Two games, two big performances by two free-agent signees. So far, the San Francisco Giants’ offseason investments look like brilliant moves, as Denard Span exploded for 5 RBI from the leadoff spot in Monday’s season opener and Johnny Cueto looked like his masterful self in holding his opponent to just one run over seven innings.
It’s just two games, and they came against a Milwaukee Brewers team that is in rebuild mode (i.e. not very good). But these two performances are encouraging signs that General Manager Bobby Evans spent the franchise’s money well to fortify the club’s run at another World Series title.
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Both Cueto and Span entered the season with question marks—Span was still recovering from abdominal surgery when he signed, and Cueto was shaky down the stretch last season, after being traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Kansas City Royals.
Span is obviously healthy (except for the flu bug that’s keeping him out of today’s game). He even stole his first base of the year in Tuesday’s game. The only thing left to be seen is how often he’ll try to steal. While he’s a career leadoff hitter, Span has never stolen more than 31 bags in a season, which he did in 2014 with Washington. He’s more of a 25-swipe kind of player, which is about all the Giants seem to want out of their speedsters: they haven’t had a player top 30 steals since Randy Winn did it in 2007.
No matter. Span is a career .287 hitter with a .352 on-base percentage, and he’s a doubles machine. So one way or another, he’ll be in scoring position plenty for the Giants’ big hitters.
Meanwhile, Cueto obviously has his form back. His 2015 struggles were attributed to psychological effects of the trade. It was his first time pitching in the American League, and it was difficult, he said last year, being traded for the first time after spending his entire professional career—which began in 2004 at 18 years old—in the Reds organizaton.
On Tuesday night, Cueto looked quite comfortable mowing down his old National League Central foe, scattering six hits and issuing no walks.
Giants Nation anticipates one more big free-agent debut, that of Jeff Samardzija. San Francisco’s No. 3 starter, Samardzija had a rough start to Spring Training, which caused some concern that he was still the same pitcher who carried an ugly 4.96 ERA in 2015. (Of course, it was just Spring Training…)
But his final two starts of the preseason were encouraging, even impressive, which should give him some momentum heading into his first regular-season start with the Giants.
The Brewers aren’t completely punchless with the bats—they still have Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy, along with an exciting rookie in Domingo Santana and the 40-homer potential of Chris Carter—but they have one of the weaker lineups in the league. That makes today’s game a good opportunity for Samardzija to excel in his first start of the season and continue building his confidence.
Of course, if he falters today, it’s just the first start of the season.