SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In a couple senses of the word, the Giants began their exhibition schedule Saturday with splashes.
There was the literal, a downpour pushing the start time from 12:05 Pacific Standard Time to 2:30. There was the unfortunate, three misplays in the very first inning setting an ominous tone. And there was the most promising, a Joey Bart bomb announcing the star prospect with a splash of his own.
On Feb. 22, when everything’s simulated and the points don’t matter, the Giants fell in the first live action of the season to the Dodgers, 10-4, in front of 8,045 at a rainy Scottsdale Stadium that turned into a nice, if chilly, day at the park for Gabe Kapler’s debut.
Throughout camp, the Giants have unrolled defensive drills, relying on teaching skills and advanced analytics to try to squeeze out every out possible from this group.
The first look at the defense was an eyesore.
With the understanding that this is the first game of spring, the players are still competing for spots. And the top of the first inning played out as if each fielder were trying to one-up the last’s mistake.
First came a Max Muncy liner to right that got through Jaylin Davis’ legs, Davis winding up throwing from the warning track, Muncy winding up on third and Chris Taylor, who had walked, winding up scoring. After strikeouts of Cody Bellinger and A.J. Pollock, Kike Hernandez slapped a line drive up the middle that Donovan Solano got to — and dropped. It was hard-hit, but it was just a matter of catching the ball.
The next batter, Matt Beaty, chopped one to Mauricio Dubon, who was the lone defender on the left side, and Dubon booted it.
“First inning in six months. It’s a good thing we can get that out of the way,” said Dubon, who did not use any slick-grass excuse. “I just didn’t catch it.”
Two innings into the spring slate, the Giants had made three errors and surrendered two unearned runs.
The radar gun was kinder to Dereck Rodriguez than the defense behind him.
Rodriguez, who said he “went back to basics” with his mechanics this offseason, when he pitched in the Puerto Rico Winter League, hummed at 93 mph, an encouraging first reading of the season. Rodriguez’s average fastball was nearly a full mile per hour slower last year (90.6) than his breakout 2018 season (91.4).
Informed about his pair of pitches at 93, Rodriguez said: “First day of spring? I’m happy about that.”
The Dodgers got some good swings off him, though he made Cody Bellinger in particular look pretty overmatched with a strikeout.
“It’s the first game for them, too,” Rodriguez said after recording two outs and allowing two unearned runs in 28 pitches. “If I’m getting swings like that in a month and a half I’ll be happy.”
The mechanical adjustments, Rodriguez said, involve “just staying back, loading a little bit more.”
That’s how you Du’ it
The first run of the Giants’ spring rocketed off Dubon’s bat.
Righty Josh Sborz’s 1-1 offering in the bottom of the third was hammered to deep left, Dubon’s first swing of the spring season turning into his first slow jog of the spring. Two innings later, Dubon added a slapped single to center.
Dubon, starting at shortstop while Solano got the first look at second, will be in a battle with Yolmer Sanchez for a starting job, and there’s a good chance he begins the year in Sacramento as the Giants continue to give him looks in center, too. But in his first crack at winning the job, Dubon’s crack was quite loud — ironically so.
Dubon is among the millions on the team tweaking his swing, trying “to stay more quiet with the leg kick.”
Bart train takes off
It took Joey Bart one at-bat to get fans salivating over his first major league at-bat.
Joey Bart homerun in his first at bat of the spring. Please put him on the opening day roster! pic.twitter.com/6aVZhtd7Kr
— RickyRo&AdamKo (@RickyRoAdamKo) February 23, 2020
Stepping up to the plate in the seventh inning, the star prospect got a 2-1 pitch on the outside part of the plate and went with it, golfing it over the right-field wall for an opposite-field homer.
The Giants have said they would like the 23-year-old, who missed significant time last season with hand injuries, to get more minor league reps before he joins the big-league team. Though if neither Tyler Heineman nor Rob Brantly is impressive — and San Francisco doesn’t pick up a veteran catcher cast off by another team — Bart is beginning to make his argument.