Notes: Smyly sharp; Pence debut; Yaz in CF

March 1st, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants left-hander had his work cut out for him against the Angels on Saturday afternoon.

In only his second start of the spring, Smyly found himself facing a deep lineup anchored by reigning American League Most Valuable Player Mike Trout, World Series champion Anthony Rendon and four-time All-Star Justin Upton. But Smyly welcomed the challenge, showing an eagerness to test himself against some of the most talented hitters in the game.

“I was excited to see them over here,” Smyly said. “You want to face those guys. It’s only going to make me better, regardless of the outcome.”

Smyly certainly proved up to the task, limiting the Angels to only an infield single over two scoreless innings in the Giants’ 10-3 loss at Scottsdale Stadium. The 30-year-old veteran topped out around 93 mph and used his breaking ball to strike out two, including Trout, who has gone 5-for-18 (.278) with two home runs in 20 career plate appearances against Smyly during the regular season.

“There’s no doubt he’s the best hitter in the game, so I love facing him,” Smyly said. “It feels like I’ve faced him a lot. It seems like every year I’m getting to face him and like I said, you just look forward to those battles. He’s gotten me quite a few times, but it’s good when I get him every now and then.”

Smyly, who signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Giants over the offseason, is expected to pitch out of the rotation and could be an intriguing bounce-back candidate now that he’s further removed from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the entire 2017 and ‘18 seasons.

Smyly’s outing extended an impressive run of pitching for the Giants’ starters, who have not allowed an earned run over a combined 16 1/3 innings in their first nine Cactus League games.

“That’s pretty cool,” Smyly said. “We’re all just showing up every day, trying to work and get better. There’s some good competition. There’s a lot of good, quality starters on this team. We just feed off each other and try to pick each other’s brains. Everyone is really committed to trying to learn from each other. It’s fun. It’s a good camp to be in.”

Giants relievers had trouble following Smyly’s lead, though, as left-hander Conner Menez and right-hander Olbis Parra gave up four runs apiece in the third inning.

Pence set for Cactus League debut

Giants manager Gabe Kapler said veteran is scheduled to appear in his first Cactus League game on Monday, when he will start in right field against the D-backs at Salt River Fields. The Giants have been gradually ramping up the 36-year-old Pence, who reunited with the club on a one-year, $3 million deal earlier this month.

“Hunter is extremely ambitious and even a little bit persuasive,” Kapler said. “One of the things that I personally want to establish with Hunter is openness and honesty. He assured me that he's ready to play, that his body is feeling prepped.”

Watson update

Veteran reliever has been held out of the first week of Cactus League games after experiencing left shoulder tightness earlier in camp, but he threw a 20-pitch bullpen session on Friday and is feeling strong, according to Kapler.

Yaz in center

appeared in only seven games in center field for the Giants last season, but he’s getting a fair number of looks there early in camp. The 29-year-old slugger started in center field again on Saturday and logged five innings there, bringing his Cactus League total to 13 innings. Only Billy Hamilton (19) has logged more time in center for the Giants thus far.

“Yaz is doing a really good job in center field with his breaks, his reads and his jumps,” Kapler said. “Just as importantly, Yaz is doing a really good job in his pregame routine to get ready for that. One of the things that we talked about with him and his player plan meeting is we're not sure if he's going to play center. We're not sure if he's going to play right. Left is probably the third option, but we need him to be prepared to play both center field and right field. He's up for those challenges.”

The Giants are auditioning several players in center in order to fill the void left by Kevin Pillar, who was non-tendered in December. , and are also expected to be in the center-field mix this spring.

Up next

Right-hander Kevin Gausman will make his second Cactus League start when the Giants head to Peoria to face the Padres at 12:10 p.m. PT on Sunday. He will be opposed by San Diego left-hander Joey Lucchesi. Rico Garcia, Sam Coonrod, Dany Jimenez, Sam Selman, Jerry Blevins and Trevor Cahill are also scheduled to pitch for the Giants.