In my opinion, the most important question to be answered during Spring Training is how well Matt Cain would be able to pitch after his surgery last season. There was promise in his last performance of the season, and I’m hoping he can come back and help the team out with some wins. Unfortunately after his first week in Arizona, this question will remain unanswered at least for a while longer. Cain is having a cyst in his pitching arm surgically removed, and the Giants estimate he will be out for at least 10 days. Not only does this mean he will lose out on those 10 days of practice, but he’ll have to ramp up after that and who knows how this additional surgery will affect him. At least this type of surgery isn’t major. Still surgery to his pitching arm, though. Hoping that he’ll really come back that quickly and that he can still get the practice in he needs to start the season.
The Cain issue made me immediately think about another pitcher who’s hoping to make a comeback – Tim Lincecum. Will this setback for Cain affect whether the Giants look more seriously at getting him back? He’s still in limbo right now. I was listening to an interview with Andrew Baggarly where this question was posed, and he seems to think this will not be the case. He feels if the Giants do actually bring him back, it would be in a relief role only. So sorry, Timmy fans. Baggs feels that if Cain can’t start the season, the Giants would probably put Chris Heston (who’s proven he can do this before) into his spot in the rotation, with their other backups being two kids who they already have in their farm system, namely Ty Blach and Clayton Blackburn. So at least there is some depth with starting pitchers, and Cain was slotted to be either the 4th or 5th starter, so the loss of his arm isn’t as devastating as it could be.
Then today I was on Facebook and someone on one of my favorite Giants pages posted that Hunter Pence has been sidelined with an Achilles injury. WHAT? Not again! Last season he was sidelined with a broken arm during Spring Training. According to Andrew Baggarly, Pence was experiencing soreness in his right Achilles tendon during his workout on Saturday, and it’s been diagnosed as tendonitis. He’ll take two to three days off as a precaution. Not anywhere near as bad as a broken arm, but still scary. Too much injury drama already for me!
Another interesting Spring Training situation is that of Angel Pagan. Over the offseason, I’m sure he assumed he had the centerfielder position tied up, then the Giants acquired Denard Span who is much better defensively at that position. So Angel will end up starting in left field. From what I know of Angel, this was surely a huge blow to his ego. But it’s a contract year for him, so he’s got to deal with it and do his best out there. Then after listening to that Andrew Baggarly interview, I realized something else. Baggs mentioned that even left field isn’t guaranteed for Angel should he succumb to an injury or if his hitting should slump. He’s got two guys waiting in the wings hoping to take over that spot in Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson, not to mention the fact that Gregor Blanco could easily step into that role. Angel sure is under a lot of pressure this season. Thank goodness we’ve got some much needed depth in the outfield.
Another guy hoping to earn a spot on the team is Conor Gillaspie. I was excited to hear about this. You may recall him filling in for Pablo at third base several times a few years back. He’s great both offensively and defensively. I kept tabs on him after he was traded to the White Sox due to Beat the Streak as I chose him several times and he came through for me (in 2014 he hit .282). From what I’ve heard he rubbed some of the veterans the wrong way while he was here and that may have contributed to his departure. But in an interview with KNBR he mentioned that part of it was due to the fact that he’s not really outgoing and he’s been working on it and hopes to get closer to the players this go around. Have to give the guy credit for trying to change for the better. We’ll see if this and his play this Spring can bring him back to San Francisco. Good luck, Conor!
Learned of two new rules that will be put in place this season. And one of them has to do with a rule that I hate, the Neighborhood Play. Basically the Neighborhood Play is going away. YAY! The reason for this: they changed the rule for sliding into second base, making it not as dangerous for the second baseman to try to tag the bag during a double play. The runner can still make contact with the second baseman, but only if he adheres to these four conditions:
- He begins to slide before reaching the base (how many times have we seen guys start their slide after the base – NO MORE!!).
- He is able and attempts to reach the bag with his hand or foot
- He is able and attempts to remain on the bag after the slide (no more ending up 10 feet past the bag!).
- He slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
Also the runner cannot engage “in a ‘roll block,’ or intentionally initiate (or attempt to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder’s knee or throwing his arm or his upper body.” If the runner violates any of these conditions, both he and the batter will be called out for interference. I love this for two reasons. The Neighborhood Play was silly to start with – a guy should only be out when the fielder actually tags the base, not if the umpire thinks he was close enough to the bag. Also there should be a lot less serious injuries at second base now like the one that took out Ruben Tejada in the playoffs last season. Good job, powers that be in baseball, on finally righting this wrong! The second new rule attempts to reduce game times. Managers and pitching coaches will only be allowed 30 seconds for mound visits, plus breaks between innings will be reduced by 20 seconds. Sounds fair to me, but I’m not sure how much this will really reduce game times. Guess we’ll see. Boch is going to have to speed it up– no more hobbling out there! Might even have to jog!
I’ll end with a couple of fun team gossip items. Hunter Pence will make a guest appearance on Fuller House, the sequel to Full House. He plays Stephanie Tanner’s boyfriend. I remember hearing about them filming one of the sequences during a Dodgers game last season. How fun! Also heard that Buster and family are looking to settle in the Bay Area (my friend Angel is excited about this news!). Wonder where he’ll end up. I heard he might be looking in San Carlos. Hey Buster, my brother says the house next door to him is for sale!! Could you imagine??
I’ll keep an ear open for news from Spring Training for you. Hopefully I won’t have to share any more injury stories! The first Spring Training game is this Wednesday and it will be broadcast on KNBR. Hope I can catch the end of it between jobs. Ah, baseball on the radio again! Until next time, GO GIANTS!!! STAY HEALTHY!