Results tagged ‘ Bill Neukom ’

First-day Winter Meetings leftovers

INDIANAPOLIS — To nobody’s great surprise, Giants general manager Brian Sabean said Monday in his daily Winter Meetings briefing that Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres will enter Spring Training as the leading candidates to bat leadoff.

As was the case with most spots in the batting order, leadoff presented problems for the Giants last season. Their No. 1 hitters scored 94 runs, 14th in the National League and eight fewer than the league average. They hit .258, 12th in the NL and 14 points below the league average. Their .312 on-base percentage, good for 14th, fell .028 short of the league average.

Many readers have pointed out that Velez, despite his brief second-half surge, would be a poor choice to hit leadoff, given his .308 on-base percentage last season. Torres accumulated only 152 at-bats in 75 games, but .343 his on-base percentage outshone Velez’s. Torres also struggled to stay healthy, going on the disabled list twice with left hamstring strains.

Sabean mentioned that none of this takes into account what position Velez or Torres would play. Bruce Bochy will have a chance to discuss this issue further when he holds a question-and-answer session (as all Major League managers do at the Winter Meetings) on Tuesday.

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As managing general partner Bill Neukom concentrated on another activity but sat within earshot in the Giants’ suite, Sabean reiterated that the club’s payroll would remain “in the realm of last year,” probably in the low $90 million range. Due partly to the settlement the Giants will have to reach with Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who’s eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, they’ll need every penny (except Brad).

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As the Giants continued searching for a catcher to play regularly while top prospect Buster Posey continues his apprenticeship, Sabean ruled out two possible fill-ins already on the roster: Pablo Sandoval and Ryan Garko.

The Giants have no desire to expose Sandoval to catching’s physical rigors, which could hamper their best offensive performer at the plate. “It’s too high a risk,” Sabean said. Sandoval started three games behind the plate last year, when he led San Francisco with a .330 average, 25 home runs and 90 RBIs. He caught 11 times in 41 games as a rookie in 2008.

Garko won the 2003 Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s top collegiate catcher while attending Stanford University. He has never caught an inning in his four-year Major League career, though he caught 141 games in the Minors.

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Speculation that the Los Angeles Angels might be pursuing outfielder Jason Bay, regarded as one of the market’s few premier free agents, sparked spinoff gossip: Were the Angels to sign Bay, they could be compelled to trade outfielder Juan Rivera.

Rivera would nicely fit the Giants’ needs for a proven hitter. The 31-year-old hit .287 with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs in 138 games last season. Moreover, he’ll earn only $4.25 million next year and $5.25 million in 2011. But the combination of Rivera’s skill and relatively modest salary might prompt the Angels to demand a package of players beyond the Giants’ capabilities.

– Chris Haft

Sandoval’s elbow causes concern; more from Sabean

SEATTLE — Pablo Sandoval has a tender right elbow which he injured in Friday night’s seventh inning as he dove to stop a Kenji Johjima grounder. This limited Sandoval to designated-hitter duties Saturday, a role he’ll probably occupy again Sunday.

But Sandoval’s diminished ability to throw affects more than just whether he can play third base.

Manager Bruce Bochy will be forced to keep catcher Bengie Molina in the lineup until Sandoval can throw again. Molina already has started eight games in a row and might not rest again until Thursday’s scheduled off-day. Meanwhile, his batting average has taken a beating, dropping from .304 to .276 during a 1-for-17 skid entering Saturday. Bochy said he wanted Sandoval to catch Sunday, but Molina likely will have to keep toiling.

Bochy said that emergency No. 3 catcher Kevin Frandsen is not ready to start a game behind the plate.

Summoning a catcher from Triple-A Fresno is an option — it’d probably be Eli Whiteside, since Steve Holm was demoted last week and has to stay put for at least 10 days — yet neither Bochy nor general manager Brian Sabean indicated that this would happen soon.

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More stuff from general manager Brian Sabean, who spoke Saturday with reporters covering the Giants (a main story is on the website):

On closer Brian Wilson, who has lost three of his last five outings while compiling a 12.28 ERA: “[He has] had some trials and tribulations, but that’s going to be natural; He’s still cutting his teeth doing that job.”

On the team in general, other than its lousy hitting: “I like the effort and I like the fact that we’re doing two things you have to do to compete, and that’s pitch and play defense.”

When asked if he has seen enough of first baseman Travis Ishikawa to evaluate him fully: “I don’t think so. … With him it’s consistency. We’ve seen him have some really good at-bats against some really good pitching and then just the opposite. In his case, while we really love the defense. … The strikeouts (29 in 93 at-bats entering Saturday) don’t help and the low on-base percentage (.298) doesn’t help.”

On Pablo Sandoval’s progress at third base: “At least in this snapshot, he’s shown that he can play that position and it’s more than making routine plays. He’s much more accomplished than I think we all thought, at least up to this point.”

Finally, Sabean squashed any speculation that he came here to get fired or discuss his job security with managing general partner Bill Neukom, who’s also in town. They did not discuss his job status, said Sabean, whose contract expires after this season. Sabean planned to spend the weekend scouting amateur players for next month’s draft, but decided to see the big club after the excruciating three-game sweep in San Diego.”I don’t want the reputation of not being around when things are a little upside down,” Sabean said. 

– Chris Haft

Patience will be necessary

SAN FRANCISCO — An update: Unfortunately, more showers were expected to hit between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m., endangering Tuesday’s 1:25 p.m. scheduled starting time. Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom urged fans to be patient, indicating that the teams will try to wait out the weather for at least another hour or so.

Meanwhile, most hitters didn’t even bother taking batting practice. Why expend energy prematurely or even unnecessarily? One exception was Aaron Rowand, who strode into the clubhouse with a bat in his hand at around 11:30, having apparently spent some time in the batting cage.

Barry Zito played long toss, but this was part of his usual between-starts routine, not just a way to kill time. Pitchers Brian Wilson, Alex Hinshaw, Joe Martinez and Brandon Medders played bridge, and Rich Aurilia sorted out wristbands, batting gloves and other equipment at his dressing stall. Not too many players watched the Royals-White Sox telecast. Fascinating stuff.

– Chris Haft

 

Neukom puts his stamp on Giants

 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The business of baseball no longer belongs mainly to businessmen, but also to traditional baseball men. At least that’s what Bill Neukom believes.

Neukom, the Giants’ managing general partner, revealed Friday that key figures from baseball operations, including general manager Brian Sabean, vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans and scouting director John Barr, have been attending meetings of the Giants’ investors — not just to hear more than they ordinarily might about ledgers and balance sheets, but also to impart some of their horsehide-oriented wisdom upon the millionaires. “Part of the Giants Way,” said Neukom, citing his now-familiar program for revitalizing the franchise, “is integrating the business side and the baseball side of our enterprise.”  

Neukom also pointedly mentioned the contributions of Jeremy Shelley, senior director of baseball operations/pro scouting, and baseball operations coordinator Yeshayah Goldfarb — reflecting the Giants’ increased emphasis on statistical analysis. This, too, reflects Neukom’s influence since he took over the club last Oct. 1.

“These are not just crunchers who give you some funny numbers,” Neukom said. “They know the game, love the game and have an opinion, and they stand up to Brian and the scouts and [vice president of player personnel Dick] Tidrow and say, ‘This is not the guy you want for these reasons’ or ‘this is what you might not have caught on this guy.’ “

Sabean, to his credit, has mentioned statistical analysis more than once during recent months to explain certain moves — or non-moves.

Given the state of the economy, it’s wise for anybody involved in baseball to understand more about the game’s monetary aspects. The recession, said Neukom, “is a serious matter and it’s changing the complexion of the finances of the game. We want to try to stay in front of that if we can. Be prudent.”

– Chris Haft

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