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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.

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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