AT&T PARK — Through spring training Chris Marrero appeared to be everything the San Francisco Giants hoped Michael Morse would be this season: A reliable right-handed bat that can hit for bat and be considered for innings in left field.
He did nothing to change manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Bobby Evans’ mind on Thursday during the first game of the team’s three-game exhibition series against the Oakland Athletics.
In the bottom of the fifth, Marrero stung a double to left field. It was the Giants’ first hit of the day after A’s starter Sean Manaea threw four perfect innings with two strikeouts.
“I don’t know. It’s a secret. Fastball?” said Giants starter Johnny Cueto, laughing, through a translator. “I can’t even think about that, because we’re brothers. We’re on the same team.”
Whether Marrero actually makes the big-league team remains a mystery, but he’s sure done a lot to help his case. In Cactus League play, he hit .276 with seven home runs.
“We want Marrero to play left field and see his at bats. See him here in this ballpark at this stage, all these things,” Bochy explained as to why Marrero drew the start.
He seemingly passed the test with that double, but keeping him on the team won’t be simple.
As a non-roster invitee, Marrero making the big-league squad means someone has to give up their spot. Aaron Hill is another player who will make the opening-day roster, so that means two players on the 40-man roster will be designated for assignment, assuming the decision to keep Marrero on board is made.
And now that it’s all but assured he’ll make the team, Bochy hinted that he’ll use Marrero in a platoon with Jarrett Parker, who struggles against lefties.
“[Marrero] made all the plays, a couple good at-bats,” Bochy said after the game. “It was a good game for him here in this ballpark, first time in left field. It’s not an easy left field to play and he just looks comfortable, relaxed, determined — all those things.”
Smith has surgery
Lefty Will Smith underwent Tommy John surgery on Tuesday at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. The procedure was successful, according to the Giants.
Dr. Neal ElAttraache performed the surgery, which he’ll be recovering from for at least a year. Bochy said the team hopes he’ll be ready to continue a throwing program in May of 2018.
Smith going down for the long term has thrown the fifth-starter spot into flux as the Giants will have to decide whether to keep Ty Blach in the bullpen in the role as the top southpaw, or have him supplant veteran starter Matt Cain, whose struggles over the last few years are well chronicled.
Perhaps foreshadowing his regular-season role, Blach came out of the pen on Thursday against the A’s and threw a clean seventh inning with a strikeout.
Bochy, refusing to tip his hand, said before the game he knows Blach can be serviceable in any role for the Giants. The longtime skipper said he’d make an announcement on the team’s fifth starter today after speaking to Evans and the players involved.
“[Blach] allows you the flexibility you like for a club,” Bochy said. “Start, pitch long relief or an inning like that. That brings a lot of value to the club.
“A lot of questions will be answered tomorrow.”
Span ready for new season
Expectations for Denard Span were high when he started his first season as a Giant last year, shortly after signing a 3-year, $31 million deal.
He would’ve gotten more in the open market, but was recovering from hip surgery. The recovery from that lingered for him a little longer than he would’ve preferred and he wasn’t as explosive last season, when he carried a 91 OPS+, his worst since 2011.
This year, Span has looked sharper in camp and he says he feels much better than he did at this point last year.
“I just have a better mindset coming in this year, more refreshed,” he said. “More optimistic outlook coming into the season.”
Span said last year was tough for him, because of how the season ended.
“It’s hard for me to look back on last year, I put that in my rearview,” he said.
An unimportant outcome
In actual game action, San Francisco beat Oakland, 3-0.
The Giants did all of their damage in the bottom of the seventh, when A’s pitcher Liam Hendriks made a relief appearance and allowed consecutive hits to Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Conor Gillaspie and Eduardo Nunez before being pulled. A Joe Panik sacrifice fly gave SF another run.
A couple frames later, Mark Melancon did what he was brought in to do in the ninth and closed the game with a 1-2-3 frame.
Johnny Cueto on if he was responsible for the radar gun not being displayed in AT&T Park:
“No, not really, why would I ask for that? I don’t even pay attention to the speed gun. If I want to throw really fast, I throw fast. If not, I just don’t do it.
On the status of his father, who had some health issues, leading to a delayed arrival to spring training:
“My dad is fine, I give thanks to the team that was supporting me through this. He’s upstairs watching the game and I’m sure that’s he’s freezing cold right now.”