Five things we learned at the Giants’ workout: Belt dealing with heel injury, Posey misses workout and more

Five things we learned at the Giants’ workout: Belt dealing with heel injury, Posey misses workout and more

SAN FRANCISCO — After canceling Tuesday’s workout at Oracle Park due to a delay in coronavirus test results conducted on July 4, the Giants finally received word that all tests were negative and held modified live batting practices on Wednesday.

The club returned to the field in two different waves with one group participating in a morning workout and another in the afternoon. A pair of the team’s veteran infielders, shortstop Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria, had impressive plate appearances in Wednesday’s late session, but neither first baseman Brandon Belt nor catcher Buster Posey were able to join them.

Posey is dealing with the same “personal matter” that kept him out of Friday’s workout and manager Gabe Kapler said out of respect for the catcher, he wants to ensure Posey is able to address the matter at his own pace.

Belt was spotted with a walking boot on his right foot and Kapler said Belt is dealing with right heel soreness and will be reevaluated in five-to-seven days. Kapler said Belt’s heel has bothered him in the past, but added it’s too early to rule him out fo the start of the season.

“I think making an assessment for the Opening series against the Dodgers is probably a little bit premature as it relates to Brandon’s heel,” Kapler said.

Outside of the absences, here’s what else we learned during the afternoon practice that was open to reporters.

Giants, A’s schedule exhibitions

Kapler said the Giants will hold at least a pair of exhibition games prior against the Oakland A’s prior to his team’s four-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers to open the season.

With Opening Day scheduled for July 23 at Dodger Stadium, the Giants and A’s will face each other on July 20 and July 21 and play one game on each side of the bay, although Kapler said it’s possible the clubs will add a third exhibition to the schedule.

With 15 days remaining until a 60-game season opens, the Giants have been optimistic they’ll have enough time to prepare for a year unlike any in Major League Baseball history. Kapler has expressed confidence in his team’s readiness, but matchups with a tough A’s squad should help the Giants alleviate any major concerns heading into a tough series against the National League West favorites.

Starting pitchers pick up where they left off

There’s no telling how a three-plus month layoff will affect each player, but if Wednesday’s outings were any sign of what’s to come, both Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly should have plenty of confidence heading into the regular season.

Gausman and Smyly were two of the Giants’ spring training standouts before the coronavirus pandemic brought workouts to a halt and both pitchers appeared to pick up where they left off in live batting practice.

Gausman retired all seven hitters he faced in a two-inning simulation and racked up four strikeouts, including a pair with a sharp slider he was working on refining during Cactus League play. The right-hander emphasized throwing his fastball up in the strike zone and also induced a few swings and misses with his splitter.

Smyly spotted his fastball low in the strike zone Wednesday as the left-hander looked particularly strong targeting the inside corner against right-handed batters. Smyly allowed a single to Donovan Solano –who had three hits in four at-bats– but struck out three batters including a pair of left-handed hitters, Steven Duggar and Joe McCarthy.

“Drew Smyly was awesome today. His cutter is really getting a lot of horizontal movement, he’s dropping his curveball in for strikes and his velocity is right where it needs to be,” Kapler said.

Bet on Donovan Solano

Solano had been out of major league baseball for two full seasons and hadn’t played in more than 60 games since 2014 before emerging as one of the Giants’ most consistent hitters during the 2019 season.

During spring training in Scottsdale and again on Wednesday, Solano showed his numbers from last season were hardly a fluke. It’s unrealistic to expect the Colombia native to hit .409 on balls in play again (that’s a video game number), but all Solano does is hit line drives.

He reached on a pair of singles and a double during live batting practice Wednesday and also took first base on a ball that would have been ruled a fielding error had an official scorer been present. Solano has a smooth swing path, a knack for making solid contact and a really focused eye at the plate, giving him tools that make him an appealing option for Kapler as a starter or bench player.

With the positional versatility to play all around the infield and a willingness to come off the bench as needed, it seems Solano should be in line to make a meaningful impact again this season.

How about the kids?

The Giants announced three additions to their player pool Wednesday as highly touted outfield prospect Alexander Canario, left-handed starting pitcher Caleb Baragar and right-handed reliever Sam Wolff are all expected to join the team in San Francisco.

Canario, a power-hitting outfield prospect, is the highest-rated prospect of the trio and likely a few years away from his major league debut, but his addition delighted Giants fans who follow the farm system on a day when other top young talents shined.

In Wednesday morning’s workout, 18-year-old shortstop Marco Luciano turned on a pitch and crushed a home run out to left field. Kapler has already praised Luciano for his power during the first week of camp, but hitting a ball out during live batting practice is a much more significant achievement than peppering the outfield bleachers when a coach is throwing pitches.

Outfielder Heliot Ramos and catching prospects Joey Bart and Patrick Bailey participated in the afternoon session and while none recorded base hits, Bailey appeared to be a smooth defender behind the plate and a natural at blocking pitches.

“Patrick had a lot of energy in his body, really like his set-up, flexibility in his ankles and hips, really nice exchange,” Kapler said. “But I think what was most impressive was his body language and his poise.”

Bailey, who became the Giants’ first round pick less than a month ago, struck out swinging from the left side of the plate against reliever Trevor Gott in his only at-bat.

Other notes

  • Neither Billy Hamilton nor Jarlín García have been spotted at Giants workouts in recent days and when asked about their whereabouts, Kapler declined to comment. In recent days, managers have often opted not to comment on the specifics of players absences when they are dealing with issues related to the coronavirus.
  • Outfielder Hunter Pence did not run the bases on Wednesday as a “precautionary measure” as he’s dealing with minor foot pain. Kapler said neither Pence nor the Giants’ medical staff believes the issue is serious.
  • Rotation candidate Logan Webb appears to have made a slight tweak to speed up his delivery and it looks like he’s generating more velocity with his fastball. The Giants didn’t have the radar gun up and running Wednesday but Webb had no problem blowing his fastball by hitters up in the zone. He also showcased an ability to throw his sweeping slider for strikes, which was a point of emphasis for him during spring training.
  • “Logan Webb continues to impress with the shape of his breaking ball and the fastball,” Kapler said.
  • Closer candidate Tyler Rogers gave up hits to Solano and Austin Slater, but picked up a pair of strike outs to strand Solano on third during the final inning of Wednesday’s live batting practice.
  • Joe McCarthy, who drew praise from Kapler earlier in the week for his patience at the plate, appeared at first base for portions of Wednesday’s live batting practice. McCarthy only played in the outfield during Cactus League play this spring.
  • Reliever Sam Coonrod is clearly trying to establish his slider early in counts against hitters as he threw the pitch far more often than his fastball during a one-inning stint on Wednesday.
  • Left-hander Tyler Anderson took the mound after missing all of spring training while recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him for much of the 2019 season. The waiver wire acquisition was picked up after being cut by the Rockies and could emerge as a candidate for a “bulk innings” role behind a starting pitcher early in the season. Anderson did not record an out on Wednesday, but has the type of deceptive delivery that would seem to make him an appealing option for a job on the major league staff.

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Author: Kerry Crowley