SCOTTSDALE — On the day he was officially optioned back to the minor leagues, Mac Williamson found some comfort by remembering the numbers on the back of his baseball card.
“I got to thinking about it last night, and I’ve really only played two full seasons,” Williamson said Monday. “In the long run, it’s much more beneficial to play every day than to sit around and get 40 at-bats in two months.”
That was the thinking in the front office when Williamson reported to camp last month, and it was relayed to him early on, just before manager Bruce Bochy publicly said that the outfielder was a “long shot” to make the Opening Day roster. Williamson knew it would be tough to beat out Jarrett Parker (who also was optioned) and Gorkys Hernandez (who was reassigned to minor league camp), but the competition turned out to not be a competition at all. The Giants are planning to keep 13 pitchers, leaving no room at AT&T Park for a fifth outfielder -- at least for the time being.
Williamson certainly did his best to make the staff convene a few more meetings. He was red hot early in camp and homered on Sunday. Through Monday’s Scottsdale Stadium finale, Williamson is hitting .298 with five homers. He had a lull in the middle of the spring, and said Monday that he “could have made it a little tougher on them.”
“But what I hoped to be going in was to be a viable option, whether it was spring or the end of June or the end of the year,” he said.
Williamson said he wanted the coaches to be confident in calling his number, and they certainly will be. The Giants think highly of Williamson and they believe he can be a full-time starter down the line, which is why Bochy was so adamant that a player with fewer than 1,400 minor league at-bats (Williamson lost a year to Tommy John surgery) needed to be playing every day.
“Obviously it’s a blessing and a curse,” Williamson said. “It makes sense that if you want a guy being an everyday guy, you don’t want him sitting on (the big league) bench.”
Williamson hasn’t been told where he’ll play in Sacramento, but it will be in either left or right, with Parker in the other corner and Hernandez likely in the middle. The Giants have more depth in the outfield than they’ve had in years, and it’s only a matter of time before they need to dip down for help. Over the last month, Williamson showed he's ready to contribute.
"He understood the situation," Bochy said. "I told him he's a long shot, and early in the spring he came out and hit home runs. He cooled off the last couple of weeks and I think he learned from that. He's going to work on hitting left-handers more. That'll be good for him and for us. Overall, he handled himself well."
ROSTER MOVE: Andrew Susac was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento, but he won't head there right away. Susac will catch Madison Bumgarner on Tuesday and stay down here to get the at-bats he missed when his wrist acted up last week. Bochy said Susac, after missing so much time last year, needs to get consistent playing time.
"He's behind," he said. "I think this is important for him."
There's a flip side to this: Trevor Brown hit .324 this spring and impressed behind the plate, so the Giants felt comfortable making the switch (He seems a good bet to be paired with Jake Peavy). When he was called up last September, Brown told me he went home after the Triple-A season and just hoped he would get his first big league camp invite. Now he'll be on the Opening Day roster.
The Giants are at 25 players, but Bochy wouldn't 100 percent say this is the team. They won't say that until seeing the players who shake loose as other cuts are made around camps, but this is almost certainly the group of 25 that'll line up in Milwaukee next week.
HESTO’S SPRING: Chris Heston gave up four runs in four innings Monday and will head home with a 6.38 ERA. He had an uneven spring, but that could be in part because he had an odd role. Heston spent a week getting on Madison Bumgarner’s schedule and then was put on Matt Cain’s schedule. He has been the emergency starter, but now will shift to the bullpen.
“Once roles are defined you get into a bit of a routine and have a game plan every day,” he said. “That’ll be huge. For all baseball players, routine is big.”
Heston will have to find a new one as the long reliever. He has been a starter his whole career, but said he’ll look back on two relief appearances he made in 2014 as a September call-up.
“I learned that I can get ready way quicker than I even thought I could,” Heston said.
Bochy isn't concerned about Heston's up and down spring.
"He's going to be fine," Bochy said. "He's got good movement, good sink. For me, I'm just glad we got his pitch count up to where he can be a long man and spot starter for us."