AT&T PARK— San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has not lost his fire. Just ask him. Or, better yet, he said Tuesday, “Ask a couple of guys last night in the dugout. If I did that, I would not be here.”
With one year remaining on his contract, Bochy, 63, said he hasn’t even had any discussions with Giants brass about whether or not he’ll be back next season. They also haven’t had any talks about an extension.
“Until you’re told otherwise, you expect to be back,” he said. “Larry and Brian and I have talked. They want me back next year.”
During a conference call to discuss the dismissal of general manager Bobby Evans on Monday, San Francisco president and CEO Larry Baer said in no uncertain terms that Bochy would be back in 2019. Who he’ll be managing under — and how much involvement that new general manager/head of baseball operations gets involved in Bochy’s day-to-day — has yet to be determined.
“I love what I’m doing, I want to be back and I’d love to have another shot at the postseason,” Bochy said.
Baer said that the club wants a “next-gen” type of figure (or figures) for the new head of baseball operations gig. That next generation can take multiple forms — male and female, single or plural — but whoever it is, Bochy plans on sticking around.
“We don’t know who that person is now, but he’s going to be the guy that will be making the decisions, we understand that,” Bochy said. “Whatever he wants to do on the field, my job is to make it work, and so I think it’s wait-and-see.”
Bochy is also unconcerned with being a lame-duck manager in 2019.
“I don’t want them to have that on their plate, either,” Bochy said, referring to the front office. “I’ve told them that. I’m signed, and I’m good right now. Let’s just concentrate on what we need to do, and that’s make this team better. I have zero concern about it.”
Given the fact that the Giants are second-to-last in scoring in the major leagues this year, it’s not inconceivable that there are coaching changes made to Bochy’s staff, as there were after the 2017 season, which saw San Francisco lose 98 games — the second-worst in franchise history. After that campaign, the Giants cut ties with longtime pitching coach Dave Righetti, bullpen coach Mark Gardner, assistant hitting coach Steve Decker and third base coach Phil Nevin. They re-assigned hitting coach Hensley Meulens, hired Alonzo Powell as hitting coach, hired pitching coach Curt Young and hired former Dodgers and Giants reliever Matt Herges as the bullpen coach.
Bochy was not sure exactly how much input he would have in any new staff hires, which could be driven by a new, analytics-minded baseball operations staff
“I don’t know, I don’t think about it,” Bochy said. “Again, some of the decisions that are made are not up to me, obviously. The season’s not over yet, but those questions will be answered soon … I mean, sure, I have input, but still, some decisions are not mine. I can give them all the input I want, but if they feel a change is needed, whether coaches, myself, anywhere in the clubhouse, that’s their right.”
Bochy has said for the last week that this season is far better than the 98-loss season a year ago, for a variety of reasons, and that what derailed the Giants — who were at .500 as late as Aug. 28 — were a raft of injuries. They’re well-chronicled by now, but the litany of high-end contributors who went down is impressive, after a fashion.
“I thought the plan was pretty good this year,” Bochy said. “Unfortunately, we had to deal with a lot. You look at the players that we acquired, we thought we’d have more offense, but we just couldn’t keep some guys on the field. Every year’s different, how it goes, as far as health or whatever. We just had our issues there, and it caught up with us.”
Madison Bumgarner (broken finger in the final spring training game) missed more than a month; Johnny Cueto had a stellar April, but barely pitched after that, and had to get Tommy John; $90-million man Jeff Samardzija started just 10 games; Joe Panik was out for more than a month due to a thumb injury; Brandon Belt went down with appendicitis and had his season ended by a knee surgery; third baseman Evan Longoria’s broken hand, courtesy of an inside fastball from Dan Staily, cost him what likely would have been San Francisco’s first 20-home hitter since 2015.
“Attitude, the talent, everything in that clubhouse I thought was better [than 2017],” Bochy said. “Guys, the confidence, the camaraderie, the culture were back to where it used to be. Guys came out here every day and I think had the right attitude. We had a hard time keeping everybody out there, but that’s a big reason why we hung in there fairly well, up until August.”
Derek Holland will be available to come out of the bullpen in the final series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lead the NL West by just 1 1/2 games. The Giants could play spoiler, and Holland — who came out of the bullpen four times this season — could help throw a wrench in their rival’s playoff plans.
“He’ll take these two days off, and hey, if we need help starting that last game, he could do that, too,” Bochy said.
Right now, the series pitching match-ups shape up thusly: Madison Bumgarner vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dereck Rodriguez vs. Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Suarez vs. Walker Buehler for the season finale. If the final game means anything to the Dodgers, it would make sense to start Holland, the club leader in innings pitched (168 2/3), strikeouts (167) and starts (30), who since June 20 has a 2.99 ERA and 103 strikeouts to just 36 walks.
“It could play a part, sure with what we do,” Bochy said, when asked how the meaning of those games could impact pitching. “It makes sense. We have a job to do, and it’s to put our best team forward if you’re playing teams [who are] in it. We’ll do that, but if something’s been determined, obviously if we could save some innings on a pitcher or a reliever or a starter, or a position player.”
Abiatal Avelino will start his first game in San Francisco since being acquired from the New York Yankees in the Andrew McCutchen trade. He’ll make the start at second base.
“Just watching his preagame work, his ground ball work, he’s got a nice awareness of what he’s doing,” Bochy said.
Before his ouster, Evans said that Abelino has a chance to play multiple positions, but profiles as a shortstop.
“He’s athletic, and you’ll see that,” Bochy said. “He may play short [Wednesday]. That’s the way I’m leaning to get Craw (Brandon Crawford) a day. He’s got some pop in the bat. He hasn’t played in a while, so he’ll have a little rust there at the plate, probably.”
He hit .337 with 10 home runs in Double-A Trenton for the Yankees this summer in 49 games, but struggled upon his move up to Triple-A. In 74 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he hit .252, with five homers. One thing that didn’t slump was his speed: He stole 15 bases in Double-A, and 12 in Triple-A.
“I think just from career-wise, he’s been more of a defensive player, with plus speed and arm strength, and the ability to play in the middle of the field,” Evans said in August. “Offensively, really what he did at Double-A, in 50 games or so, was really the best he’s done … His game is really the ability to play all over, and the fact that he is athletic and the fact that he’s had a good year offensively is a good sign for us, but that’s not necessarily the core part of his game.”