Wood sharp in spring debut; Conforto homers

March 5th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With his 5-month-old son, Asa, in the stands for the first time, left-hander had extra incentive to perform well in his 2023 spring debut on Saturday afternoon. He didn’t disappoint, striking out five over two scoreless innings in the Giants’ 9-5 split-squad loss to the D-backs at Scottsdale Stadium.

“I needed to do good because it’s my son’s first game today,” Wood said. “He wasn’t going to be allowed back if I did bad. I’m glad I threw well today.”

Wood, the final Giants starting pitcher to make his debut this spring, struck out the side in the first inning and then punched out two more batters in the second to complete his crisp outing. The 32-year-old veteran sat from 92-93 mph with his sinker and had no issues with the pitch timer.

Even before the new rule, Wood was known for his quick tempo, though he said he thought he might have rushed things a bit in the first.

“I feel like I was working too fast in the first inning,” Wood said. “If you go too quick, it can probably wear on you throughout the game. So I thought I started getting a better feel for it the second inning. But the stuff was good. I thought all three [pitches] were pretty good. I didn’t command my heater as well as I wanted to, but it had life. And I thought the profile was good. Really good for the first one.”

Wood recorded a 5.10 ERA over 26 starts for the Giants in 2022 and missed the final month of the season with a left shoulder impingement. He’s healthy now and penciled in to be a key piece of the rotation. 

“I’ll always think of Alex as a starter,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He’s a veteran pitcher who is always, in my opinion, underrated. He’s almost better than his numbers.

“A lot of that has to do with how he attacks the strike zone. I think he’s dependent on the quality of his fastball and his slider. I think the changeup is a really consistent pitch. Actually, to be honest, I think all three of those pitches are very consistent. Mostly with Alex it’s just, ‘Be yourself,’ because he’s a good Major League pitcher.”

Conforto, Haniger produce 
The Giants got some early production from their two new outfielders, with (a designated hitter on Saturday) launching a leadoff home run -- his first of the spring -- to left-center field off Arizona right-hander Slade Cecconi in the bottom of the first. Right fielder  followed with a double into the right-center-field gap, showing the dynamic 1-2 punch the Giants could have in their lineup during the regular season. 

“The ball that [Conforto] hit to left-center field -- we don’t see many lefties hit the ball out of the ballpark there, let alone no-doubters that carry like that,” Kapler said. “You see that off a right-hander’s bat once in a while, but in this ballpark, to do that as a lefty is pretty impressive. He has great opposite-field power. Both of those guys had good days.”

First things first
’s six-week trial at first base with the Dodgers in 2019 didn’t end well, but he said he’s feeling more comfortable at the position after working with infield coach Kai Correa this spring. Pederson logged six innings at first on Friday and could see one or two more appearances there before he heads to Miami to play for Team Israel at the World Baseball Classic. 

“I had some bad experiences over there, so I was nervous,” Pederson said. “But I put in a lot of work. I got a couple situations and scenarios we’ve been through, and it helped slow things down. By the third or fourth inning, I definitely started to feel a lot better.”

Worth noting 
•  started the Giants’ 14-2 split-squad loss against the Brewers at American Family Fields in Phoenix, working three scoreless innings in his second Cactus League outing of 2023. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed no hits, walked two and struck out two.

• Given the multitude of split-squad games on the schedule, Kapler said he’s planning to rotate coaching assignments to give his staff more opportunities for personal development this spring. With Correa over in Phoenix, Alyssa Nakken -- the first full-time female coach in Major League history -- debuted as Kapler’s acting bench coach against the D-backs on Saturday. Nick Ortiz also filled in as the acting third-base coach in place of Mark Hallberg, who managed against Milwaukee.