Spring has sprung and baseball is back. Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants hosted their first Cactus League game against the visiting Cincinnati Reds and fans got their first glimpse of returning stars like Madison Bumgarner, promising prospects like Clayton Blackburn and dark horse invitees like Chris Marrero. Sure, these games don’t matter, but there is a certain charm about them because they signal winter’s end and the start of another long season for the boys of summer.
Bumgarner, the Giants’ lefty ace, got the start for San Francisco and surrendered two runs on two hits in his one inning of work. While Bumgarner’s first pitch was a strike, his command was shaky (especially out of the stretch). Giants fans needn’t worry though, pitchers who have already established themselves usually take time in spring to work on specific pitches and situations. Still, Bumgarner gave up a double, then a walk, followed by a hit by pitch and a single before getting Rob Brantly to line out and end the inning.
Bumgarner had the option of delaying his first start because the spring is longer than usual, but chose to start the spring’s first game because it might allow him to get one more exhibition appearance — if he and Giants manager Bruce Bochy feels it’s necessary.
“I’d rather back it down at the end of spring than push it,” he said.
The Giants responded to Cinncinatti’s two run first with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning thanks to a Hunter Pence double that scored Joe Panik. Pence’s health was in question at the start of camp, given that he had injured his side during the offseason, thus, Giants fans were no doubt pleased with his early display of offensive production.
The Reds added a run in the top of the second thanks to an RBI single off the bat of Jose Peraza and padded the lead further in the eighth when Aristides Aquino hit a sharp ground ball that deflected off of shortstop Orlando Calixte’s glove and trickled into left field, scoring Hernan Iribarren. But The Giants were bolstered by the offensive production of Chris Marrero, a former first round pick whom the Giants claimed as a minor league free agent this offseason.
Marrero collected his first of four RBIs in the fifth when he singled in Jimmy Rollins, bringing the Giants within one run of the Reds. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Marrero hit a line drive three run home run over the center field fence that gave the Giants a 6-4 win.
“I just want to make a name for myself,” Marrero said. “I think it’s time for me to establish myself. Even in spring training, you’ve got to cherish these moments.”
Marrero is part of a slough of players looking to make the big league club this spring. According to Bochy, he will see some time at both corner outfield spots in addition to first base this spring.
“We were excited he signed with us,” Bochy said. “He’ll get some at-bats.”