We’ve reached the Bay Bridge portion of the Spring Training show; where warm, desert sports paradise blends awkwardly into dark, regular reality.
Dark because AT&T Park was actually dark Thursday. The new LED lights shone on the field, and the field only.
The runs came with help from just about everyone in the seventh inning when Brandon Belt led off with a single. Hunter Pence, who changed his walk-up tune to Snap’s “I’ve Got The Power,” struck out before Buster Posey smacked a single to put runners on the corners. Brandon Crawford opened the scoring with a single. Then a Conor Gillaspie single loaded the bases.
The bullpen was perhaps the quietest thrill for Giants fans. Cory Gearrin, Ty Blach (W) and George Kontos strung together three innings of perfect ball. Mark Melancon added yet another in his first save as a Giant at AT&T Park, said manager Bruce Bochy:
“I’ll take that work all year.”
So the Giants get another Spring win, but the game presented a couple opportunities for the 25-man to reveal itself.
X factors, undecideds and updates
Depth in left
Bochy wanted to see how newcomers handled the bright lights and bigger stage, so Chris Marrero got the start in left field Thursday.
Marrero was about one foot away from a monster first-inning dinger, made a spectacular catch in left off a Jaff Decker drive and broke up the A’s perfect game with an opposite field double. Said Bochy of Marrero’s play in left:
“It’s not an easy left field to play, and he just looked so relaxed and comfortable.”
Marrero proved, despite ignoring the cutoff man in an early A’s almost-rally, that he might be the right fit for a spot once reserved for Mike Morse (out with hamstring injury).
Bruce Bochy said after the game that, with Mac Williamson probably headed to Sacramento and sidelined with a quad strain, the strategy in left shifts:
“We’re looking at more of a platoon with Parker…We will platoon.”
Marrero fits into the mold needed: a right-handed veteran outfielder who can hit lefties (.250). Parker’s average against RHP’s is .294 and .200 against LHP’s.
Johnny Cueto, who pitched five innings of shutout ball Thursday, chuckled at the thought of trying to get Marrero out:
“I don’t know. It’s a secret. But I don’t think about that right now. We’re brothers, we’re teammates.”
Don’t forget, Marrero leads the team with eight spring home runs. Also, Cueto has a 1.50 ERA this spring.
Bochy said the fifth starter would be announced Friday, but all fingers point to Matt Cain. Blach’s one inning of perfect relief essentially settled that question, anyway. Though Bochy balked at that, saying again the decision wasn’t quite ready to be announced.
Cain finished the spring off looking relatively solid: combined 10-1/3 innings in last two starts, gave up eight runs and struck out nine.
That should be the final punch needed. Blach did everything he could do — 21-1/3 innings, 10 runs, 13 strikeouts, one walk– but the spot wasn’t really his to take. Cain is in the final year of his monster contract, and there was little chance the Giants would up and hand his hard-earned place in the rotation out the gate.
He’ll be around if (and, perhaps when) Cain relapses.
Jae-gyun Hwang exceeded expectations in spring, hitting .356, 15 RBI with five home runs. GM Bobby Evans didn’t hold the love back:
“Hwang came in looking more prepared and ready than we could have asked.”
He’s also well-liked with his teammates — as evidenced by his 2017 Barney Nugent award, given to the play in his first big league camp whose “performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.”
While Hwang will mostly likely start the season in Sacramento, Bruce Bochy assured before Thursday’s game that a bat like Hwang’s deserved a place to play. The Giants threw Hwang all over the diamond: seven innings in left, six at first — including one Thursday — and his 89 at third, his primary position.
Hwang is 29 and played in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) for 10 seasons.
Tommy John update
Will Smith underwent Tommy John surgery Thursday. Bochy and Evans say they heard everything went well and that the very tentative plan is to have Smith back by May next season.