SCOTTSDALE — Andrew Susac started Thursday's game at Scottsdale Stadium, but his fifth-inning at-bat still felt precisely like the kind of late-game scenario Susac expects to see most often this year. The Giants trailed by three and the Brewers brought in a side-arming right-hander to face a powerful right-handed hitter. Susac blasted a three-run shot onto the berm in left-center, tying the game.
"That's the situation you see a lot of during the season," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I definitely tried to gear up and take advantage of that spot."
At 25, Susac remains one of the best young hitters in the organization. He also happens to play behind Buster Posey, which means his main role will be as a late-innings power bat for Bochy. A year ago, Susac was 0 for 11 off the bench with nine strikeouts. He didn't know the numbers were that dire, but he did know that this was a problem he needed to fix, calling his bench production "hit or miss."
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Susac simplified his swing in the offseason, knowing that it's hard to keep a lot of moving parts in tune when you're not playing every day. He has geared himself up for life off the bench, but a new approach isn't the only thing that should make 2016 considerably better than 2015. Susac is finally healthy after spending an entire season fighting a wrist injury that required season-ending surgery. He was so limited at times last year that he switched from a 32-ounce bat to a 30-ounce model to make up for some of the lost strength. This year, he's back to normal.
"My bat strength is back, my bat speed is back," Susac said. "I'm swinging the right way again. It's just very confidence-boosting for me to know that (I'm) healthy and I don't need to search for alternative ways to get through a game."
STOCK RISING: Speaking of guys who can provide right-handed power off the bench, Kyle Blanks lined a solo shot to left-center. Blanks, a veteran first baseman/left fielder is trying to make the team as a bench weapon. A year ago the Giants had just one pinch-hit homer, and none from right-handed hitters. "He's a guy that's got Major League experience, and he's got power," Bochy said. "That's a guy we're going to take a look at." Bochy is also very intrigued by speedy center fielder Gorkys Hernandez, and he helped his cause with two hits and a walk Thursday.
HEALTH UPDATES: Matt Cain is getting the stitches out less than a week after having a cyst removed and Bochy said he could be throwing in the next couple of days. Cain is right on schedule. Sergio Romo ("slow-playing" the elbow) is also close to game action, Bochy said. Santiago Casilla was held out of the first two spring games with the flu.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: The Dodgers announced that oft-injured left-hander Brett Anderson will have back surgery and miss three to five months, which means the Dodgers are having the Mike Bolsinger/Brandon Beachy conversation two weeks into camp. That’s a good thing for the other favorite in the NL West.
ICYMI: Here’s my story on Jake Peavy’s rough spring debut, and here’s my feature on the Jeff Samardzija-Buster Posey partnership.
NOTEWORTHY: I enjoyed the fact that Matt Winn sprinted in from the bullpen (in his catcher’s gear) to enter for Susac in the top of the sixth and then shook the home plate ump’s hand … Cory Gearrin threw some wicked pitches to right-handers while pitching a scoreless frame. If you’re looking for a sleeper to make the Opening Day bullpen, here’s your guy. He’s out of options … Infield prospect Ryder Jones smoked a double to the right-center gap and scored on a Ty Ross double … Nobody in camp is throwing better than Hunter Strickland, who struck out two in a quick inning. Other than Josh Osich, all of the relievers have pitched shutouts through two games. Ty Blach gave up one hit and struck out two over two innings, and Vin Mazzaro and Joan Gregorio added 2 1/3 scoreless ... There were three ducks on the field in the bottom of the ninth. They survived.