3/9/2014 8:19 P.M. ET
Romo refining changeup in early spring outings
By AJ Cassavell / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Sergio Romo hasn't yet unveiled his slider to opposing hitters this spring, and that's a little like saying Lynyrd Skynyrd hasn't yet unveiled "Free Bird" to fans at a concert.
It's Romo's go-to pitch when he needs an out, it's been the best pitch in his arsenal, and -- most of all -- it's proven to work.
"It's not like I haven't been practicing it or anything," Romo said Sunday. "I don't need to throw it in a game for me to sit there and know that I've got it."
Romo's woeful spring numbers are almost certainly the result of his refusal to throw the pitch. After he allowed five runs without recording an out Saturday, Romo's Cactus League ERA ballooned to 33.00 with a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 4.67 in four outings.
But Romo isn't reaching into the well for his slider just yet. He's been throwing a strict fastball-changeup mix with the hopes of developing his changeup into a reliable third option.
Last season, Romo threw that changeup only 6.5 percent of the time, according to FanGraphs. But that number has risen in each of the past three years. If his work this spring pays off, he's hoping it'll rise again.
"It's coming along," Romo said. "I'm just working, you know what I'm saying? And I feel like I'm making progress, I feel like I'm throwing the ball well. I'm not worried about stat line."
By no means did Romo struggle last season, although he did record his highest ERA (2.54) since 2009. He recorded 38 saves and posted a 1.08 WHIP.
But Romo was flat-out dominant from 2010-12, and he's hopeful that adding another trusted pitch to his repertoire will help him get back to that level in '14.
"That's the reason why I'm trying to use it -- so that I can be more of a complete pitcher," Romo said. "It's not so that I can use it more, but so that I have it, so that when I do need it, I can go to it."
Hicks taking advantage of infield audition
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Brandon Hicks emphatically stated his case for a roster spot Sunday afternoon at Camelback Ranch.
The 28-year-old infielder crushed a 1-1 offering from reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw into the Bermuda grass behind right field, giving the Giants an early lead and likely turning a few more heads.
Given the Giants' past struggles against the Dodgers' ace, they could use just about anyone who can hit Kershaw. Right now, Hicks is in contention for a utility infield spot -- at least one of which is up for grabs on the Major League roster.
"He's got some experience, and he's got some power," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He lets it go. He's done a good job with second and short, and we'll probably work him at third a little bit. You'd like to have as many options as you can, and he's certainly one of them."
Hicks has gotten a fair shake in the position battle this spring. He's one of just two Giants to appear in nine Cactus League games. (The other is outfielder Juan Perez).
And Hicks is taking full advantage of that playing time, too. He's hitting .429 with a monstrous .929 slugging percentage.
"When you get at least two at-bats a day, that's great, but even when you only get that one, you've got to make the most of it," Hicks said before he knocked in all three Giants runs Sunday. "So just try and slow the game down and do what you can. ... I'm slowly feeling more and more comfortable."
Hicks has shown plenty of patience at the plate as well, with four walks this spring, including one with the bases loaded Sunday. Conversely, however, he has struck out six times -- accounting for all but two of his outs.
Everyday second baseman Marco Scutaro is still battling back problems, and if they continue to linger through Opening Day, that could clear up roster room for Hicks. So what exactly does Hicks feel like he needs to do to earn a spot in a crowded race?
"Show them I can play all the infield positions and play good defense, and just keep having consistent at-bats," Hicks said. "I need to cut my strikeouts down. I've struck out more than I would like to early on. I've got to keep having consistent at-bats and put the ball in play."
Bumgarner dominates Giants Future Stars
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Madison Bumgarner was sharp and top prospect Kyle Crick couldn't find the strike zone, as a split Giants squad knocked off the "Giants Future Stars," 8-0, on Sunday at Scottsdale Stadium.
Bumgarner, only 24 himself, tossed four innings, allowing a hit and two walks while striking out five. The outing obviously won't count toward his Cactus League totals, but Bumgarner hasn't allowed a run in nine innings this spring, and his WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) sits at 0.67.
Crick, on the other hand, couldn't make it out of the first inning. The 21-year-old right-hander faced seven hitters and allowed five runs on a hit and four walks. He threw 35 pitches, including two wild pitches, and only 15 went for strikes.
First-base prospect Angel Villalona led the Futures squad with two hits, and first-round pick Christian Arroyo also picked up a knock.
Roger Kieschnick homered for the Giants, and Brett Krill went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk.
Pence, Morse given day off to rest injuries
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants outfielders Hunter Pence (left shoulder) and Michael Morse (right calf) were both out of the lineup against the Dodgers on Sunday, as manager Bruce Bochy gave them a day off to recover.
So what exactly should anyone read into these injuries?
Well, absolutely nothing if you ask either of them. The corner-outfield pair gave practically identical responses when asked how serious their ailments were.
"If it was the season, I could go, but you want to get it fully healed," Pence said.
"If it were the regular season, I'd definitely play today," said Morse.
Sporting a tight wrap around his ankle and calf Sunday, Morse added that he no longer feels any soreness at all. The newest Giants outfielder couldn't recall a specific play that might have triggered it. Instead, he simply noticed discomfort while standing in the outfield Friday, and he was promptly removed after letting Bochy know.
Pence, meanwhile, was initially slated to play Sunday, but after a discussion with Bochy, the pair decided to play it safe, and a new lineup card was tacked to the team's bulletin board with Tyler Graham in right field.
"It's a small left shoulder thing," Pence said. "[Bochy's] got so many things to think about, so he's just being cautious. Everything is good."
Pence tweaked the shoulder while swinging and missing during a sixth-inning at-bat against Kansas City on Friday. He launched his first homer of the spring on the next pitch, making him 1-for-1 with a home run since the injury.
"Actually, I wouldn't label it an injury," Pence clarified.