Giants notes: Waites impresses Kapler; Luciano progressing


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Camilo Doval pitched the ninth inning on Thursday night and hit 101 mph, but he wasn't the only Giants reliever lighting up the radar gun, and he wasn't the one who had so many coaches smiling in the dugout. 

Before Cole Waites made his first spring appearance, manager Gabe Kapler admitted he was nervous, just because Waites was coming off an injury. By the end of the night, Kapler was beaming as he said, "that was pretty impressive." 

Kapler was particularly encouraged by the way Waites filled it up with his fastball, working at both the top and bottom of the zone. Waites has such good carry on his fastball that he generally works up in the zone, but the Giants want him to move his go-to pitch around and steal strikes down low, too. 

"It was really impressive," Kapler said. "It looked like he stayed in his delivery. He mentioned that the pace didn't impact him at all, that it in fact probably helped him. That was as good as we could have expected."

Waites might have the best fastball characteristics of any Giants prospect, but the velocity wasn't always quite there in his MLB cameo last year. He made seven appearances and averaged 96 mph, but there were more 95s and 96s than evaluators expected. In his spring debut, Waites was 97-99 mph. 

“His physicality is different. Last year he was kind of on fumes," Kapler said. "It was a long season for him and he was pretty thin last year, too, relatively speaking. He's a big, strong, physical presence now."

Waites lost weight last season while pitching in the summer heat in Richmond and Sacramento, but he said he added 17 pounds to his frame in the offseason. He was expected to compete for an Opening Day job but strained his lat just before camp. Waites might run out of time to get enough work in before the opener, but he should be an option for the bullpen in early April. 

--- Marco Luciano is back as a designated hitter in games at the Giants minor league complex. Luciano didn't see any Cactus League action because of a stress fracture in his back, but he has progressed well. 

Luciano might miss a week or two at the start of the Double-A season because the Giants want him to get fully built up to handle nine defensive innings, but it won't be more than that. There has long been industry speculation that Luciano will have to move to a new position, but the Giants plan to leave him at shortstop this season and continue to have belief that he can play there at the big league level.

--- The bad luck continues for 2019 first-rounder Hunter Bishop. He has been sidelined this spring by a right elbow injury and will need surgery, although the Giants aren't sure yet of a timetable. 

The severity of the injury will be determined during the procedure, and the Giants are hopeful that Bishop only needs to have a brace put in and can return to the field later this season. Injuries have limited Bishop to just 102 games the last two seasons. 

--- Carson Whisenhunt’s changeup is, well, you kind of just have to see it: 

The Giants went with upside last July, taking Reggie Crawford and Whisenhunt with their first two picks after both had dropped down some draft boards. Whisenhunt was getting top 10 buzz before a suspension for a banned substance, but the Giants didn't have any concerns about his makeup. 

He made two scoreless appearances in San Jose at the end of last summer. With that changeup and a firm fastball, he might not need many starts there this season before heading to High-A. 

--- Crawford is doing well in his Tommy John rehab but won’t break camp with an affiliate because he was set back in the offseason by mono. Will Bednar, the 2021 first-rounder, will also be a bit behind as he continues to rehab a back injury that ruined his first full professional season. 

--- Here’s a name to file away: Hayden Birdsong. The right-hander was a swingman at Eastern Illinois but the Giants got good reports from their regional scouts and took him in the sixth round last year. Some viewed it as a bit of a reach at the time, but they wanted Birdsong in their system. He struck out 23 of the 48 batters he faced last summer and his velo is up this spring.

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--- Coaches can be prospects, too. As he has done a few times, Kapler let members of the large staff get some managerial reps on Thursday. Bullpen coach Craig Albernaz managed the day game against the White Sox and quality assurance coach Nick Ortiz managed the night game against the Guardians. 

It turns out Ortiz drew the tougher assignment even though he had most of the regulars. A lineup filled with veterans managed just two hits, while Albernaz watched prospects and Triple-A players win 6-3.

"The earlier game goes on (my record) and this one goes on Nick's," Kapler said, laughing.

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