Programming note: Get up to date Giants spring training news on Raising Arizona, tonight at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Giants manager Bruce Bochy told Brett Pill he was free to catch an early van back to Scottsdale after eight innings Tuesday afternoon. Pill decided to stay at Camelback Ranch and hope for one more at-bat.
“I’m glad I kept him around,” said Bochy, after Pill hit a tying, two-run home run with two outs in the ninth.
It was Pill’s second home run of the game. George Kontos pitched a scoreless bottom of the inning and the Giants and Dodgers unofficially began their rivalry with an 8-8 tie.
No, spring training games don’t count. But the end was thrilling enough for those who stayed to the end. The Giants scored four runs while down to their final out; Brock Bond hit a two-run home run, then Bochy showed he was serious about winning. After the Dodgers made a pitching change, he lifted Andrew Susac for Johnny Monell, a left-handed hitter. Monell singled to set up Pill’s deep drive off Elian Infante.
Would Bochy have gone out of his way to get the matchup if he were playing the Royals, for example?
“Sure,” he said, with a sly smile. “Yeah, I would have. … Johnny gives you a good at-bat and he kept this thing alive. You know, the guys had fun with it.”
It was more than a lark for Pill, who has an outside shot at the final spot on the opening-day roster. (He has a minor league option remaining, which hinders his chances.)
Last year, Pill hit a two-run homer off Clayton Kershaw to deliver a 2-1 victory to the Giants behind Ryan Vogelsong. He didn’t exactly take a Cy Young Award winner deep Tuesday afternoon, but his first homer did come against Dodgers closer Brandon League.
Is Pill starting to feel locked in at the plate?
“If you’d asked me yesterday, uh, no,” he said. “I was hooking everything foul.”
But as he said, the more you face live pitching, the better you feel. That’s why he wasn’t going to take Bochy up on his invitation to leave early.
“I would’ve taken eight at-bats if he’d have given them to me.”
It’s going to be hard for Pill to get a lot of time at first base, since Brandon Belt is the starter and Buster Posey is expected to log 25 to 30 games there this season, too. So Pill could work at third base and left field at times this spring as the Giants look to cover innings while Pablo Sandoval, Angel Pagan and Co. play in the World Baseball Classic.
Pill said it’s important he show as much defensive flexibility as possible. But that’s not his top priority this spring.
“Being a threat off the bench with the bat is the main priority,” said Pill, who was 2 for 15 with a home run and three walks as a pinch hitter last season. “I tried to do too much last year. So to have better at-bats off the bench is my goal this spring.”