Giants System Roundup: Opening Night
Clayton Tanner
Publisher, SFHardball.com
Posted Apr 4, 2008


Connecticut used a few timely hits and great relief to win the opener while San Jose relied on a lot of offense and a stellar Cal League pitching debut. For Fresno and Augusta, quiet bats and shaky relief mean it will be at least one more day before a win.

Grizzlies falls to Portland late 8-3
After seven-and-a-half innings of a pitchers’ duel with the Beavers, Fresno’s bullpen imploded in the eighth inning, yielding five runs and putting the game out of reach before the offense rallied for three runs in the ninth.

Bartolome Fortunato, a former Mets prospect who did not play professionally last year after the Mets released him, was charged with two runs (one earned) in one third of an inning, but also allowed all three inherited runners to score. After relieving Randy Messenger, Fortunato gave up a booming double and triple back-to-back to put the game out of reach. The righty, who impressed in big league camp as a non-roster invitee this spring, has worked just 19.2 innings over the last three years after back surgery cost him all of 2005. In 2004, Fortunato, now 27, reached the big leagues with the Mets and posted 20 strikeouts in 18.2 innings, but walked 13.

Manny Burriss, starting at what will be his regular position of second base, went 0-for-3 with a walk at the plate, and also had a throwing error in his first professional game ever at second base. The 2006 first round pick, who has only appeared at shortstop previously, but ultimately projects at second base in the big leagues, cost the Grizzlies their final run allowed by airmailing a relay throw on Matt Antonelli’s triple, allowing him to score. The walk was a positive sign for the 23-year-old, who managed just 40 free passes in 565 plate appearances in his disappointing 2007 season. Hitting in the two hole, Burriss attempted to drag a bunt in the first inning, but got too much of it and was thrown out by the second baseman.

Opening his fifth consecutive season in the Pacific Coast League, third baseman Justin Leone clubbed a home run in the fifth inning. Leone, 30, has collected at least 20 homers in five of his eight full professional seasons, but his questionable defense and age have allowed him to collect just one big league at-bat in three seasons. Despite the Giants’ glaring need at third base, Leone got no real chance to win the job this spring.

Defenders ride pitching to 3-2 victory over New Hampshire
On a cold night at Dodd Stadium, Connecticut made the most of four hits, putting up three runs in the fifth inning and then letting their pitching ride out the rest of the contest for an opening-night win.

Starter Adam Cowart was in typical form, giving up just one earned run over 4.1 innings at 73 pitches. The righty, who never topped 85 with his unorthodox delivery, only had one ball hit hard against him. Among the six hits he surrendered, five were grounders on or through the infield. Although he didn’t walk anyone, he was slightly more wild in the zone than is typical, plunking one hitter and throwing just 46 of 73 pitches for strikes. While better than average for the minors, it’s not as impressive as Cowart frequently was in Augusta last season. The Giants decided to jump him from Low-A after his strong showing in the playoffs for San Jose last season.

Reliever Sergio Romo picked up exactly where he left off last year, striking out the side to record his first save of the year. The righty threw 12 of 18 pitches for strikes, changing his arm slot effectively, keeping the top of the Fisher Cats’ lineup off balance with an improving changeup. The 25-year-old from California now has 163 strikeouts in 114 relief innings in his career against just 26 walks.

Adam Witter, getting the chance to be the regular starting catcher for the first time in his career, clubbed a two-run homer down the line as part of the only inning when the Defenders could get anything going at the plate. Originally drafted by the Giants in 2001 out of high school, the left-handed slugger signed as a fifth-year senior out of East Carolina in 2006. He’s collected 34 homers over 163 games in two professional seasons, but because of his age and sharing time with highly-regarding Pablo Sandoval last year, has flown under the radar as a prospect. Witter rewarded first-year manager Bien Figueroa, who decided to put him in the cleanup spot for the opener even though he’d been hitting lower in the lineup throughout spring.

Leadoff man Antoan Richardson gave a clinic on the difference between having great speed and being a great runner Thursday night. While his fleet feet rushed New Hampshire’s second baseman into an error on a relatively routine grounder in the fourth, but was twice picked off while getting a little too antsy. In the first, the speedster misread his jump after drawing a leadoff walk, breaking as the pitcher fired behind him for the pickoff. Later in the game, he was simply caught flat-footed and could not get back in time. The product of Vanderbilt has swiped 149 bases and been caught 26 times in his career.

Giants rout Bakersfield, 12-2
San Jose plated three runs in the top of the first and never looked back, cruising to an impressive win over the Blaze as each of the top six guys in the lineup collected at least one RBI and starter Clayton Tanner dominated over six innings.

Center fielder Mike McBryde undoubtedly pleased his coaching staff by drawing a leadoff walk, his first of two free passes on the night. The speedy leadoff hitter is being pushed to command the strike zone more effectively this year after earning just 49 walks over his first two professional seasons. The 23-year-old centerfielder also collected an infield hit on the night, and scored twice. The organization has challenged him to raise his walk total to between 60 and 70 this season.

Tanner, 20, gave up a pair of singles in the first inning, then settled in and allowed just one more over the rest of the game. While his numbers were not as spectacular as Pucetas and Snyder in the rotation for Augusta last season, the opening day start is an indicator of the organization’s feeling that, with his combination of ability and age, he has a chance to be the best big-league pitcher of the group.

Ryan Rohlinger, who got an extended look with the big club this spring, opened impressively, going 3-for-4 with a double and a walk. The third baseman drove in the Giants’ first run of the year and scored two while hitting in the three hole. After working primarily in the second slot of the order last year, Rohlinger is being looked to for increased production and more consistent hard contact this year.

GreenJackets fall 3-1 to Greensboro
Starter Steven Calicutt worked four solid innings, but a pair of errors in the seventh and one more in the ninth gave the Grasshoppers three unearned runs and the victory on a rainy night in Augusta.

Calicutt allowed just one ball out of the infield in his effort, giving up a pair of hits. The 24-year-old lefty struck out three batters and walked one. Calicutt found his stride in the rotation for Augusta last summer, posting a 3.34 ERA after the All-Star Break and a 2.85 mark in his final seven contests. Based on his age, the organization hopes Calicutt will demonstrate he is ready to move up relatively early this season.

Starting his first career game at first base, Thomas Neal went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. The 20-year-old outfielder, who missed most of last season after shoulder surgery, was one of the Giants’ last draft-and-follow signings out of Riverside Community College. The right-handed slugger is a guy the organization expects to step up significantly in his first full season of professional ball this year.

Charlie Culberson, whose slick actions and good range at short pushed fellow first-round pick Nick Noonan to second, had a costly error to open the seventh inning, setting up a pair of unearned runs in the frame. Ultimately, he is expected to do well at the position, but still has a tendency to rush things a bit, a habit which yielded a so-so .937 fielding percentage in the Arizona Rookie League last year.



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