Giants send star prospect to Triple-A

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The latest round of cuts sent a well-known prospect walking out of Scottsdale Stadium on Friday afternoon. Heath Hembree, the hard-throwing right-hander thought to be a favorite to make the Giants' opening day bullpen, instead will start the season in Triple-A.

With three spots still open in the bullpen, manager Bruce Bochy said the staff is looking for pitchers who are more suited to go multiple innings. Hembree, long considered a potential closer, was no longer in that mix.

"He did a nice job in September and had a pretty good spring, but he wasn't going to break camp with us," Bochy said "He'll go down and continue to work on his secondary pitches. We feel right now that Heath could use a little more time. Some other guys are going to get the first shot."

That field was further thinned just before Friday's game when right-handers Jake Dunning, Brett Bochy, Adam Reifer and Erik Cordier joined Hembree on the cuts list. Catcher Guillermo Quiroz and first baseman Mark Minicozzi also were sent to minor league camp.

Eight players remain in camp fighting for three bullpen spots, though Yusmeiro Petit likely locked up the long reliever role with a strong start against the A's. Petit struck out seven in four scoreless innings of a 3-0 win.

"That's what we saw at the end of last year," Bochy said. "His velocity has picked up a little bit and made his pitches crisper. He was using both sides of the plate, and that's what he did last year. He looked comfortable out there."

Left-hander David Huff had a strong showing in relief of Petit, pitching three perfect innings, and hard-throwing prospect Derek Law had a 1-2-3 frame in the eighth. Both are firmly in the mix for the opening day roster, although with the Giants looking for durable middle-relief arms, right-handers Jean Machi and George Kontos figure to be the favorites heading into the final days of camp.

Machi has had a rough spring but posted a 2.38 ERA last season in 51 appearances. Kontos was a valuable contributor down the stretch in 2012 and has five straight scoreless spring appearances. Both are part of a group of up-and-coming pitchers that Bochy called the best he has had in camp in his eight years with the Giants.

"We've had some tough decisions," Bochy said. "We've got another week here to finalize these spots. It's very competitive, and these guys have done a great job competing. I think it's going to go down to the last couple of days."

For the second straight year, one cut was different from the others. Last spring, Bochy took his son, Brett, out to dinner to inform him that he was headed down to the minors. On Friday, it was breakfast.

"That's cheaper," the manager joked, smiling.


BUSTER POSEY IS scheduled to start at first base in the coming days to prepare for the regular season, when he occasionally spells starter Brandon Belt. Minicozzi had backed up Belt this spring and hit two homers in 37 at-bats. The 31-year-old opened some eyes after years of playing in independent leagues and the minors.

"He should feel good about his camp," Bochy said. "I enjoyed him. He was ready to go every day."


BOCHY SAID THE training staff is hopeful Marco Scutaro can take part in baseball activities over the weekend. Scutaro had an epidural injection in his back on Thursday. Pablo Sandoval was excused Friday because of irritation after a dental appointment, but started Saturday.


BELT DIDN'T FILL out a bracket, but the NCAA tournament has brought him plenty of joy through two days. The University of Texas, Belt's alma mater, won on a buzzer beater Thursday night. On Friday, Belt proudly wore a Stephen F. Austin T-shirt and raved about the team from his hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas. The 12-seed upset VCU in overtime as the Giants were playing the A's.

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