Sabean’s surprise picks, bye to Brown, Shelley’s promotion

Friday, April 3

SAN FRANCISCO — Not surprisingly, Brian Sabean said Friday that two of his proudest seasons during his 18-year tenure as the Giants’ general manager occurred during the past five years, when the team won three World Series in that span.

Here’s the catch: The two years when San Francisco didn’t even reach the postseason, 2011 and 2013, were the ones Sabean singled out, primarily because of the club’s diligence.

“Against all odds in ’11, we almost made it in,” Sabean said. In fact, remarkably little went right for the Giants that year. Cody Ross and Brian Wilson began the season on the disabled list. Injuries also hounded Pat Burrell, Santiago Casilla and Barry Zito. Jonathan Sanchez failed to fulfill his promise. Aubrey Huff’s performance plunged precipitously. Free-agent shortstop Miguel Tejada was a bust. Pablo Sandoval broke his right hamate bone at the end of April, when the offense was slumping and he owned a gaudy slash line of .313/.374/.530. Freddy Sanchez sustained a career-ending shoulder injury. Acquired at the Trade Deadline to bolster the sagging offense, Carlos Beltran injured his right hand, robbing him of his power.

And, of course, Buster Posey experienced his unfortunate home-plate collision with Scott Cousins on May 25.

But the pitching was superb — Wilson, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and the previously unheralded Ryan Vogelsong made the All-Star team — which helped keep the Giants atop the National League West standings through Aug. 9. Arizona inevitably surpassed them.

“While that was frustrating,” Sabean said during Friday’s news conference at AT&T Park to announce contract extensions for him and manager Bruce Bochy, “I appreciated the effort.”

Sabean related that he felt much the same after 2013, which began with several Giants injured or on the disabled list. Most of them participated in the World Baseball Classic, which the Giants came to regard as a cursed event, albeit a well-intentioned one.

The offense went soft. Posey hit .294 but totaled only 15 homers. Marco Scutaro posted one of the quietest .297 batting averages in Major League history. Injuries limited Angel Pagan to 71 games. Lincecum (4.37 ERA) and Cain (4.00) weren’t the same, and Vogelsong (4-6, 5.73) was almost unrecognizable.

“That season could have, should have been a disaster,” Sabean said. “And Boch will tell you, our guys, to a man, didn’t give up. They stayed professional, they knew what it meant to the fan base to finish on a high note.” Mustering a 76-86 record, Sabean concluded, “catapulted us into ’14.”

*****

After five seasons, with this year’s Spring Training tacked on, the Giants basically ran out of patience with Gary Brown.

The organization’s No. 1 selection (24th overall) in the 2010 amateur draft, Brown was designated for assignment Tuesday and claimed on waivers Friday by St. Louis. The Cardinals have room for a center fielder at Triple-A.

“Sorry to see him go,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said, “but as I told him, ‘It’s an opportunity. Take advantage of it.’ ”

Brown simply didn’t hit enough to suit the Giants. He batted a rousing .336 at Class A Advanced San Jose in 2011. But he struck out 254 times at Triple-A in 2013-14 as he hit a combined .250.

“He has extremely strong defensive tools and still has the speed tools. It’s just that the bat has taken a little longer to get into a consistent rhythm after that first year in San Jose,” Evans said. “It’s in there. I hope it comes out in some fashion sooner rather than later.”

Moreover, the presence of outfielders Juan Perez and Mac Williamson and the emergence of Daniel Carbonell obscured Brown, 26. Evans said that Brown sank to the “bottom” of the 40-man roster, having been rendered expendable by the aforementioned trio. So when the Giants added Justin Maxwell to the 40-man roster, they subtracted Brown.

“We knew he had value,” Evans said. “We’re not surprised that he got claimed.”

*****

Not to be overlooked in Friday’s cluster of promotions and contract extensions was Jeremy Shelley’s elevation to vice president and assistant general manager of professional scouting and player evaluation.

Shelley, entering his 22nd season with the Giants, has proven valuable behind the scenes regarding international operations, amateur scouting and the statistical analysis that critics believe the Giants ignore.

— Chris Haft

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