Joc's loyal bro can finally root for right team

March 21st, 2022

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It wasn’t easy for Champ Pederson to start donning Dodgers gear when his younger brother, Joc, was drafted by Los Angeles in 2010. Champ grew up watching the Giants, after all, with Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Brandon Crawford among his favorite players. 

Now that Joc is officially a Giant, Champ will no longer have to choose between brotherly loyalty and rooting for his favorite team. Champ, sporting a personalized Giants jersey, was in the stands as Joc officially suited up for his hometown team for the first time in a 9-4 loss to the Reds on Sunday afternoon at Goodyear Ballpark.   

“It was exciting to see my family in the stands,” said Joc, who started in right field and batted third. “They always like to make the first game with a new team. I’m sure there will be a lot more emotions on Opening Day in San Francisco and whatnot, but this is a good start.”

Joc, who hails from Palo Alto, Calif., finished 0-for-2 in his first two at-bats of the spring, flying out to center field in the first inning and grounding out in the third. He was replaced in right field by outfield prospect Hunter Bishop, a fellow Bay Area native.

The Giants surprised Joc by setting up an adjoining locker for Champ, who was born with Down syndrome, in the Scottsdale Stadium clubhouse this spring. When Joc reported to camp after finalizing his one-year, $6 million deal last week, he immediately texted a photo to his brother.

“He’s supported me all the time,” Joc said. “To be able to come home to his favorite team that he grew up watching -- I know it was hard for him to transition to a Dodgers fan, but he did it anyway. He always loved Buster Posey, Bumgarner, Crawford, all those guys. I know he’s super excited.”

Manager Gabe Kapler said he’s happy to see Joc in a Giants uniform, as well.

“He’s always an exciting at-bat,” Kapler said. “Sometimes he feels pretty dangerous when he’s on the other side. I obviously remember facing him in several different uniforms. It’s nice that he’s going to be in orange and black and we’re going to be rooting for him instead of trying to get him out, because he’s a real challenge. He’s a very patient hitter, but he’s very aggressive in the zone, and we’ve seen the power production over the years.”

Sam, I am

Left-hander Sam Long ditched more than just his slider this offseason. Long, who was known as Sammy during his rookie season with the Giants last year, clarified that he prefers to be called Sam after making his Cactus League debut on Sunday afternoon.

“I’m all grown up now,” Long said, smiling.

Long, 26, gave up five runs over 1 2/3 innings in his first start of the spring, though he was hurt by some sloppy defense in the outfield. He allowed five hits, including home runs to Jonathan India and Aristides Aquino, while walking one and striking out three.

With his slider shelved, Long said he’s decided to focus on his three best offerings: fastball, curveball and changeup, with which he was particularly pleased on Sunday.

“Myself and the pitching coaches believe those are my three best pitches, and to focus on those three will be more effective than having that fourth pitch that isn’t quite as effective as the other three at the moment,” Long said. “Down the road, once I feel comfortable with all three and completely master those, I think I’ll eventually add that slider.”

Long said he’s also made some lower-half adjustments that he hopes will make him more efficient with his delivery and reduce some of the stress on his back. Long will likely open the season in the Triple-A Sacramento rotation, but he should be available to make a spot start or provide length out of the bullpen for the Giants if needed this year.

Quick hits

  • Wilmer Flores started at third base and crushed his first home run of the spring, a solo shot off right-hander Connor Overton in the third.
  • Shortstop prospect Marco Luciano was charged with an error in the bottom of the sixth, when he airmailed a throw to first while attempting to complete a double play.
  • Pitching prospect Sean Hjelle struck out two over a scoreless eighth in his Cactus League debut.