to (Brian Sabean) when I was in Miami, and they said yes, but only as DH,” Sandoval told an MLB reporter in Venezuela. He went 1-for-4.
“A Caracas-Magallanes game is something else. You feel like your heart is going to come right out of your mouth,” Sandoval had told reporters earlier.
x2_97578b.jpg
20100130_NACI1_1_4_F3.jpg

Pablo and Friends

The latest “Inside the Clubhouse” episode just taped here at AT&T. The star – no surprise- was Pablo Sandoval, who shared the stage with Nate Scheirholtz, batting coach Bam-Bam Meulens, trainer Dave Groeschner and host Greg Papa. 
Pablo, as you know, is one of those guys who are born to live in the spotlight. As he said when an audience member asked if he set goals for each season, “I just go play and have some fun.”
He did, however, reveal one goal for 2010. Having lost around 12 pounds so far in the off-season, he wants to steal more bases. So when Greg Papa joked about going for 20-20 (home runs and stolen bases), Pablo nodded.
“That’s my one goal,” he said. “I told Groesch. Twenty-twenty.”
I asked him afterward if he was serious. “Yeah, I think I can do it,” he said.
He confirmed that he had gained just a pound during his time in Venezuela playing winter ball and eating his mother’s cooking. 
“One pound, and it’s muscle!” he said.
He also returned to the states with a new look – a Mohawk. He joked with Groeschner on stage that he ought to get one, too.
“Take us to the World Series,” Groeschner said, “and I’ll do it.”
When Meulens talked about getting players to be more patient at the plate, he clarified that he was basically leaving Pablo alone. “I’d be crazy to mess with him,” Meulens said. But Pablo said that wasn’t true. 
“This year I’m going to be different,” Pablo said. “I’m going to be more patient. I’ve been working on it in winter ball with Bam-Bam.”
The result? He hit .395 in the regular season and .477 in the playoffs. 
“I want to narrow his zone,” Meulens said, “but I don’t want to take away his aggressiveness.”
Schierholtz also is making a big change at the plate: He is wearing batting gloves for the first time in his life.
“I never used them growing up,” he said. “Just grabbed a little dirt and go. But in Puerto Rico (in winter ball), I had 75 at-bats with gloves. I’m getting used to them slowly. I’ve gone through a lot of different brands to get the ones I want.”
He’s also been working on recognizing pitchers more successfully and working within his own strike zone. He hopes it will produce more home runs. 
“I have more power than what I’ve shown,” he said.
When asked if he had superstitions, Nate said he eats the same thing every day if he’s on a streak. 
“Cheetos,” he said, smiling, “have a lot of hits in them.”
Pablo, sitting next to Nate, smiled and raised his eyebrow, stealing a glance at his trainer.
“There are a lot of hits in bananas, too,” Groeschner said.
Photos from Inside the Clubhouse:
550-ITC-audience.jpg

 Greg Papa, Pablo Sandoval, Dave Grosechner

550-ITC-players.jpg
Greg Papa, Nate Schierholtz, Pablo Sandoval, Hensley Muelens, Dave Groeschner
550-ITC-group.jpg

Top of the Class

It is the nature of diehard fans to be impatient. This is a good thing. They push a team’s management. Where’s the long-ball hitter we need? Where’s the rocket-armed reliever? Let’s make a deal, and let’s do it now.

But in the labyrinth of offices inside any major-league baseball organization, alongside the up-to-the-minute-what-can-we-do-now executives and analysts, are the futurists. They’re the ones constructing the team we’ll see next year and five years from now.

No team in recent years has planned for the future better than the Giants.

That’s what Baseball America concluded in its just-published analysis of the last four draft classes.

Here’s what Baseball America’s Jim Callis reported yesterday:

“We grade every draft from 2005-08 in the new Prospect Handbook, and no team outdid San Francisco’s 3.50 GPA. Vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow ran those first three efforts, with scouting director John Barr coming aboard in 2008.

“The Giants’ signature pick was stealing two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum after nine teams passed on him in 2006. San Francisco gets an A for Lincecum alone in 2006, though they also found fringe big league infielders Emmanuel Burriss (sandwich round), Ryan Rohlinger (sixth), Brian Bocock (ninth) and Matt Downs (36th).

“San Francisco was the only club to earn three As, also getting top grades in 2007 for Madison Bumgarner (first), with some help from righthander Tim Alderson (first), second baseman Nick Noonan (sandwich) and big league surprise Dan Runzler (fifth), and in 2008. That last group could be San Francisco’s best hitting crop in years, led by Buster Posey (first), third baseman Conor Gillaspie (sandwich), outfielder Roger Kieschnick (third) and shortstop Brandon Crawford (fourth).”

As fans, we don’t have to be patient. That’s not our jobs. But it’s good know it’s somebody’s job, and that the Giants happen to have some of the best people doing it.

Winter League Lessons

I phoned Giants player personnel
director Bobby Evans this week – he’s back east with his family
for the holidays — to talk about the fall league and winter ball. I
wanted to know what he learns about his players when he looks at
their stats from these brief seasons in far-flung places.

“For most of the players, it’s a
development opportunity,” Evans said. “These are not rec
leagues. They’re competitive, spirited, driven programs. You
succeed or you come home. The pressure is high and the stakes are
high.

“As hard as it is for young Latin
players to come to the U.S. and succeed, that’s what it’s like
for American players to go into competitive winter ball leagues.”

Nate Schierholtz, for example, hit .324
in Puerto Rico after a frustrating regular season that saw him
sidelined for a stretch with a strained hip. Winter ball “was a
strong development opportunity for Nate and shows how tough he is,”
Evans said.

Kevin Frandsen also did well in the
Puerto Rican league, hitting .337. “He’ll compete to be one of
the utility guys on the big league club,” Evans said. “He was
healthy all year and showed what kind of player he’s capable of
being. Just like Nate, by doing well in Puerto Rico, it turns heads.
Helps people see, ‘Hey, I’m not slowing down. I’m going to do
everything I can to compete.’ ”

For Brett Pill, the young first-baseman
who had a breakout 2009 season in the minors, the winter league in
Venezuela was a confidence boost. He batted .329 with a .411 on-base
percentage.

“When you’re playing alongside
major-league players you’ve only seen on SportsCenter, and you’re
doing well, it’s an eye-opener. You’re thinking, ‘I can compete
with these guys.’ It’s going to help him approach the next level
- his first major-league spring training — with a lot more
confidence.”

Evans puts less stock in the
performances in the Arizona fall league, where Brandon Crawford and
Buster Posey played.

“You can’t read too much into
whether you were successful or unsuccessful because you get such
limited at-bats,” Evans said.

Crawford hit .312 and Posey .225.

“As much as he might have struggled
offensively,” Evans said of Posey, “he showed a respectable
on-base percentage (.324). It was a long year for him between
big-league camp, five months in the minor leagues in two different
places followed by a September call-up and fall league. Not question
there was strain on him.’

Evans said Crawford, whose impressive
performance in Single A early on in 2009 seemed almost effortless, is
expected to start the season in Double A “and see where the season
takes him. What we’ve seen in him is a sense of passion. He’s
driven.”

No word yet on whether Pablo Sandoval
has been successful in maintaining his weight-loss from his Operation
Panda conditioning camp. He hit .395 in Venezuela, his home country.
The Giants expect to see Sandoval back in San Francisco in a couple
weeks.

John Bowker’s winter-league season
was cut short by a quadriceps strain. (He played in just three
games.) He’s been receiving treatment in San Francisco and is
expected to be ready for spring training.

Have a great New Year. See you in 2010.

From the Horses’ Mouths

ITC Pic1.jpg

It sure looks weird to see the clubhouse in the off-season. Even filled as it was last night with fans in folding chairs, it was like walking into an abandoned building. There’s a kind of ghostly loneliness about it without players slapping domino tiles on table tops and answering fan mail in front of their lockers and yanking down the bills of their caps as they rush out to take early BP. Is April really still three-and-a-half months away?

The next best thing to the actual baseball season, though, is talking about it.

Up on a temporary stage, erected on the far right of the room near the starting pitchers’ lockers, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was sitting next to general manager Brian Sabean and taking questions from moderator Greg Papa.

“He’s the best all-around player that I’ve ever seen because he can play everywhere,” Bochy was saying. “He has a very similar body type to Tony Gwynn.”

He was talking about Pablo Sandoval, who embarked on a rigorous conditioning and weight-loss program during the off-season, a one-man camp the Giants dubbed “Operation Panda.”

“Obviously,” Sabean cracked, nodding at Bochy and himself, “we haven’t been in the same camp.”

Packed into the room, in rows of chairs bordered by four walls of lockers, were season-ticket holders who had been invited to talk baseball with Bochy, Sabean, managing general partner Bill Neukom and relief pitcher Sergio Romo.

Asked by Papa if two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum’s stuff matches up with the all-time greats, Bochy didn’t hesitate.

“Sure it does. He’s by far the best pitcher I’ve ever seen. When you have four pitches, especially the best or close to the best changeup in baseball right now, he’s up there among the greats. He’s a thinker out there and knows what the opposing team is doing and that’s why he’s won two Cy Young Awards.”

What’s interesting about him,” Sabean said, “is in college he would throw 140 pitches on a Friday night and then be the closer for his team on Sunday. He’s proved to have a rubber arm and has an inner strength that other people don’t have. He’s fearless and he thinks that on any given day that he’s better than anyone else.”

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was Sergio Romo. He’s a player that fans don’t know very well yet, and last night they got a glimpse of his sense of humor and his boyish excitement for the game – starting with the fact he was texting his mother as he climbed onto the stage to tell he was going to be on television.

You’re from Brawley, California, near Los Angeles,” Papa said, “so who was your favorite team growing up?”

No comment,” Romo said, smiling. “Let’s just say I started hating the Dodgers the second I put on a Giants uniform.”

After struggling with injuries last season, he said he’s “very excited for the season to start . . . I miss my number 54 on my back.”

When Papa opened the discussion to questions, one of the first was an update on the Giants’ up and coming players.

“Peguero is a young outfielder that we just placed on our 40-man roster,” Sabean said. “He’s a lot like Sandoval in that he has a lot of energy. Thomas Neal came into his own last year and developed an all-around game. Brandon Crawford is going to be our shortstop of the future. We have a flow of talent that people will be proud of.”

As for the readiness of pitcher Madison Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey, Bochy said, “I really think that they can start for us next year. Posey is gonna be a front line catcher and he’s on the fast track. Bumgarner did a heck of a job last year when Timmy went down. Here are two tremendous kids that stood out and both held their own. I’m curious to see how Buster looks this spring.”

One fan wanted to know about keeping Lincecum and fellow pitcher Matt Cain as Giants for the long haul.

“Cain has two more years before free agency,” Sabean said, “and Lincecum has four more and is going through arbitration right now. We are in a good situation because they both want to be Giants for a long time.”

Sabean also addressed the decision not to resign veteran pitcher Brad Penny.

“We had a short window and in our estimation we thought we had home court in our situation. We couldn’t bring ourselves to overpay when we have Madison Bumgarner in the wings.”

Still want more? Tune in to a full broadcast of the event on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area on January 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Some shots from the taping:

Romo.jpg

Audience Member - Season Ticketholder.jpg

Bochy.jpg

Neukom.jpg

Group Shot.jpg

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 43 other followers