NASHVILLE — The Giants spent November finding out more about Jeff Samardzija, and they liked what they learned. Scouts view him as an elite competitor, the type who will fit right in alongside a Hunter Pence or Madison Bumgarner. Bruce Bochy described Samardzija as “high energy,” and multiple Giants people have said this week that Samardzija’s desire to pitch in San Francisco was a boost. That hasn’t always been the case with marquee free agents.
The on-field work was ugly much of last year, but Bochy said Tuesday that he likes what he’s seen from the 6-foot-5 right-hander who averaged 94.3 mph on his fastball last year.
“He's got the equipment. Jeff's always had great stuff,” Bochy said. “He’s really had a nice career. Last year had his hiccups, but, you know, we certainly like what we're working with, and we look at him as a guy that's starting to come into his own. He's young, he's got a young arm. He's got velocity, sink. He's got all the pitches that can make him successful.
“Hopefully we can do our part and help out, but I think he's primed to come into his own. That's how we felt and that's why we signed him, and we're excited to have him. He's a guy that can carry some innings for us, get us deep in the game, something that our pitching staff could use.”
The Giants have had just one starter, Madison Bumgarner, throw a 200-inning season since 2012. Enter Samardzija, who has three consecutive years of at least 213 innings. He agreed to a five-year, $90 million deal Saturday that will become official after a physical, which was being taken Tuesday.
The sense here in Nashville is that Samardzija will be a good fit in San Francisco. I’ve talked to a lot of people who are familiar with his good times (2.99 ERA in 2014) and down times (4.96 ERA, 29 homers allowed in 2015). The word out of Chicago is that Samardzija didn’t always see eye-to-eye with pitching coach Don Cooper last season, and Bochy noted Tuesday that he believes he’s got the best in the game in Dave Righetti. Samardzija also goes from the worst defense in the American League to the best in the National League. And he’s moving to a pitcher’s park.
“You know, it plays a little part. We do look at that,” Bochy said of the ballpark switch. “We’re into analytics and we are in a pitcher-friendly park that does benefit a guy … He does sink the ball and he can get ground balls. There's a little bit of a margin of error when you pitch in our ballpark.
“But, regardless, this is a guy that was on our radar, and we wanted him.”
--- The Giants first wanted Zack Greinke, but he’ll be introduced in Phoenix on Friday. Giants officials were said to be a bit stunned that the Diamondbacks swooped in, mostly because everyone involved thought it was Giants vs. Dodgers.
“He's a great pitcher. He was a guy that it's obvious we had a lot of interest in, didn't work out, but who wouldn't have interest in a Zack Greinke?” Bochy said. “You know, we were in the mix. We were hoping to get him. But, you know, after they got him, you move on. There's no point in really having any kind of reaction because it's over. That's part of the business. It's baseball. So we took the next step and signed Samardzija, and that's the best thing we could have done.
“We all just said, okay, we'll move forward from this.”
Bochy noted that the top three teams in the division now have “their horse” in the rotation.
“With Greinke going to Arizona, I think they are definitely a team to be reckoned with,” he said. “They have good young players, position players. They have got (Patrick) Corbin back. So they have a nice, strong rotation, bullpen. That move made them a lot better club.”
--- Bochy on Matt Cain: “I couldn’t have been more encouraged by his last game.” Cain had a rough year, but allowed just two hits in five shutout innings in his last start.
--- The biggest news this morning: Hunter Pence has taken up golf. Bochy checked in with Pence and the right fielder (who also got engaged recently) said he has been playing golf for a few weeks. My first thought is that the oblique must be feeling great if Pence is swinging a driver. My second thought is that, knowing Pence, he probably took up golf specifically because he feels it may help stretch his oblique out and prevent further injury. My third thought is I WANT A VIDEO OF HUNTER PENCE SWINGING A FIVE-IRON! Bochy had the same thought.
“I’ve gotta see this,” he said, smiling.