Manaea shows off velocity increase in Giants spring debut

February 27th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After an uneven 2022 campaign, left-hander went into the offseason determined to do some things differently. He began training at Driveline, the data-driven player development facility that has become known for helping Major League pitchers improve.

By sticking to Driveline’s programming, Manaea learned to become more efficient with his body movement, resulting in a noticeable uptick in velocity during his Giants debut on Sunday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium.

Manaea, who joined San Francisco’s rotation on a two-year, $25 million deal, said he sat between 93-96 mph while striking out two over two innings in a 7-6 walk-off win over the Reds. The 31-year-old veteran averaged 91.2 mph on his sinker last year and said he was clocked at 88-90 mph at this time last spring.

“Velocity was awesome today,” Manaea said. “Overall, the location of things and secondary pitches weren’t the best, but for the first time, I’ll definitely take it. … That extra velo is always nice. Everything plays better.”

Manaea was charged with one run on three hits, though he was hurt by his defense, as left fielder misplayed TJ Friedl’s pop fly in the first inning, allowing the ball to drop for a two-out RBI triple.   

“I’ve faced him a lot, so I know exactly what he features,” Haniger said. “Really good pitcher. He’s a bulldog and goes right at guys. He threw the ball really well. He shouldn’t have given up a run if I make that play.”  

Manaea logged a career-high 4.96 ERA across 30 appearances for the Padres last season, but he has a long track record as an effective Major League starter and said he’s open to making some tweaks to his pitch mix now that he’s working with Giants pitching coaches Andrew Bailey, Brian Bannister and J.P. Martinez.  

“The information they’ve given me and what they see on the analytical side, it’s kind of opened my eyes and made me realize some things,” Manaea said. “They know stuff’s in there. I believe in that, too. It’s nice to have those guys.”

On the clock

Closer was among the Giants’ slowest workers in 2022, but he had no issue with the pitch timer while striking out the side in a scoreless third. The rule change even worked in Doval’s favor, as he was credited with his first strikeout after Reds first baseman Alex McGarry drew an automatic strike for being too slow to get into the box in an 0-2 count in the third.

While he’ll have less time to reset between pitches, Doval said he doesn’t think the timer will affect his velocity much. If anything, he believes working faster could help him throw harder -- quite the pronouncement considering he topped out at 104 mph last year.

“We’re only going up,” Doval said in Spanish. “Not down.”

Conforto, Haniger debut

The Giants also got their first look at their two newest outfielders on Sunday, as and Haniger batted first and second, respectively, in their debuts with San Francisco. Conforto, who is working his way back from right shoulder surgery, started at designated hitter and went 1-for-3 with a single in his first game action since Oct. 3, 2021.

“I definitely had some nerves, had some butterflies,” Conforto said. “After the first at-bat, it mostly went away, but it felt like a micro debut again. I’m sure I’ll get those feelings again Opening Day. But it was good to be back.”

It was also a special day for Haniger, an Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, Calif.) product who appreciated the chance to suit up for his hometown team for the first time.

“I’m just trying to focus on baseball, but it’s definitely cool to put on the black and orange and run out there with this team,” said Haniger, who went hitless in two at-bats. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

Welcome Wilmer

reported to Giants camp on Sunday following the birth of his first son, Wilmer José, on Thursday in Miami. The baby is the fifth Wilmer in the Flores family -- the Giants infielder’s father and two brothers also share the name.

What nickname might they use to distinguish the newest one?

“Little Wilmer?” Flores suggested.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Flores will likely be built up over the next few days before potentially making his Cactus League debut at designated hitter on Thursday.

Walton update

Infielder had been listed among the Giants’ non-roster invitees, but he is expected to spend the spring rehabbing at the Player Development Center at Papago Park after undergoing right shoulder surgery in September. Walton, who was outrighted off the 40-man roster over the offseason, isn’t expected to return to game action until early May.