Bruce Bochy isn’t sweating the prolonged absence of Johnny Cueto, as the San Francisco Giants’ No. 2 starter tends to his sick father in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s so early in camp. I’m really not concerned,” Bochy said on KNBR 680. “I’ve seen video of Johnny throwing. He looks good. We do have him on a program [at our Dominican academy]. He threw over 40 pitches on Monday or Tuesday. So, he’s on the same program that he would be here.”
Even though the club expects Cueto in camp this weekend with his dad, Bochy said that the right-hander will have to decide “soon” as to whether he’ll pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, which begins March 9.
The Giants open up the regular season on April 2 against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Cueto is the no-brainer choice to take the mound a couple days later in the second game of the season.
When asked about Cueto’s availability for the start of the start of the season, Bochy recalled his time with the Houston Astros, the team he debuted with in 1978.
“I know when I was young and I was playing with Houston, Nolan Ryan he wouldn’t report until March 1,” Bochy said. “When he reported, it’s not like he threw all winter either. He used that month to get in shape. So, it goes to show you that there’s plenty of time. Guys come in now in better shape than they ever have. I’m not concerned.”
Bochy thrilled to have Rollins, Morse in camp but knows ‘hard calls’ loom
Between now and Opening Day, Bochy will have plenty of thinking to do as he determines how to construct his bench.
“It’s going to be competitive and [there’s going to be] some really hard calls there at the end,” Bochy told KNBR of the battle for the final roster spots.
The Giants’ list of non-roster invitees is loaded with veterans. Jimmy Rollins and 2014 National League Championship Series hero Michael Morse headline the crowd, while Justin Ruggiano, Gordon Beckham, Aaron Hill, Tim Federowicz and Jae-gyun Hwang are also in the mix.
Hwang is the only member of that bunch who has never played in the bigs, but the right-handed hitter connected on 53 homers over his final two seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization.
Asked about Rollins and Morse in particular, Bochy offered up high praise.
“It’s always good to have not just experienced guys but great guys. Jimmy’s a pro. [He’s] a very smart player too and he’s learning a different role,” Bochy said of Rollins, who’s been taking grounders at second and third. “I mean, this guy’s had a tremendous career.”
While Rollins’ defense is what could potentially land him a bench gig, Morse has already impressed with his swing.
“Morse [is] the same way,” Bochy said. “He took some time off and realized how much he missed the game. And by the way, he’s swinging the bat very well.”
Along with the crush on veteran invites, roster players like Trevor Brown, Orlando Calixte, Kelby Tomlinson and Gorkys Hernandez are also angling for jobs.
“It’s great to have these options,” Bochy said. “Where it’s not great is the manager has to sit down at the end of the spring training and tell some of these guys we don’t have a spot for you.”
A’s to slow-play arrival of Chapman
Before the Oakland Athletics’ Cactus League campaign has even begun, general manager David Forst has already made it clear that Matt Chapman won’t be headed north with the big club come the end of the spring.
“We’re making sure guys are ready when they get here,” David Forst told CSN Bay Area. “Matt has fewer than 100 at-bats at Triple-A. I don’t know what his timeframe is as far as getting to the big leagues, but it’s clear from a development standpoint he still needs some time at Triple-A.”
The 23-year-old Chapman has 76 Triple-A at-bats to his name — all of which came during an 18-game cameo with the Nashville Sounds that capped off his 2016. Chapman hammered 7 of his 36 home runs during that stretch but also piled up 26 of his 173 strikeouts.
While Chapman needs to cut down on the swings-and-misses, the third baseman’s glove is already ready for Oakland.
“[He’s] one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Ryan Christenson, who managed Chapman last year in Double-A and who will be his skipper this year in Nashville. “He’s lateral, he can go back on a pop-up and make a play. He’s very adept at coming in to barehand the slow roller. You put him over at shortstop in the shift and he can make the play, and the arm is about as good as you’re ever gonna see at third base.”