Notes: Gausman wows; Longo ready for fans

February 24th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On Day 1 of live batting practice at Scottsdale Stadium on Tuesday, much of the buzz centered around right-hander , who hit 97 mph during his eye-popping outing.

Pitchers are typically ahead of hitters early in camp, leaving Mike Yastrzemski, Evan Longoria and Alex Dickerson without much of a chance of generating hard contact against Gausman.

“If he was even like half of Kevin Gausman, he would have been tough today,” Dickerson said. “He looked unbelievable. If he has any more in the tank than that, that's crazy. He was locating. He was throwing hard. It wasn't ideal.”

Remarkably, Gausman didn’t even throw his splitter, his best pitch, during the live BP session. Manager Gabe Kapler said the 30-year-old right-hander instead relied on his fastball, his changeup and his slider to baffle hitters.

“Certainly, people are talking about Gausman’s outing, and for good reason,” Kapler said. “It's not often we see a guy executing his pitches on Day 1 like Kevin did today.”

After accepting a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to return to San Francisco, Gausman is expected to anchor the front of the Giants’ rotation and he's viewed as the front-runner to start on Opening Day. He was the club’s most dominant starter in 2020, when he recorded a 3.62 ERA with 79 strikeouts over 59 2/3 innings.

Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Anthony Banda, Caleb Baragar, Dedniel Núñez, Wandy Peralta and Logan Webb also threw live BP at Scottsdale Stadium on Tuesday. The Giants held a separate round of sessions at their Indian School Minor League complex, where Tyler Rogers, Matt Wisler, Kervin Castro and Silvino Bracho faced hitters for the first time.

Aside from Gausman, Kapler highlighted the work of Núñez, a Rule 5 Draft pick who is competing for a spot in the bullpen.

“Núñez was also impressive,” Kapler said. “We challenged him to be in the zone as much as possible, particularly with his breaking ball. Early on in the outing, he wasn't throwing as many strikes, but once he got into that middle portion of the outing, pretty much everything I saw there was strike after strike. Really good zip on his fastball. Another guy that has good carry through the zone ... I thought it was an excellent outing for Núñez. He's walking around with quite a bit of confidence.”

Dickerson, Longoria excited to play in front of fans
When the Giants host the Angels in their Cactus League opener on Sunday, players will get to enjoy one of the biggest parts of the gameday experience that was missing last year: fans in the stands.

The Giants are planning to allow 750-1,000 fans to attend their games at Scottsdale Stadium this spring, and players are looking forward to receiving that support after competing in empty stadiums during last year’s pandemic-shortened, 60-game regular season.

"I missed that," Longoria said. "I was actually thinking about it when I was coming out of the batting cage, coming onto the field today. You kind of take it for granted, those little bursts of adrenaline that you get when you come back onto the field or you were going from the back field to the locker room or whatever it was. ... You realize how much they kind of boost you through your day."

The Giants tried to simulate a typical gameday environment for players by playing artificial crowd noise and placing cardboard cutouts in the stands at Oracle Park last year. Dickerson occasionally amused himself by firing foul balls at the cutouts in the left-field stands during games, though he’ll have to break that habit now that things have begun to normalize in 2021.

“Hopefully I don't instinctually just throw it in there and there's people there,” Dickerson joked. “I might have to work that out of my system.”

Worth noting
• Kapler said he expects LaMonte Wade Jr. to start in center field in one of the Giants’ first two exhibition games of the spring. Wade is expected to compete for the fifth outfield spot and could have a path to the Opening Day roster if he shows that he’s capable of handling center field, where the Giants would like to have another left-handed hitter to pair with Mauricio Dubón.

• Catcher Curt Casali, who was limited early in camp as he recovered from hamate surgery on his left hand, has begun catching bullpen sessions and remains on track to be ready for Opening Day.