San Francisco Giants

Giants’ Jeff Samardzija sharp in final spring training start

SAN FRANCISCO -- As soon as the sun dipped behind the upper deck at AT&T Park late Thursday afternoon, the resulting chill and whipping wind made it clear the Giants were back home and a long way from the dry heat of Arizona.

"I love it," said Jeff Samardzija, the right-hander and former Notre Dame wide receiver. "The weather is always football weather, so it’s right up my alley."

Making his first appearance in his new home stadium in the Bay Bridge series opener against the A’s, Samardzija turned in his best start of the spring, throwing five scoreless innings and allowing one hit. In his final tune-up before the regular season, Samardzija struck out five, did not walk a batter and retired the final 15 hitters he faced after Billy Burns’ leadoff triple in the first inning as the Giants beat the A’s, 3-1.

Samardzija’s next assignment will be Wednesday in Milwaukee, in the finale of the Giants’ opening series against the Brewers.

"He and Buster (Posey) just got in a good rhythm there and kept it going and I thought that was important for him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "His fastball was running, really nice slider had a lot of depth and bite to it. He really was in command of all his pitches. It was a good way to have your final start before we start things."

Samardzija left Arizona with a 7.20 spring ERA, but that number was inflated by two poor starts in which he allowed 13 runs. Samardzija said he thought he’d still thrown well in those games and his final two starts -- in which he allowed two runs in 11 innings, struck out nine and walked none -- were more indicative of his pitching.

"I’m just happy my arm feels good," said Samardzija, who signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Giants last winter. "Camp is just about, especially for a guy like me who likes to throw hard, just getting the (velocity) up and getting my strength."

Samardzija was constantly in the low-to-mid 90s on Thursday night and threw 74 pitches. He left a two-strike slider hittable to Burns, who lined it to right-center for a triple. But he then retired Chris Coghlan on a pop-up, Josh Reddick on a groundout and Danny Valencia on a flyout to right field to strand Burns at first. Only three more A’s batters hit the ball out of the infield.

"For me that’s about normal - pounding the zone and no walks," Samardzija said. "That’s my game plan. When you don’t walk anyone it’s kind of just up to where that ball goes. As long as you’re making good pitches you’re probably going to get a lot of outs keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate and letting those guys work behind you."

Pagan impressing -- Samardzija got an assist in the third inning from Angel Pagan, who made a sliding catch in left field on Yonder Alonso’s sinking line drive. It was a good read and a lot of ground covered by Pagan, who is making the move from center field to left this spring and Thursday night was contending with the lights and elements at AT&T.

"Great catch," Bochy said. "You know, he’s worked hard in left field. He’s spent a lot of time out there with (outfield coach) Roberto Kelly, working on shagging balls. It’s a different position for him with this change. He’s taken it upon himself to be a good one, and so far he’s done a great job out there."

Samardzija pointed out that Pagan is making the position switch in a contract year and still seems to be embracing it.

"To hear him not complain about it really tells you what type of guy he is and the type of team we have," Samardzija said. "He’s a game-changer out there, for sure."

Et cetera -- Bochy talked at length before the game about his lineup, saying at one point that if the Giants were shut out a couple times this series he might have to rethink hitting his pitcher eighth. Since they scored three runs Thursday, will he keep this lineup going forward?

"It didn’t bust out," Bochy said, grinning. "But I’ll try it again."

* The Giants scored all three of their runs on two-out hits. They also played an error-free game and their pitchers held the A’s to three hits.

"We played crisp baseball," Bochy said. "We had some ups and downs this spring, but it was good to play a normal game."

* Brandon Belt fouled a ball off his shin in the fourth inning and reacted awkwardly, and he appeared to have ice on the area after the game. But he looked limber enough chasing his infant son around the clubhouse.

* Game two of this series has Giants right-hander Jake Peavy facing A’s right-hander Kendall Graveman on Friday night at AT&T Park. First pitch at 7:15 p.m.

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