Report from Arizona: SJ Giants Spring Training Update
By Joe Ritzo
Greetings from Arizona!
It’s crunch-time here at minor league camp as today marked the beginning of the final week of spring exhibition games. By the weekend, the San Jose Giants roster should be set before the 2014 club breaks camp on Sunday. Then of course, next Monday, March 31 is your first opportunity to meet the new team with FanFest at Municipal Stadium set to begin at 5:00 PM.
This afternoon, the Giants “High-A” and “Low-A” clubs hosted exhibition games against the Colorado Rockies’ “High-A” and “Low-A” teams at the Giants baseball complex in Scottsdale. I spent the majority of my time watching the “High-A” team as several of the players who suited up today will likely be heading to San Jose at the end of the week.
Some observations from the “High-A” game, which ended in a 1-1 tie (nine innings).
* The Giants starting lineup:
1. Jesus Galindo, CF
2. Shilo McCall, RF
3. Shawn Payne, LF
4. Brian Ragira, 1B
5. Matt Chavez, DH
6. Ben Turner, C
7. Leo Rojas, 3B
8. Alberto Robles, 2B
9. John Polonius, SS
P – Chris Stratton
* If you’ve been reading my position-by-position previews or listening to recent podcast episodes, some of these names should be familiar. After his postseason call-up last September, Galindo is the expected starting center fielder and leadoff man for San Jose this season. Payne spent most of last year with the Giants before a demotion to Augusta in July. He could very well receive another opportunity in the California League, likely again seeing significant action in left field. Ragira has been the projected starting first baseman after his fourth-round selection in last year’s draft out of Stanford and subsequent solid pro debut over the summer with Salem-Keizer. And finally, Turner handled the bulk of the catching duties during the second half of last season in Augusta and is poised to make the jump to San Jose.
* As for the other starters today, it’ll be interesting to see whether any of them can work themselves up to San Jose this season, whether on the opening day roster or later in the year. Polonius, a middle infielder, played 26 games with the Giants during the middle portion of last season (.221 AVG) before seeing regular time in the Salem-Keizer starting lineup. Robles, another middle infielder, hit .304 in 62 games in Augusta last year, mainly as a part-time player. McCall has intriguing potential as an outfielder, but is only 19 years old and hit just .235 in Salem-Keizer last season. A jump all the way to the California League is probably unlikely. Rojas is primarily a catcher, but played the entire game today at third base. He hit .306 in limited action with the Volcanoes last summer. Finally, Chavez, a catcher/first baseman, was signed out of the independent Freedom Professional Baseball League last offseason. Chavez is a Bay Area native who played in college at the University of San Francisco.
* Second baseman/catcher Trevor Brown, outfielder Chuckie Jones and infielder Blake Miller – three potential regulars for San Jose this season – were called up to the big league team for their exhibition game this afternoon and thus didn’t play today. Mitch Delfino, San Jose’s projected starting third baseman, was present, but not in the lineup and also did not play. Bottom line, today’s “High-A” lineup was almost certainly not an accurate representation of what San Jose’s will look like when the season begins next week.
* Offensively, the Giants were shutdown this afternoon managing just two hits (singles from Robles and Eric Sim, who came off the bench) and one run.* On the mound, Stratton was the star of the day. San Francisco’s first round draft pick two years ago, Stratton had a solid 2013 campaign in Augusta (9-3, 3.27 ERA in 22 starts) and is expected to make the jump to San Jose this season. On this afternoon, the right-hander twirled five shutout innings with just two hits allowed, no walks and two strikeouts. Stratton faced only one batter over the minimum and recorded several groundball outs.
* Four relievers saw action out of the Giants bullpen today in right-handers Ian Gardeck, Ray Black, Jorge Bucardo and Tyler Mizenko. The quartet all figure to be candidates to make the San Jose opening day roster. Gardeck, who had a 3.21 ERA in 44 games out of the Augusta ‘pen last year, breezed through a scoreless sixth inning. Black featured an electric fastball, but often struggled with his control today. He yielded one run on two hits with a pair of walks, but registered an impressive swinging strikeout on a 3-2 fastball with the bases loaded to end the inning. Black was a seventh-round draft pick two years ago, but has yet to pitch in a professional game due to injury. Bucardo is a familiar face having began last season in the San Jose bullpen before an arm injury forced him to the DL in mid-April. When he returned, Bucardo was sent to Augusta where he dominated during the second half of the season as a set-up man (1.84 ERA in 27 games). Bucardo worked a scoreless eighth inning this afternoon pitching around a leadoff single. Finally, Mizenko was dominant in a 1-2-3 top of the ninth. Mizenko led the South Atlantic League with 25 saves a season ago (2.75 ERA) and is a candidate for the San Jose closing duties this year.
* It’s important to mention that none of these players are guaranteed to open the season in San Jose. These are merely the players who suited up for the “High-A” club this afternoon. As always, the roster situations in minor league camp are fluid, even during the final week of spring training. Several changes will likely occur between now and when players break camp this weekend as the organization makes a bevy of personnel decisions. I’ll have more from minor league camp tomorrow.