- Despite his $20MM salary, Giants righty Matt Cain isn’t a shoo-in to win the last spot in their rotation, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). The 30-year-old combined for a 5.70 ERA over 150 innings in the previous two seasons, and he has pitched to an even uglier 8.10 ERA in 20 spring frames. Southpaw Ty Blach will take the role if Cain doesn’t. Blach, 26, debuted in the majors last season and gave up a mere two earned runs on eight hits in 17 innings.
- Michael Morse isn’t yet planning to retire, as the veteran tells The San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman and other reporters that he’ll stay in camp to rehab his hamstring injury and then report to the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate. Morse had stated earlier this winter that he’d hang up his spikes if he didn’t break camp with the Giants, and he indeed seemed likely to make the roster before getting hurt. “I’m going to get healthy. I’m going to play games with the mentality of getting ready for the big leagues,” Morse said. “At that point, if the team is 20-0, I know I probably won’t get called up and then it’s see ya’. If they need me, great.”
The Giants have released veteran righty David Hernandez, as Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area was among those to report on Twitter. Hernandez asked to be cut loose upon being informed that he would not crack the active roster to start the season.
Hernandez, 31, always faced an uphill battle to make the club with a variety of righties ahead of him in the pecking order. And he didn’t do enough to impress in his 5 2/3 spring frames, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and three walks while recording four strikeouts.
San Francisco took a shot on Hernandez with a minors deal that would have paid him $1.5MM had he made the roster. Last year, with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.84 ERA over 72 2/3 innings. With a 94.0 mph average fastball and 9.9 K/9 on the year, there were some positives, though he also walked 4.0 batters per nine with a meager 37.3% groundball rate while permitting 1.36 home runs per nine.
7:08am: Giants left-hander Will Smith will decide Friday whether to undergo Tommy John surgery on his ailing elbow, but it doesn’t appear he’ll avoid the procedure. Both doctors who examined the reliever’s elbow this week have recommended the surgery, manager Bruce Bochy announced Thursday (via Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area).
Smith’s elbow has been an issue since the outset of spring training in late February, when the Giants had to shut him down for a week on account of inflammation. The injury didn’t look serious at the time, but the discomfort returned Monday and is likely to yield surgery. If he does go under the knife, Smith will still accrue service time for the next year-plus that he misses. The 27-year-old is in his second of four arbitration-eligible seasons and will make $2.5MM in 2017.
This would have been the first full season in San Francisco for Smith, whom the Giants acquired from the Brewers at last year’s trade deadline. Playoff-bound San Francisco gave up right-hander Phil Bickford, who’s now suspended but was among Baseball America’s top 50 prospects prior to the deal, and catcher Andrew Susac in an effort to bolster its bullpen. Smith warranted that return thanks to his quality output in Kansas City and Milwaukee from 2013 through the first half of last season, and he also fared nicely in his first action with the Giants. Over an 18 1/3-inning span, he recorded a 2.95 ERA ball with 12.8 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9. All told, Smith logged a 3.13 ERA, 11.91 K/9, 3.58 BB/9 and a 42.6 percent ground-ball rate in 198 2/3 frames over the previous four years.
The loss of Smith will clearly be a significant one for the Giants, whose bullpen was a mediocre group last year that suffered no shortage of late-game meltdowns. Smith would have been San Francisco’s top lefty option in relief this season, but the bullpen will instead have to rely on Josh Osich, Steven Okert and perhaps fifth starter candidate Ty Blach as its primary southpaws.
5:05pm: The Giants have officially released Beckham, the club told reporters (including Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group).
4:10pm: The Giants will release Gordon Beckham from his minor league contract with the club as per Beckham’s request, MLBTR has learned. Beckham originally joined the Giants in a late-September trade with the Braves and re-signed with the club in February, joining a very crowded battle within the Giants’ camp to decide the third base and utility infield jobs.
The 30-year-old Beckham will now look for a clearer opportunity elsewhere with teams in need of infield depth. Most of Beckham’s MLB experience has some at second base dating back to his days as a regular with the White Sox, though he has also seen substantial action at third base over the last three seasons and even some action at short, starting seven games at the position for Atlanta in 2016. Beckham has hit .211/.285/.340 over 516 PA since the start of the 2015 season, though he does own a career .260/.360/.458 slash line coming off the bench (in 114 PA) over his career.
Mike Morse suffered a hamstring strain that will keep him out of action for at least two weeks, Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters (including CSNBayArea.com’s Alex Pavlovic). That timeline essentially eliminates Morse’s chances of making the Giants’ Opening Day roster, bringing a sour end to what had been an impressive spring for the veteran. After signing a minor league deal with the Giants this offseason, Morse spoke openly about retirement if he didn’t make the team, though he isn’t yet sure if he’ll now pursue a Triple-A rehab assignment. “If it gets to that point, I’ll think about it, but right now it’s (about) how I feel every day. I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Morse said. With Morse and Mac Williamson both sidelined with injuries, Jarrett Parker is now the clear favorite for the starting left field job and the Giants’ extensive battle for bench jobs has somewhat narrowed.
The Giants have announced that former superstar Barry Bonds will rejoin the organization as a special advisor to CEO Larry Baer. Most recently, the controversial slugger served as the Marlins’ hitting coach, but the team elected not to continue the relationship past the 2016 season.
Bonds, now 52, spent 15 of his 22 major league seasons in San Francisco. Though he was already a two-time MVP winner when he came over from the Pirates, Bonds only elevated his game in his new environs. All told, he provided the Giants with a mind-boggling .312/.477/.666 batting line and 586 home runs in nearly 2,000 games.
Bonds retired as MLB’s all-time home run leader and unquestionably rates as one of the very best players in history. His legacy, though, has long been clouded by his high-profile role in the game’s sordid PED history. And his playing career didn’t exactly come to a happy conclusion; Bonds slashed a hard-to-fathom .276/.480/.565 in his age-42 season, but didn’t suit up after that point and brought an ultimately unsuccessful collusion case.
As per the Giants’ press release, Bonds “will represent the organization at various community and organizational events in San Francisco.” His duties also involve some baseball-related work, as Bonds will attend the team’s Spring Training camp this week and also work with prospects during visits to the Giants’ minor league affiliates.
“I am excited to be back home with the Giants and join the team in an official capacity,” Bonds said. “San Francisco has always been my home and the Giants will always be my family. I look forward to spending time with the team, young players in the system as well as the Bay Area community.”
Giants reliever Will Smith did not get the news he hoped for after undergoing an MRI last night. GM Bobby Evans told reporters that the scan showed possible ligament damage that will require a second opinion, as Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area was among those to report via Twitter.
It’s not yet clear whether there’ll be a need for a surgical procedure, and there’s evidently some hope that a rehabilitation approach will be possible, but the team is bracing itself for a significant loss of time. Evans says that “there are things on [the] MRI that didn’t necessarily show up on [the] last MRI,” Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (links to Twitter).
Smith, 27, underwent testing earlier in the spring, likely providing a rather clear baseline for the more recent imaging. While he was cleared to resume throwing at that time, the southpaw exited his outing yesterday with renewed elbow pain.
It’s not clear at this point what options are on the table, and we likely won’t know more until Smith’s forthcoming evaluation. There are an increasing variety of possible treatments for UCL injuries, ranging from rehab (sometimes supplemented by platelet-rich plasma and/or stem cell injections) to ligament repair to full-blown ligament replacement (the legendary Tommy John procedure). While the best-case scenario involves a few months’ downtime, the most serious outcome can require more than a year-long layoff — and isn’t always fully successful in allowing a return.
Needless to say, losing the high-quality lefty for any stretch would represent a blow to the Giants’ pen. There are several interesting southpaw fill-in options on the 40-man. Relievers Steven Okert and Josh Osich have each shown their talent at the game’s highest level, and starter Ty Blach could also represent a versatile option.
This isn’t the first time that Smith has dealt with elbow problems this spring. In fact, it’s not the first time that he required an MRI this spring, though the first one did come back clean. Smith missed quite a bit of time last year, though that occurred due to a knee injury.
Still, the fact that Smith is again dealing with discomfort isn’t a great sign. And as Pavlovic notes, it make it rather unlikely that the southpaw reliever will be ready for Opening Day, as his prior issue delayed his progression. In fact, today’s appearance was just his second of the spring.
San Francisco added Smith at last year’s trade deadline, giving up righty Phil Bickford and catcher Andrew Susac to control Smith through 2019 via arbitration. The club is paying him $2.5MM this year; Smith earned $1.475MM in 2015 as a Super Two.
Upon joining the Giants, Smith threw 18 1/3 innings of 2.95 ERA ball with 12.8 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9. He has largely produced quality results ever since a poor rookie stint as a starter. Over the course of the 2016 campaign, though, Smith averaged just 91.9 mph with his four-seamer, about a mile and a half below his prior two seasons. He also dipped to an 11.5% swinging-strike rate after posting a career-best 15.2% rate in the prior year.
While a setback at this time is obviously disappointing, there is a clear glimmer of hope here. Smith reported only similar discomfort to what he had experienced previously, and didn’t experience a “pop.” (Via Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle; Twitter links.) The lefty says he hopes it’s just a continuation of that prior issue, adding that he’s “trying not to panic.”
For the Giants, there also now seems likely to be an extra spot open in the Opening Day bullpen. According to Pavlovic, it’s likely that Josh Osich and Steven Okert would both take roster spots, though he adds that Ty Blach could also shift to the pen. Other possible competitors include Michael Roth and Kraig Sitton, notes Pavlovic, while veteran minor-league signee Matt Reynolds is also in camp.
- Jimmy Rollins is off to a slow start in the Giants’ camp, with just three hits in his first 26 at-bats for an ungainly .113 average. Despite the lack of production thus far, the veteran infielder tells Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group that he isn’t yet feeling a crunch to perform given his non-roster status. “I’d love to start driving some balls. But pressure? No, it’s not pressure. You start doing that, then you’re really starting to go the wrong way,” Rollins said. As Baggarly notes, Rollins’ performance is somewhat difficult to evaluate since he appeared in only 41 games last season and none after June 8, so “the Giants must determine whether Rollins’ lack of results is due to diminished skills or whether he’s a veteran who needs a little extra time to regain his stroke.” Rollins gave no hints as to how he would proceed in his career if he didn’t make the Opening Day roster.