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Holland eyes spot on his family's favorite club

Veteran left-hander is competing to make Giants' Opening Day rotation
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Should Derek Holland win a job on the Giants' Opening Day rotation, he'll learn plenty about Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, Stu Miller and the 1961 All-Star Game, the Alou brothers, Masanori Murakami, Bobby and Barry Bonds, Jack and Will Clark, Brian Johnson, the 'Stick (Candlestick Park) and the Shooter (Rod Beck). Count on it.

That's a reminder: He'll hear about John "The Count" Montefusco, too.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Should Derek Holland win a job on the Giants' Opening Day rotation, he'll learn plenty about Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, Stu Miller and the 1961 All-Star Game, the Alou brothers, Masanori Murakami, Bobby and Barry Bonds, Jack and Will Clark, Brian Johnson, the 'Stick (Candlestick Park) and the Shooter (Rod Beck). Count on it.

That's a reminder: He'll hear about John "The Count" Montefusco, too.

It's all due to the company Holland keeps. The left-hander's uncles, Wes and Warren Henderson (who surely remember outfielder Ken Henderson) are ferocious Giants fans dating back to the Strat-O-Matic era of the 1960s.

"They tried to give me trivia," Holland said Sunday. "Of course, I failed that because I don't know enough about the history of San Francisco. But I'm learning. It's part of the gig."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Holland, who's in camp as a non-roster invitee, said that his uncles were "very ecstatic" upon learning that he was invited to compete for a spot in the Giants' five-man pitching rotation. Holland's rivals will include Chris Stratton and Ty Blach, who have been cited by manager Bruce Bochy as the favorites to claim the starting vacancies.

If a starting job seems unattainable, Holland might compete for a bullpen role. He'll have to be flexible, kind of like Bob Bolin, Ron Herbel and Scott Garrelts.

Holland has experienced more big league success than adversity. The 31-year-old owns a 69-64 record and a 4.57 ERA over nine seasons, the first eight of which he spent with the Texas Rangers.

Holland insisted that he has overcome the knee and shoulder injuries that began bothering him after he posted a 38-21 record in a three-year span (2011-13). He made two appearances in the 2010 World Series against the Giants, walking all three batters he faced in Game 2 before working a shutout ninth inning in Game 4.

Last season, Holland's performance ranged to similar extremes. After recording a 2.37 ERA in his first 10 starts, he slumped to a 7-14 overall finish with a 6.20 ERA for the White Sox. Holland attributed his troubles to not making enough adjustments as the season progressed.

"The way I look at the season, to me it's not a failure," Holland said. "I was healthy all year. That's the biggest plus out of all of it. ... I felt like there were a lot more positives than there was negatives."

Holland said that his mere presence in camp revived his attitude. Ryan Vogelsong, Javier Lopez and men of their ilk often felt the same way.

"To have the opportunity to have teams calling to give me a shot shows that there are a lot of believers out there," Holland said. "I'm a firm believer in myself. Obviously, that's how it should be."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast

San Francisco Giants, Derek Holland

Giants hope for more success with former Bucs

Left-hander Watson agrees to multiyear deal on Saturday with San Francisco
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Historically, engineering trades with the Pirates or signing free agents who are fresh off playing in Pittsburgh has worked well for the Giants.

The Giants hope left-hander Tony Watson, who's expected to report to camp for Monday's initial full-squad workout after they plucked him from free agency on Saturday, will continue the trend. Watson ended last season with the Dodgers, but he was with the Pirates for 6 1/2 years before that.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Historically, engineering trades with the Pirates or signing free agents who are fresh off playing in Pittsburgh has worked well for the Giants.

The Giants hope left-hander Tony Watson, who's expected to report to camp for Monday's initial full-squad workout after they plucked him from free agency on Saturday, will continue the trend. Watson ended last season with the Dodgers, but he was with the Pirates for 6 1/2 years before that.

Outfielder Andrew McCutchen, obtained in a trade from Pittsburgh last month, also can help sustain this streak. Before McCutchen, the last member of the Pirates organization to thrive upon joining the Giants was right-hander Hunter Strickland, who arrived in a 2013 waiver claim.

Trade Deadline deals with the Pirates in back-to-back years hastened the Giants' ascent to World Series titles. First baseman/outfielder John Bowker and right-hander Joe Martinez went to Pittsburgh for left-hander Javier Lopez in 2010, one year after the Giants exchanged pitching prospect Tim Alderson for second baseman Freddy Sanchez in '09.

The most famous former Pirate acquired by the Giants? Barry Bonds, who hit 586 home runs in 15 seasons in San Francisco.

• Right-hander Julian Fernandez will refrain from throwing for a couple of days while he recovers from a cut finger on his pitching hand. Fernandez, the hard-throwing Rule 5 draftee, injured himself when he grazed his finger against his locker stall.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants

Giants, lefty Watson agree on multiyear deal

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants added a much-needed left-hander to solidify their bullpen by agreeing with free agent Tony Watson on a two-year contract with a player option for a third season.

Multiple sources confirmed the deal Saturday. The length of the contract, which reportedly is valued between $7 million and $9 million guaranteed, enabled the Giants to keep their player payroll under the threshold for the Competitive Balance Tax.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants added a much-needed left-hander to solidify their bullpen by agreeing with free agent Tony Watson on a two-year contract with a player option for a third season.

Multiple sources confirmed the deal Saturday. The length of the contract, which reportedly is valued between $7 million and $9 million guaranteed, enabled the Giants to keep their player payroll under the threshold for the Competitive Balance Tax.

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Giants officials refrained from commenting publicly until completion of Watson's mandatory physical exam.

As he silenced himself, however, manager Bruce Bochy said, "We're talking about an outstanding player."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Giants closer Mark Melancon, a teammate of Watson's in Pittsburgh from 2013-16, acknowledged trying to persuade his friend to sign with San Francisco.

"I couldn't be more ecstatic," Melancon said. "The guy is one of the most professional people I've ever been around. I spent three-and-a-half, four years with him. There's not one negative thing that I can ever say about him."

Video: Melancon talks reunion with Watson

The Giants' left-handed bullpen contingent had looked shaky. Steven Okert and Josh Osich have demonstrated talent but remain erratic. Will Smith is in the latter stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery, and he probably won't be ready to perform in the Majors until May. Ty Blach is able-bodied, but he'll likely be needed in the starting rotation.

Watson isn't strictly a left-handed specialist who's summoned primarily to retire left-handed batters, however. For his career, he has limited lefty hitters to a .216 average and .574 OPS, comparable to the .226 average and .661 OPS recorded against him by right-handed batters.

In 14 career appearances at AT&T Park, Watson is 0-1 with two saves. He has allowed 16 hits in 12 1/3 innings but no home runs there.

A National League All-Star in 2014, when he appeared in a league-high 78 games, Watson owns a career record of 33-17 with 30 saves. In 2012, one year after his rookie campaign, he began a six-season streak in which he made at least 67 appearances each year.

"He's very businesslike," Melancon said. "He's here to get the job done. I think that fits this clubhouse and our M.O. here."

Watson, 32, split last season between the Pirates and Dodgers, who acquired him at the non-.waiver Trade Deadline. Watson made 11 postseason relief appearances for the Dodgers, including five in a row in Games 2-6 of the World Series. He yielded two earned runs in seven innings during the entire postseason.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Tony Watson

Rule 5 pick Fernandez aims for roster spot

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rarely does a Rule 5 Draft choice make the Opening Day roster. Julian Fernandez might not be an exception, but he could force the Giants to consider alternate ways to retain his services.

Fernandez's reputation for throwing triple-digit fastballs prompted the Giants to select the 22-year-old Dominican from the Rockies' system in December. So far this spring, the right-hander's primarily activities include throwing off a bullpen mound twice. That was enough to pique Giants manager Bruce Bochy's interest.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rarely does a Rule 5 Draft choice make the Opening Day roster. Julian Fernandez might not be an exception, but he could force the Giants to consider alternate ways to retain his services.

Fernandez's reputation for throwing triple-digit fastballs prompted the Giants to select the 22-year-old Dominican from the Rockies' system in December. So far this spring, the right-hander's primarily activities include throwing off a bullpen mound twice. That was enough to pique Giants manager Bruce Bochy's interest.

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"It's so early, but what's impressive about the kid is that he's around the plate, throwing strikes," Bochy said Saturday. "You think a guy who throws with that velocity, around 100 [mph], is going to be all over the board. But that's not the case with him. He has pretty good feel. He has a changeup. He's working on the breaking ball. He has a good idea of what he's trying to do out there."

If the Giants decide that they cannot keep Fernandez on the big league roster all season, they must return him to the Rockies or negotiate a trade to keep him within the organization. The latter is a strong possibility if he continues to intrigue Bochy and others.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Fernandez finished 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA in 51 relief appearances for Colorado's Class A Asheville club in the South Atlantic League last year. He also struck out 57 and walked 18 in 58 innings during his fifth professional season. He recorded three saves in six opportunities in 2017, one season after he went 13-for-13 in save chances in short-season Class A ball with Boise.

Brown regains health, confidence

Trevor Brown's 2017 statistical line looks like a ballplayer's worst nightmare. Fortunately for Brown, the catcher's bad dreams have apparently ended.

Brown, 26, sustained groin and ankle injuries last spring, which doomed him to a substandard performance. He batted .163 in 58 games for Triple-A Sacramento. This followed a promising effort in 2016, when Brown hit .237 with five homers in 75 games for the Giants.

Returning to full health was Brown's top offseason priority.

"Last year was obviously a really bad year for me and I know that's not the player I am," he said.

Once Brown was physically whole, he concentrated on analyzing his hitting, focusing primarily on how opponents got him out. He also watched videos of his brighter moments as a Giant, which helped buoy his confidence and "remind myself of who I was and what I was capable of."

So far, Brown's batting practice has encouraged him.

"I felt I made big strides in tweaking the things I wanted to tweak," Brown said.

Making the Opening Day roster will be an entirely different challenge for Brown. The Giants likely will start the season with two catchers, and only unforeseen circumstances will prevent Buster Posey and Nick Hundley from forming that duo.

All Brown can do is maintain a diligent effort.

"It won't be beneficial for any of us to focus on each other," he said.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Trevor Brown, Julian Fernandez

Strickland schooled by Smoltz on sliders

Seeking to expand his repertoire, righty gets Hall of Famer's advice
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Giants right-hander Hunter Strickland sought offseason pitching tips, he bypassed peers, turned past teachers, eschewed experts and spurned sages.

Strickland didn't mess around. He went all the way to the master.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Giants right-hander Hunter Strickland sought offseason pitching tips, he bypassed peers, turned past teachers, eschewed experts and spurned sages.

Strickland didn't mess around. He went all the way to the master.

Hoping to find an effective complement to his searing fastball, Strickland spent part of a day discussing the slider's intricacies with John Smoltz, the Hall of Fame right-hander and MLB Network analyst, who was only too happy to share his knowledge.

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"For me, throwing the slider has always been something that has come naturally," said Smoltz, who spent all but one season of his 21-year career with the Braves.

The session at an Atlanta training facility was organized by Myles Shoda, Strickland's agent, who also represented Smoltz.

"He has such a gift, with his arm and the way that a ball comes out of his hand," Smoltz recently said of Strickland. "But I think there's always opportunities to upgrade certain components."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Statcast™ recorded Strickland's average four-seam fastball at 95.6 mph last season. Though that reflected slippage from previous years (97.8 in 2016, 97.7 in 2015 and 98.8 in 2014), Strickland still threw hard enough in 2017 to overpower hitters. He struck out 58 in 61 1/3 innings. But that kind of velocity requires an offspeed delivery to discourage hitters from anticipating a fastball.

For example, opponents batted .231 off Strickland on 0-2 counts. With his stuff, that figure should have been closer to the Major League average of .152 in that situation.

Strickland's basic lefty-righty splits also reflected lapses. He limited right-handed swingers to a .203 batting average, but lefties hit a shockingly high .333 off him.

Strickland believes that a capably thrown slider will help him correct that imbalance.

"Offspeed capabilities against lefties ups the game that much more," he said.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy suggested a remedy for Strickland's flaws.

"Probably as much as anything, you always need something soft to keep [hitters] honest, whether it's a changeup or split, which he can throw, or a breaking ball that can go on both sides of the plate."

Therefore, Strickland will try the slider, a pitch he has rarely thrown. Its diminished velocity and increased movement, compared to a fastball, could be enough to help him improve.

"He talked a little bit about grip, so we tweaked that a little bit," Strickland said Friday, recalling his session with Smoltz.

The man who won 213 games, saved 154, earned the 1996 National League Cy Young Award and made eight All-Star teams urged Strickland to maintain his "conviction" with the slider, to throw it with the same confidence that he'd summon for a fastball.

As a Georgia native, Strickland called the chance to work with Smoltz "an honor." He added that the experience was more than just gratifying.

"When the time comes that you don't think you can get any better, you should be done with the game," Strickland said. "Because the game's not that easy. So I'm trying to improve in all aspects of my game."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Hunter Strickland

Giants impressed by Lincecum's showcase

Former San Francisco ace could fill need for club
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants liked what they saw of Tim Lincecum during the free agent's showcase effort Thursday. Whether that was enough to prompt the club to seek a reunion with its former staff ace remains uncertain.

Lincecum, 33, easily could fit the Giants' needs. Openings exist within the starting rotation, though Chris Stratton and Ty Blach are the favorites to claim those spots.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants liked what they saw of Tim Lincecum during the free agent's showcase effort Thursday. Whether that was enough to prompt the club to seek a reunion with its former staff ace remains uncertain.

Lincecum, 33, easily could fit the Giants' needs. Openings exist within the starting rotation, though Chris Stratton and Ty Blach are the favorites to claim those spots.

San Francisco also could use a middle reliever who's capable of throwing multiple innings, a role he occupied in spectacular fashion during the 2012 postseason. It's believed, however, that Lincecum would prefer to start.

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Giants general manager Bobby Evans said that the club sent a representative to Lincecum's throwing session. Evans related that the two-time Cy Young Award winner demonstrated "impressive depth" with his breaking pitches and commanded his fastball well.

Lincecum required surgery for a degenerative hip condition in September 2015, precipitating the end of his nine-year Giants tenure.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Giants, like all teams, stung by Cactus onset

It's hard to believe, because pitchers and catchers have had only three workouts. A week from Friday, however, the Giants will open the Cactus League season with a game against the Brewers.

Position players will have experienced only four workouts by that date. This will prompt Giants manager Bruce Bochy to use his entire spring roster, giving rookies a chance to play, while veterans gradually work themselves into shape.

"Obviously, there's some concern with how fast these games are on us, with where these guys are," Bochy said. "Not that we're an old club. But I don't want them to get in a 'rush mode' and risk any possibility of injuries."

Bochy indicated that the unofficial rule urging teams to field Cactus League lineups that include at least four projected everyday players will be relaxed until March 1.

Worth noting

• Right-hander Johnny Cueto, who felt ill when pitchers and catchers began workouts Wednesday, was healthy enough to ask Bochy to accelerate his activity. However, Bochy advised Cueto to continue to rest and spurned Cueto's request to throw a bullpen session Saturday. He'll throw Monday instead.

• Bochy reconfirmed that power-hitting Chris Shaw, the Giants' top Minor League prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, will concentrate on playing left field during Cactus League games. Previously, Shaw was primarily a first baseman.

Bochy said that he has watched extensive videos of Shaw and likes what he sees from the 24-year-old non-roster invitee.

"He's got a good plan, a good idea," Bochy said, noting that Shaw is not a mindless hacker like many sluggers. "He's a smart hitter."

Ryder Jones, who started at three positions last year -- first base, third base and left field -- will receive the same variety of opportunities during Cactus League games.

"Ryder will play everywhere," Bochy said. 

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Tim Lincecum

Family friend taught Blach how to throw lefty

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Anytime someone insists that left-handers are born, not made, invoke the saga of Ty Blach.

The Giants lefty is a natural righty. He does everything right-handed -- eating, playing golf, swinging a bat and throwing a football. Everything, that is, except pitch.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Anytime someone insists that left-handers are born, not made, invoke the saga of Ty Blach.

The Giants lefty is a natural righty. He does everything right-handed -- eating, playing golf, swinging a bat and throwing a football. Everything, that is, except pitch.

Blach, a leading candidate to occupy one of the two vacancies at the back end of the Giants' starting rotation, fits the profile of many southpaws. He doesn't throw particularly hard, but he doesn't have to. Deception, novelty and ample movement on his pitches help sustain him.

Blach, 27, owes it all to a family friend, Mike O'Day, who didn't fully realize what he was doing when he exercised his influence on Blach.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Residents of suburban Denver, O'Day often played catch with Ty the toddler at cookouts and on camping trips. The well-meaning friend didn't convert Blach immediately.

"There's pictures of me throwing right-handed when I was 3 or 4, but I don't really remember that. I always remember being a lefty," Blach said on Thursday.

Then came the afternoon when O'Day introduced Blach to the society of southpaws.

"He had his ball and I was tossing it to him," O'Day recalled. "Every time he'd pick it up with his right hand, I'd put it back on the ground and tell him to pick it up with his left hand and throw it to me.

"Everyone asked, 'Why are you doing that?' I said, 'Because left-handers are a better commodity in baseball. So I'm going to make him left-handed.' Everyone thought I was absolutely crazy. But it actually turned out to be OK, I think."

Video: SF@SD: Blach clubs a double to left-center field

O'Day was not pushing Blach to be a big leaguer.

"At the time, it was a funny thing," O'Day said. "Friends said, 'Oh, really, like that's going to make a difference.'"

It ultimately did. Blach excelled at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., and at Creighton University en route to being selected by the Giants in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft.

Being a lefty, Blach said, "creates so much value, especially when you get to this stage in your career. Whether it's starting or relieving, you seem to get more opportunities being left-handed. There's not quite as many of us around. ... It creates different movement and it creates spin that guys aren't used to seeing all the time."

Video: CHC@SF: Blach goes seven strong innings, notches RBI

Blach seized his advantages last year as a rookie to post an 8-12 record -- respectable, given the Giants' overall performance -- with a 4.78 ERA.

"There were a lot of really good things to build on [from] last year," Blach said. "Yeah, I had some bumps here and there, but it was really great to be able to be up here, get that experience and understand what it takes to have success at this level. It was great for me to take that to the offseason and know what I needed to work on."

All it took for Blach to embark upon this path was one little game of catch that turned a righty into a lefty.

"It became a natural thing to him," O'Day said.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Ty Blach

Bochy: 'We're looking for these guys to step up'

Manager delivers message to next wave of pitchers
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy delivered a message on Thursday to the organization's next wave of pitchers: If you want a big league job, start performing like a big league pitcher.

"We're looking for these guys to step up. They're men now," Bochy said. "They're approaching pitching in the Major Leagues. We're looking for them to get better, improving and doing all they can to win a job here."

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy delivered a message on Thursday to the organization's next wave of pitchers: If you want a big league job, start performing like a big league pitcher.

"We're looking for these guys to step up. They're men now," Bochy said. "They're approaching pitching in the Major Leagues. We're looking for them to get better, improving and doing all they can to win a job here."

Bochy's comments were directed at aspiring starters like Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez -- prospects who have yet to prove themselves definitively. The remarks also were meant for the likes of Derek Law, Steven Okert and Josh Osich -- relievers with big league experience who haven't yet established consistency.

Bochy indicated that the Giants will consider thinking outside the box to derive as much talent as they can from their younger pitchers.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Beede, for example, has been envisioned as a starter since the Giants selected him in the first round of the 2014 Draft. If necessary, however, the Giants will ponder alternative job descriptions.

"Roles can change," Bochy said. "I hope you're not reading into something here, but you never know with a young kid who has a big arm like this. All of a sudden, you look at him in the bullpen, for example. Right now, he's a starter, trust me. There's no plans to [convert him]. That's yet to be determined. I think overall if you look at him, you're looking at a 3-4-5 type of starter in the Major Leagues."

Sanchez happy to return 
Though Hector Sanchez wears a catcher's headgear as part of his job, he could not mask his joy upon returning to the Giants.

Sanchez said on Thursday that two other teams expressed interest in him as a Minor League free-agent acquisition. Once the Giants contacted him, however, any discussion ended regarding which club he might select.

"It was an easy decision to make. I didn't think about it," said Sanchez, whose first tour of duty with the Giants spanned 2011-15. "I love this team. They gave me the opportunity to come to the big leagues."

Obviously, San Francisco's roster has changed since then. But the Giants' significance has stuck with Sanchez.

"All the guys," Sanchez said. "You never forget them. They may not be here, but you keep the relationships."

Video: SD@COL: Sanchez plates two to tie the game in 8th

Sanchez's career has been rigorous. The 28-year-old has sustained seven concussions, but he believes that he is no longer as susceptible to them as he once was.

Giants management may have signed Sanchez as a preventative measure. Playing for the Padres last year, he amassed four home runs and 11 RBIs in 15 games against the Giants. Sanchez dismissed his success against San Francisco as "coincidence."

Sanchez will need more than luck to make the Giants' Opening Day roster. Buster Posey and Nick Hundley are entrenched as the top two catchers. Former Giant Trevor Brown and Aramis Garcia, rated by MLB Pipeline as the organization's sixth-best prospect, also are in camp.

Sanchez trusts the members of San Francisco's braintrust.

"The decision they make will be the best one for the ballclub," Sanchez said.

Powell recovering
Despite undergoing prostate cancer surgery on Jan. 30, Alonzo Powell, the Giants' new hitting coach, perched himself behind the batting cage to watch the catchers take their swings. Powell has been assured that he can rest as much as necessary in the coming weeks. Assistant hitting coach Rick Schu is on duty, and former hitting instructor Hensley Meulens is still on hand as bench coach.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Hector Sanchez

Bench role doesn't disturb cheery Sandoval

Veteran could see time at first base, serve as pinch-hitter
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval is a cornered cornerman, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Sandoval, the hugely popular Giants third baseman, knows that Evan Longoria, the three-time All-Star, will occupy the hot corner for a large percentage of the season.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval is a cornered cornerman, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Sandoval, the hugely popular Giants third baseman, knows that Evan Longoria, the three-time All-Star, will occupy the hot corner for a large percentage of the season.

Playing first base would be a potential alternative for Sandoval, who has appeared in 72 Major League games there. But Brandon Belt will receive most of the playing time at that spot.

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So, coming soon to a ballpark near you will be the sight of Sandoval in the dugout, whether he's sitting on the bench or leaning against the railing and spitting sunflower seeds.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Sandoval insisted that he's not upset with the developments that have dented his status.

"This is such a great, great group," Sandoval said Wednesday. "Bringing on Longo and [Andrew] McCutchen [will] help us get better."

Sandoval could help the Giants improve, too. The .283 lifetime hitter could be a formidable presence off the bench, either as a pinch-hitter or a late-inning substitute. His ability to switch-hit makes him even more useful.

Sandoval slashed .225/.263/.375 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 47 games for the Giants last year after the Red Sox released him in July. Modest as those numbers are, Sandoval should be more of an offensive threat if his oft-injured left shoulder has healed, as he claimed. That would enable him to bat right-handed without encumbrance.

Maybe Sandoval is no longer the sensation who recorded a .333 batting average and a .924 OPS in his first season-and-a-half with the Giants (2008-'09). Perhaps he'll never again enjoy a night approaching Oct. 24, 2012, when he tied a World Series record by lining three homers in Game 1 against the Detroit Tigers.

Video: WS2012 Gm1: Sandoval swats three homers vs. Tigers

Nevertheless, if Sandoval is the Giants' 24th or 25th player, it probably means that the ballclub has indeed upgraded its personnel overall.

"I talked about how important depth is at FanFest," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Here's a proven veteran who can hit and play first or third. He gives you depth there."

Sandoval also gives the Giants life. Arriving in the clubhouse to work out informally with other position players, Sandoval bounded around the room, bellowing happily and feinting punches at teammates.

All but forgotten is the memory of Sandoval dismissing the Giants by saying -- after bolting for Boston as a free agent in 2015 -- that he will only miss Bochy and Hunter Pence.

"His enthusiasm is always there, and that's what you love about him," Bochy said. "We haven't had that. [Other players] are locked into what they're doing. They're quiet guys. But Pablo is the guy who's making some noise."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Pablo Sandoval

Lincecum back? Righty hits 93 mph for scouts

Source expects two-time Cy Young Award winner to be signed
MLB.com @feinsand

Tim Lincecum's attempt at a Major League comeback took a huge step forward Thursday when the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner held a showcase outside of Seattle.

According to a source who watched Lincecum throw, the 33-year-old right-hander should find himself in a big league camp in the near future.

Tim Lincecum's attempt at a Major League comeback took a huge step forward Thursday when the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner held a showcase outside of Seattle.

According to a source who watched Lincecum throw, the 33-year-old right-hander should find himself in a big league camp in the near future.

"I think he'll definitely get a job, there's no doubt about that," the source said. "At this time of the year, it's probably a Minor League contract with an invitation [to Spring Training], but he'll get signed."

timmy

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Lincecum hasn't pitched in the Majors since August 2016, when he made the last of his nine starts with the Angels. Lincecum spent the first nine years of his career with the Giants, winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008 and '09 and helping San Francisco to World Series titles in 2010, '12 and '14.

The source said there was no sign of the hip injury that had hampered Lincecum over the past few years, noting that Lincecum looked "ripped" as he threw in a tank top that showed off his physique.

"He doesn't have an ounce of fat on him," the source said.

Looking back at MLB's best, worst comebacks

According to the source, about 20 scouts were on hand, representing approximately 15 teams.

Lincecum threw about 25 pitches -- all out of the windup -- in the 10-minute session, which took place at the Driveline Baseball facility in Kent, Wash. Lincecum has been working out there as he works toward a comeback.

Video: MLB Now: Lincecum preps for potential return

The source said Lincecum's fastball clocked in between 90-92 mph, though others at the showcase had him as high as 93. His fastball averaged 88.4 mph in 2016, a far cry from the mid-90s heater he featured when he was among the best pitchers in the game.

"He was probably a little better than I expected him to be," the source said. "The first ball he threw, he threw it as hard as he could. Every single pitch was at max effort. You could imagine with the adrenaline of a real game, his velocity might be even higher."

Unlike many showcases of this manner, Lincecum didn't work at all out of the stretch, throw a simulated inning or face any hitters. He got warmed up -- an elaborate process that included a lot of stretching and throwing weighted balls -- before stepping on the mound and throwing to a catcher.

Lincecum didn't meet with any scouts or team representatives before or after the session, the source said.

It's unclear whether interested teams are viewing Lincecum as a starter or reliever, though the source noted that he "took quite a while" to get warmed up.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Tim Lincecum

Ailing Cueto to take it easy for a few days

Righty's illness keeps him from initial pitchers and catchers' workout
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Feeling ill, right-hander Johnny Cueto began a five-day stretch of diminished activity Wednesday, which prevented him from participating in the Giants' initial workout for pitchers and catchers.

"He's pretty washed out from having this bug. I don't know if it was the flu or what," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He just has to get some strength back. We have time. We don't look at it as a setback, so to speak."

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Feeling ill, right-hander Johnny Cueto began a five-day stretch of diminished activity Wednesday, which prevented him from participating in the Giants' initial workout for pitchers and catchers.

"He's pretty washed out from having this bug. I don't know if it was the flu or what," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He just has to get some strength back. We have time. We don't look at it as a setback, so to speak."

Cueto tried throwing about 15 pitches on flat ground on Tuesday, but felt unable to do much more.

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"He was pretty cooked, so we decided to push him back a little bit," Bochy said. "The last thing we want to do is put anybody in a rush mode."

Bochy observed that if the Giants somehow experience a pitching shortage, they can draw reinforcements from the mini-camp that's being conducted at the Minor League facility. Right-hander Chris Heston, who finished 12-11 and threw a no-hitter against the New York Mets in 2015, is among the pitchers attending that camp.

This marks the second spring in a row during which Cueto, who turns 32 on Thursday, has been interrupted in preparing for the regular season.

Last year, San Francisco's No. 2 starter received permission to skip workouts to help his ailing father leave the Dominican Republic to receive decent health care. Cueto then developed blisters on his throwing hand shortly after he resumed pitching.

Tyler Beede, Ty Blach, Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija were among the pitchers who threw off bullpen mounds during the first workout. Among those scheduled to throw their first bullpen sessions Thursday include Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto

'Same butterflies' as Blanco eyes SF roster spot

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Being relegated to a substitute role would be fine with Gregor Blanco. From his perspective, there's no substitute for being a Giant.

Blanco, who spent 2012-16 with San Francisco before defecting to the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, is thrilled to have rejoined the Giants, though he faces considerable competition for a reserve outfielder's spot.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Being relegated to a substitute role would be fine with Gregor Blanco. From his perspective, there's no substitute for being a Giant.

Blanco, who spent 2012-16 with San Francisco before defecting to the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, is thrilled to have rejoined the Giants, though he faces considerable competition for a reserve outfielder's spot.

"I worked really hard in the winter to show that I can do it again," said the 34-year-old Blanco, who signed with the Giants after Arizona cut him loose into free agency. "I feel 100 percent. I feel like a kid again. It's kind of like 2012 again."

That's when Blanco delivered an electrifying Spring Training performance to overcome his non-roster invitee status and win a job with the Giants. He recorded a .333/.395/.423 slash line in 27 games while stealing 13 bases in 14 tries and scoring 14 runs.

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Again a non-roster invitee, Blanco might have to generate similar production to separate himself from a glut of candidates for a backup outfielder's spot, including Steven Duggar, Gorkys Hernandez, Jarrett Parker, Austin Slater and Mac Williamson.

Blanco, who won World Series rings with the Giants in 2012 and '14, is ready for the challenge.

"I feel the same enthusiasm," Blanco said Monday, when he worked out informally with other position players. "I feel the same butterflies in my stomach. Excited, anxious."

May 1 looms as big day for upbeat Smith

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that May 1 is the target date for left-hander Will Smith to return to the big leagues following Tommy John elbow surgery.

Video: Smith on returning after missing the 2017 season

Smith, who missed all of last season while recovering from the extensive procedure, sounded upbeat as he described the recent stages of his recovery. He has thrown off a mound seven times with 75 percent effort. Smith likely will begin throwing to hitters after a few more bullpen sessions.

"Everything feels good," said Smith, who was expected to occupy a crucial bullpen role when the Giants acquired him from Milwaukee in August 2016. "Elbow feels good. Body's bouncing back fine. Everybody's happy in the training room with how it's going."

Bochy wants to check in with Sandoval

Bochy expects to have a man-to-man chat with Pablo Sandoval shortly after the switch-hitter arrives in camp. With Evan Longoria likely to start every day at third base, Sandoval won't receive much playing time unless he can establish himself as a reserve first baseman.

Video: Must C Clutch: Sandoval caps season with walk-off HR

Sandoval has appeared in 72 big league games at first base, starting 61. He started six games at first for the Giants last year.

"Pablo is aware of where we are," Bochy said. "I have to see where his head's at ... [and be] honest with him about what we're thinking."

• Bochy said that non-roster right-hander Jose Flores is expected to be the lone absentee due to travel complications when pitchers and catchers conduct their first workout Wednesday. Flores hails from Venezuela.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Gregor Blanco

Cueto has the most intense Jacuzzi workout

Competition to begin for back end of rotation

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat