Posey to catch Samardzija in spring opener

No surprises in Pence's MRI; pitchers strong in intrasquad game

March 1st, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Torn between pacing his players and pleasing the fans, Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided on using first baseman Brandon Belt, second baseman Joe Panik and catcher Buster Posey as the first group of regulars to participate in an exhibition game when the Giants open the Cactus League season Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.

Teams are encouraged to start at least four starters daily. With so many regulars coming off injury-plagued seasons, Bochy doesn't want to tax them physically for little or no reason. But he distinctly recalled attending exhibition games as a youth and feeling disappointed when one of his favorite stars was out of the lineup. So, each day, Bochy will strive to find a balance.

Posey's presence in the lineup largely stems from his need to work with right-hander Jeff Samardzija, the right-hander the Giants acquired as a free agent during the offseason. Expect Posey also to be paired with right-hander Johnny Cueto, the club's other significant pitching pickup, as often as possible. Right-hander Clayton Blackburn, widely considered this year's version of Chris Heston, will follow Samardzija to the mound.

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Bochy's plan should afford ample playing time to aspiring Giants who might ordinarily be afterthoughts. For example, Bochy said catcher Trevor Brown will get some activity at first base as the Giants seek versatility. Conor Gillaspie, primarily a third baseman, also will spend time at first, which is where he was stationed during Tuesday's intrasquad game.

Pay attention to such unheralded types as outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, who has emerged as a backup candidate.

"He's intriguing," Bochy said. "I'm looking forward to watching him play."

• Bochy said the MRI Hunter Pence underwent Monday afternoon on his right Achilles revealed inflammation, which confirmed the encouraging news the Giants received earlier in the day.

Bochy reiterated that curbing Pence's hyperactive tendencies could be an issue.

"The biggest challenge will be keeping him off the field," Bochy said.

• Pitchers looked sharp as a team managed by Randy Winn topped Shawon Dunston's squad, 2-0, in the annual intrasquad game featuring rookies and non-roster invitees.

Bochy was pleased that the six pitchers who appeared in the game -- Chase Johnson, Tyler Beede, Sam Coonrod, Jake Smith, Ray Black and Ian Gardeck -- combined to issue one walk.

"It's always good to see guys in a game-type situation, to get a look at these kids in a different environment," Bochy said.

It was a good day for the Giants' top selections from the 2013 Draft. No. 1 pick Christian Arroyo, the No. 82 prospect on MLBPipeline.com's annual Top 100 list, singled and doubled. Ryder Jones, the No. 2 choice, lashed an opposite-field double to left off Smith.

"I liked the way he stepped in there and jumped on the first pitch," Bochy said of Jones.

"If I know a guy throws a lot of first-pitch strikes, I might jump on the first pitch," Jones said, describing his approach. "If it's a newer guy or somebody I know who struggles in the zone, I'll maybe take the first pitch. Usually on the first pitch, you're looking for it in a spot. If they don't hit the spot, you take."

Jones doubtlessly spoke for many rookies by saying, "We're all anxious to get out there. Even though it's a three-inning game, I think it's awesome to get out there. Everybody's got those first-game jitters, so it's kind of good to get a game in before the real games start tomorrow."

• Hoping the Giants can amass inflated run totals isn't necessarily hitting coach Hensley Meulens' top priority.

"The main thing right now," Meulens said, "is you want to see guys getting their timing back."

That's a challenge for players who get two at-bats in a game before resting the next day. So Meulens makes plenty of use of pitching machines, sending hitters against them not just in batting cages but also on the alternate diamond adjacent to Scottsdale Stadium.

"My job is to apply more velocity for them," Meulens said.

• Though veterans received Tuesday off, Belt and outfielders Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco showed up at Scottsdale Stadium to do some extra work.