Results tagged ‘ Steve Decker ’

Carpe Vernum

Image

Nick Noonan collected three hits and two RBI in the Giants’ final Spring Training game in Arizona this year, only improving his chances to make San Francisco’s Opening Day roster.

The left-handed hitter got off to a slow start this spring, tallying only one hit in his first 19 at-bats. Since March 9th, however, Noonan has turned it up by hitting .341 (15-for-44) with eight extra-base hits.

With veteran infielder Tony Abreu sidelined with a knee injury for all but one Spring Training game, Noonan has stepped up his candidacy for a backup infielder role with the Giants.

Noonan entered last season with a .259 career average. He played in 13 games for the Grizzlies in 2011, but the 2012 campaign was Noonan’s first full experience at Triple-A. The San Diego native impressed, batting .296 over 129 games for Fresno. He paced the Grizzlies in hits and games played while also placing fourth on the squad with 62 RBI.

As former Grizzlies manager Steve Decker told Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com, Noonan had to go back to what he knew to find success in 2012:

“I’ve known Nick from day one, so I asked him, `When we drafted you and you were considered a top prospect, what were you good at?’” said Decker, now the Giants’ organizational hitting coordinator.

 

Noonan replied that he was a pretty good fastball hitter, especially to his pull side gap. So Decker gave him a challenge: “If you get a fastball middle, be ready to hit it to your pull side gap.”

 

“He has not been late on the fastball since,” Decker said. “He finally figured out … you never come to a fight without your best weapon.”

Noonan and Giants fans alike will find out in the coming days if he cracks his first big league roster.

Run Like You Stole It

By: Ryan Guinan

Base stealing has become quite a habit for the 2011 Fresno Grizzlies.  The team has eclipsed three stolen base records this season and demonstrated they can put the pressure on the base paths.  Led by the PCL’s leading base stealer Tyler Graham, this group of speedsters has not hesitated to gamble an extra 90 feet if it could mean the difference in a game.

Tyler Graham has become known for lightning quick plays on the bases.  This year, he has surpassed the old franchise mark for stolen bags in a season (42) set by Calvin Murray in 1999.  Graham accomplished the feat in a winning effort on July 9th to set up a walk-off hit by Justin Christian.  Graham stole second, third and eventually scored the winning run.  Its plays like this that can change the course of a close game and perhaps a season if the situation presents itself.

Photo Credit: Don Davis

Graham’s aggressive base running has proven successful for him throughout his entire career.  Heading into an eight game road trip against Iowa and Omaha, Graham was successful in 51 of his 61 attempts to swipe an extra bag.  Graham currently leads the PCL in steals and has done so by leaving the rest of the pack in the dust.  He holds a 13 base cushion to Esteban German of the Round Rock Express who ranks second in the league.  He constantly has pushed the limit to get on base and look for an extra 90 feet that could be the difference maker.

Tyler has led this Grizzlies team to a record of their own, the franchise’s single season mark for most stolen bases by a team.  They beat out the 1999 Grizzlies who had 145 thefts that season.  On July 23rd, in a game against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Justin Christian stole second base to make it 146 on the year for the 2011 Grizzlies.  The benchmark seemed destined to be broken after last year’s club totaled 143 stolen bases, just two shy of the old franchise record.  On their way to the record, the team also recorded 10 stolen bags on April 10th against Las Vegas.  This number was good enough for another Grizzlies record, most stolen bases in a game.  The group was filled with the potential to overcome the team record with guys like Graham, Darren Ford, Emmanuel Burriss, and  Christian.  Grizzlies’ fans would expect nothing else while under the management of Steve Decker.  He has been known to harass opposing pitchers with the constant threat of a base stealer.  His ball club in San Jose totaled 205 bags swiped in 2008 and his Grizzlies last year compiled 143.  Stealing bases is no surprise for a Decker team, but much more of an expectation.

This team has made the franchise record more of a spectacle to see as they have run wild on the bases.  With the Giants ranking in the bottom of the league in run production, aggressive base running could be their answer to more runs.  Fans can recall a Grizzlies September call-up last year that led to a big win against Colorado on September 1st.

Photo Credit: Don Davis

In a 1-1 deadlock, Darren Ford was put into action, pinch-running for Mike Fontenot.  He would go on to flash his speed that day for the go-ahead run.  He didn’t hesitate one bit in his first Major League appearance.  He advanced to second base on a wild pitch and than made his way home on a throwing error to third for the game-winning score, which eventually proved to be just as important as any other run that season. The Giants had to use all 162 games in order to clinch the division and a spot in the post-season, making Ford’s speed more valuable than ever for the club.  The Giant’s base running threats are limited this year and their run production ranks amongst the bottom half of the league.  Aggressive base running could prove to be their only hope, meaning one of the Grizzlies could be called up solely for speed purposes as Ford was last year.

The Giants are attempting to repeat their World Series performance of last year while fending off surging Arizona.  San Francisco has been thriving off of one-run ballgames.  If this continues to be the case, they may need to call up another speedster from Fresno.  Although the Giants main need is hitting, they may look to have one man on the bench who can change the game in a foot race between him and the catcher’s arm for an extra 90 feet.  If this is the case, Fresno is ready to go with numerous guys who can add their speed to a World Champion.  The Grizzlies will continue to extend their records for the rest of the season and hopefully, one of them can make it up for a September call up to help make another run to the World Series.

Catching Up On Hector Sanchez

By: Ellen Ward

Ever since Buster Posey’s season ending injury, the San Francisco Giants have had a tough time fully replacing their every day catcher. A couple weeks after Posey went down, catcher Hector Sanchez was promoted from High-A San Jose all the way to Triple-A Fresno. This sudden promotion sparked many questions and speculation about whether or not the Giants were grooming this young catcher to perform on a bigger stage.

With a pitching rotation that the World Champion lean on, it is only fitting that a top-notch catcher should be calling the pitches and blocking the plate. Posey was the Giants top prospect in 2010, and he found his way to San Francisco on May 28th of that year and became the compliment to the pitching staff. Posey spent the first few weeks at first base while the Giants evaluated their options. In the end they traded veteran catcher, Bengie Molina to the Texas Rangers and Posey became the Giants starting catcher and prized possession.

Buster Posey catching for the Fresno Grizzlies in April of 2010

A year ago, the Giants fan base wouldn’t dare think that a number of players would be doomed to the disabled list, but that is exactly where half of the World Series roster ended up by mid-May. The most devastating injury by far was Buster Posey’s shoulder-to-shoulder collision. He suffered season-ending injuries after Florida Marlins’ outfielder, Scott Cousins barreled into home plate in an extra innings game on May 25th at AT&T Park.

The Giants took action quickly, calling up Chris Stewart from Fresno, and moving backup catcher Eli Whiteside into the starting role. Both catchers are familiar with the pitching staff, but neither has come close to filling the vacant role Posey has left. It is rumored that the Giants are looking for other options to fill the position, and the recent promotion of Hector Sanchez from High-A San Jose to Fresno has provoked quite a buzz.

 This is a huge step for him,” manager Steve Decker comments on the arrival of Sanchez. “We need to make this kid a complete guy.”

There is a whirlwind of speculation about this young catcher but no one seems to know much about him. Sanchez is a 21 year-old from Maracay, Venezuela. He signed with the Giants at the green age of 16 in 2007, and played in the Dominican Summer League for two years.

In his second year of professional baseball, he hit .348, with 63 RBI and went 72-for-207. The next year, Sanchez began playing in the Arizona Rookie League, still catching and still producing runs. He hit a solid .299, and hit safely 35 times in 33 games. In 2010, he played at Low-A Augusta, where he batted .274, went yard five times, and had 31 RBI.

The Giants obviously saw potentional in Sanchez because he was a non-roster invitee for Spring Training in 2011. He spent a majority of camp with the defending World Champions, before being assigned to High-A San Jose.

“He got a lot of playing time because Whiteside got hurt in Spring Training”, points out Decker when asked how familiar Sanchez is with catching the Giants starting rotation.

Sanchez playing for the San Jose Giants. (Tony Medina)

In the Cal League, Sanchez tore it up in his first 43 games, batting .301, notching 19 multi-hit games, and hitting eight homers. Even more impressive is that he continued to be a RBI machine, notching 46 RBI in just 43 games. All of this work at the plate was done at the same time he was behind the plate guiding the Giants’ young arms, including top prospect Zach Wheeler. When Sanchez batted clean up for San Jose, he hit .319, and hit six of his eight home runs in the four slot. Sound familiar? Posey was the Giants permanent clean up hitter, and rotating players since his injury have filled that slot.

Sanchez was promoted from San Jose on June 9th, and played in his first Triple-A game on June 10th. He went 1-for-3 with a walk, and a RBI in his first game. He caught for veteran Shane Loux who gave up one earned run and fanned three batters in six innings of work. Sanchez’ has reached base safely in seven of his first nine games. He notched his first multi-hit game just six days into his Triple-A career, going 2-for-4, with a double and single, while plating two runs. He accomplished this at the same time as he was behind the plate calling a game for Cy-Young Award winner, Barry Zito in his third rehab start. Sanchez was the starting catcher in every single rehab start that Zito has pitched in, both games with San Jose and two more in Fresno.

“Sanchez called a great game and made it easy for me”, expressed starting pitcher, Andrew Kown after he threw six innings of no-hit ball to beat the Sacramento River Cats on June 19th.

On the surface Sanchez is a RBI machine based off his offensive numbers alone, and he has the advantage of being a switch hitter at the plate. The real question is, can he catch a starting rotation that carried the Giants to the World Series?

“He is in a position to be called up,” says Decker when asked if he sees Sanchez making his major league debut this season. “They always say you’re one foul tip away from the big leagues.”

Decker, a former catcher who spent most of his career with Giants organization, coached Posey at the Triple-A level, and will continue to shape Sanchez until San Francisco calls upon him.

The Giants put trust in Posey at a young age, but it remains to be seen if they will do the same with the 21-year-old Sanchez. It might be too early to tell, but according to Bay Area reporters he is on the right track. If he keeps producing at and behind the plate, he may find himself in the Bay Area sooner than later.

Spring Training: Day 1 Recap

By: Noah Frank

After a flight delay, a missed connection and a rental car line that looked more like the wait for an amusement park rollercoaster, I finally stumbled into Scottsdale Stadium unfashionably late. Of course, arriving in the bottom of the second inning of a Dodger game is pretty much par for the course, just not for the Giants.

The packed house of 12,081 (a new Scottsdale Stadium record, evidently) was fairly laid-back, coming to life only for home runs from Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, and a standing ovation as Brian Wilson entered the game to pitch a 1-2-3 sixth inning in relief. The Giants
ran out a starting nine very close to what they may well showcase against these
same Dodgers on Opening Day in a couple weeks:

scottsdale_berm.JPG

Torres CF
Sanchez 2B
Huff 1B
Posey C
Tejada SS
Burrell LF
Ross RF
DeRosa 3B
Ishikawa DH
Runzler LHP

Of course, there will be no DH, and Tim Lincecum will be toeing the rubber for the defending World Champs, but otherwise it looks pretty close.

By the seventh inning, however, that Opening Day lineup was all but departed from the field, leaving something that looks a lot like what Grizzlies fans will see at Chukchansi Park on April 7th. At that point, the Giants had Jackson Williams behind the plate, Brandon Belt at first, Emmanuel Burriss at second, Conor Gillaspie at third, Brandon Crawford at shortstop and Thomas Neal in left field. While that may be a projection into the future for Giants fans, it was very much a picture of the present for the Grizzlies.

Gillaspie made a nice play at the plate to gun down a runner trying to score from third on a ground ball, but later committed an error that opened the flood gates on reliever Javier Lopez, leading to a four-run inning for the Dodgers. Only one of the four runs was unearned, though, as the Dodgers turned a 6-3 deficit into a 7-6 advantage. But the Giants survived a double-play ball from Williams in the ninth and compiled a two-out, two-run rally to send the crowd home happy with an 8-7 win.

Hopefully I’ll get a closer look at our future Grizzlies today as the Giants take on Texas out in Surprise. I’ll also hopefully have some audio from Steve Decker (whoI ran into while checking in to the hotel) on his thoughts so far this spring and for the upcoming season.

(Photo: Scottsdale Stadium from behind the berm in right-center field)

Planes, Trophies and Automobiles

By: Noah
Frank

John Lennon
once said “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
It’s a good idea to keep that quotation handy when you live in a world that
constantly changes on the fly, as those of us who work in baseball certainly
do. One has to keep life in perspective in the wake of impending rainouts,
back-to-back extra inning games, or the sudden realization that one of the
guests of honor at your 50th anniversary charity dinner is snowed in
at an airport
in a state halfway across the country where it almost never
snows.

That’s the
position in which we found ourselves last Thursday, fighting the ever more firm
reality that we would be without Will Clark, The Thrill, the man who we had
worked for over a year to secure, for the Hot Stove Gala. It was about 10:30 in
the morning, or about seven 

Thumbnail image for romo_hot_stove.jpg

hours before the doors were to open to the public
when we first found out. To quote the poet Robert Burns, “The best laid plans
of mice and men, oft go awry”.

Thankfully,
through some expert maneuvering and generosity from those involved with our
parent club up north, we were privileged to host two very entertaining substitutes
in Giants pitcher and former Grizzly Sergio Romo as well as longtime Giants
player and current front office member Jim Davenport. Coupled with Matt
Williams
, Mark Gardner and Steve Decker, our guests were still treated to a
panel of world class players and personalities.

Of course,
there was also the Trophy. The real star of the show, the “big ticket” if you
will, may well have been the inanimate object sitting by itself on a black
tablecloth at the far end of the entry hall. Surrounded by more security than a
pop star, the golden circle of flags was a perfect centerpiece for this golden
anniversary event, and its presence lent a resplendent tone to the evening, one
that surely would not have existed without it.

Romo,
meanwhile, made one of his biggest relief appearances to date. Pulled off a
commercial he was shooting in San Francisco that morning, he was whisked into
the backseat of the World Champions Trophy Truck and rushed to Fresno with
enough time to be debriefed about the event and grab a Starbucks before the
doors opened. His laid back and 

davenport_hot_stove.jpg

easy-going personality helped him steal the
show, as he fielded question after question about his beard and his
relationship with off-color closer Brian Wilson, all with far more polish than
his 27 years would suggest.

Joining Romo
as a last-minute replacement was the 13-year Major League veteran, Davenport. He drove down from the Bay Area
on almost no notice as well, bringing his son with him. The Siluria, Alabama
native kept the mood light and jovial, charming the crowd by recounting stories
and cracking jokes about Romo’s beard in his thick-as-taffy southern drawl.

Clark
certainly did his part, calling the airline from the tarmac in Dallas, trying
to switch his flight and find a way to Fresno. When he had exhausted every
possible option, he shot an apology video on his cell phone and emailed it to
us. He also agreed– when we finally got a hold of him again just before the
dinner began– to return to Fresno for a private reception for all of those who
missed him at Hot Stove. It was a classy thing for him to do, and we can’t wait
to bring him back to where he began his professional career later this summer.

Moreover,
Romo and Williams both stayed to fulfill every last autograph and photo
request. In our world, where we are too often bombarded with stories of the
arrogance of some professional athletes, it was a welcome and truly touching
sight to see each and every one of our fans go home happy, in the wake of what
could have been a disastrous day. Thanks again to all our guests and the Giants
for making this a Hot Stove to remember.

Photos by Don Davis: Sergio Romo (top) and Jim Davenport entertain a crowd of nearly 1,000 guests at last week’s Hot Stove Gala. Will Clark movie below.

Clark.MOV

The Once And Future King

By: Noah Frank

As a kid
growing up, I remember watching Patrick Roy, goalie for the Colorado Avalanche,
and reflecting upon his last name. Having learned French at an early age, I
recognized his last name as being close to the French word for “king” (roi),
hence his nickname: King Patrick. The rabid baseball fan that I am, I always
saw the same thing whenever the Rookies of the Year were announced in the
acronym for the award: ROY. So this season, when the Giants’ Twitter fan site
@SF_Giants began their ROYPosey hashtag push, I could think of only one thing:

King Posey.

That was a
far cry from my first impression of the young man carrying the burden of all 

the hopes of a long-suffering fan base. I first met Buster Posey at our annual Hot
Stove Dinner
, last February 4th. On a brisk Thursday night in
downtown Fresno, he strolled into 

the banquet room at the Holiday Inn. Clad in
a modest dress shirt and slacks, no tie, a modest sport coat and a closely cropped haircut,
he might as well have been a member of the military on leave. I have stood next
to some of the most imposing legends of the modern era: Randy Johnson, Roger poseyhotstove.jpgClemens, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi. This kid did not have that same striking
presence as legends like those. He was just that- a kid.

Standing
behind the row of speakers who were seated up on stage that night, I could see
his hands shake under the table as he addressed the crowd. His even, mild tone
was much softer than that of his fellow athletes that night, retired Major
Leaguers Dave Dravecky, Steve Decker and Mark Gardner. One could forgive a
young man in his early 20s for not having the same composure as those twice his
age, much less those with public speaking and minor league managerial
experience. But this was supposed to be the chosen one, not only the offensive
savior but also the overseer of the talented young pitching staff expected to
help push the Giants into contention for a World Championship.

Two months
later came the blitz of a highly anticipated media day and an even bigger
Opening Day. Joining Posey on the media rounds was an even younger, even
greener prospect, fireballer Madison Bumgarner. By now Posey seemed more
comfortable, perhaps more at ease and back in his element wearing a jersey and
cleats instead of street clothes. I guided Bumgarner, Decker and him through
the row of television cameras lining the terrace behind the right-field seats.
He handled himself capably, and with a walk-off win in front of nearly 14,000
fans that night
, the questions that followed were mostly softballs.

The team’s record-setting start certainly helped as well, as the Grizzlies stormed out to
a 32-16 start with Posey on the team. As anyone who works in baseball knows,
though, the season is long and tiresome, and certainly has its ups and downs.
The Giants were off to a good start as well, but questions about their offense
lingered. Suddenly, they dropped five straight, culminating in a weekend sweep
at the hands of the cross-town rival Oakland Athletics
in which they managed just a
single run total, dropping their record to 22-21 on May 23rd. Posey
responded the next day, an off-day for the Giants, by going 4-for-4 against the Memphis Redbirds.

The constant
media pressure will begin to grate on anyone as the season progresses, especially
when you have to answer the same question over and over: “Why aren’t you in San
Francisco yet?” Ever the even-keeled diplomat in front of the camera, he gave
all the right answers. But after that Oakland series, the cries could be heard
all the way from San Francisco. The local beat writer asked me what I thought
the chances were of Posey still 

being a Grizzly when the team returned from its
next road trip, an eight-game swing 

Bumgarner Posey.jpgthrough Salt Lake City and Las Vegas that
would not return them to the Central Valley until June 5th.

“90
percent,” I remember saying. Oops.

That Friday
night the Grizzlies polished off an 8-0 pasting of the Salt Lake Bees to open
that trip, with Posey going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and an RBI to back
Madison Bumgarner’s 7.2 innings of four-hit, shutout ball. Life was about as
splendid as it could be for a Grizzlies fan, sitting 10.5 games up in first place. About an hour later I received a
text from the Giants’ V.P. of Baseball Operations that Buster was being called
up the next day.

In addition
to being sad about losing Buster from our lineup, I was more worried what the
pressure of a media market the size of San Francisco’s, combined with all the
national attention focused on him, would do to his calm, collected demeanor.
What would happen if he didn’t get off to a good start? How much patience would
an antsy fan base be willing to show for this 23-year-old with just 172 games
of minor league experience?

SI-World-Series-2010.jpgWell, when
you go 3-for-4 with three RBI in your first game, it takes a bit of the
pressure off. Another three-hit game the next day and a record-setting July
later on cemented his place in baseball history as the first Giant to claim
Rookie of the Year honors in 35 years.

Sure, the
expectation was there. Sure, he was named the top prospect in the system, fifth
overall in the minors by Baseball America before the season. But this? All of
this? With a World Series title to boot? I guess that this is what people mean
when they say they have watched someone grow up in front of their very eyes.

I wonder
sometimes how it feels from Buster’s perspective. It must all seem a bit
surreal, like some winding, lucid dream. Judging by how many orange-clad fans
stormed the streets of San Francisco for the victory parade, there are a lot of
people hoping he never wakes up.

(Photo Credit for first two photos: Don Davis; Credit for final photo: Sports Illustrated)

Welcome!

Thumbnail image for stadium wide shot.JPG

Well, hello there. Welcome to Yard Work, the official blog
of the Fresno Grizzlies. WhileFresnoGrizzlies.com
will continue to handle all your daily news and information about the team,
Yard Work will take a look behind the scenes of what it takes to put on an
entire season of minor league baseball. With contributions from front office
staff, players, coaches, interns, the Drag Kings and even fans
themselves, it will provide you with a unique, inside look into the
personalities that make Grizzlies baseball so much fun.


With another award-winning
season
in the books, the organization is looking forward to a great 2010. Our newly
revamped website is up and running, bringing our fans more stories, pictures
and videos than ever before. Plus, this season’s promotional calendar, which is
being rolled out this week, will offer fans an unprecedented level of
involvement in choosing what they want to see at the ballpark this spring and
summer.

On the field, the Grizzlies will welcome new manager Steve Decker for
the upcoming season. Decker will have at his disposal some of the budding stars
of the top-ranked minor league system in the National League, according to Baseball
America
. We’ll know more about just who those players will be in the coming
weeks, as the Giants narrow down their 25-man roster in Spring Training. I’ll
be down in Scottsdale this weekend, talking with players, coaches and Giants
front-office folk and will be writing a couple of entries about the experience.

Remember everyone, Opening Day is just around the corner on Friday,
April 16th. The Grizzlies take on the Portland Beavers at Chukchansi Park
at 7:05pm with Decker and Portland
skipper Terry Kennedy, former catching teammates with the Giants,
matched up against each other as managers for the first time.

More to come this weekend from Arizona!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.