Questions persist for Giants

Giveaways are a promotional ploy by the Giants to draw fans to Oracle Park when the team is trying to stay within shouting distance of .500, there have been far too many empty seats or the Marlins are on the schedule. Such a ploy should not be needed when the Dodgers are in town, but the Giants are not taking any chances.

“Beat LA” aloha shirts were handed out to the first 20,000 fans Saturday. The rivalry has lost its luster with the Dodgers winning the National League West 10 times in the past 11 seasons. The division race has hardly been thrilling in the past two years with the Dodgers winning by 22 games in 2022 and 16 games last year.

The Giants’ average attendance of 30,606 in 2023 was the lowest in the 24-year history of Pacific Bell, SBC, AT&T and Oracle Park. The Giants are two games into the second half with a 40-43 record as of Friday. They were 46-37 at the same point last year and climbed to 13 games above .500 (54-41) on July 18 before collapsing.

Blake Snell did not last two innings in his first rehab start for Triple-A Sacramento.

Winning three of four at home against the Diamondbacks from July 31 to Aug. 3 did not translate to the ticket office. Just one game against a division rival drew more than 30,000. Three games against the Rays in August drew an average of 26,527. Tampa Bay was 99-63 in 2023, so the Rays were hardly pan-seared flounder.

Empty seats could be plentiful in July with eight of 12 home games against the Tigers (37-45 as of Friday) , White Sox (23-61) and Marlins (29-53). August will not be much better with seven of 10 home games against the Blue Jays (37-44), Rockies (27-54) and A’s (30-54). Need tickets? No problem.

Attendance will likely depend on whether the Giants continue to go with a mix of veterans and youngsters or commit to going young without fretting over the hefty contracts sitting on the bench. The time has come to make that decision so fans will no longer have to wonder who will be in the lineup from one day to the next.

There are far too many questions that have not been answered in the first three months of the season. Can Blake Snell avoid injuries so he will not have to worry about being rushed back? When will Robbie Ray make his debut and in what role? Is Jorge Soler nothing more than Pedro Cerrano with a $42 million contract?

Marco Luciano could be an option at designated hitter if the Giants lose patience with Jorge Soler.

Ray is the only one of the three players who gets the benefit of the doubt for the time being because he is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery. The 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner can opt of his contract after this season, when he is making $23 million, or stay and make $50 million in 2025-26.

Snell had done nothing to prove he was worth a two-year, $62 million deal when he ripped the Giants for trying to rush him back from injuries. The Giants should not stick with a high-priced malcontent to avoid admitting it was a bad move. Trade or release him and take a good long look at 22-year-old Hayden Birdsong.

The Giants are expected to activate Snell, who is nursing a groin injury, when they begin a three-game series with the Blue Jays on July 9. A decent outing or two could attract suitors in need of a veteran left-hander. Snell is scheduled to make his third rehab start on Wednesday at Triple-A Sacramento. He went three innings on 62 pitches at Las Vegas on Friday, allowing three runs on four hits and striking out six, in the River Cats’ 14-8 victory.

Soler has never hit 20 or more homers in consecutive seasons, so the Giants should have known what to expect after he hit 36 with the Marlins last season. Would you rather see Marco Luciano bat lead off as the designated hitter and get an occasional start in the infield or watch Soler flail away at breaking pitchers?

That is yet another question for the Giants to answer.

River Cats have revolving door

Hunter Bishop had two singles Sunday to boost his batting average to .276.

Hunter Bishop is getting to know his two new neighbors in the Sacramento River Cats clubhouse at Sutter Health Park. Pitcher Nick Garcia joined the San Francisco Giants’ Triple A team from the Double A Richmond (Va) Flying Squirrels on May 28. Catcher Jackson Reetz followed May 31 after being designated for assignment by the Giants and accepting the move to Sacramento when he cleared waivers.

This is Bishop’s first stint in Sacramento after arriving from Richmond on May 14. The outfielder has already learned that lockers are leased without an option to buy. The Giants are again playing a game of musical roster spots, so it is unlikely that Bishop will have the same two neighbors for the remainder of the season.

Bishop could be the player to move out if the Giants suddenly have a need for the 2019 first-round draft pick or if he could use further seasoning at Richmond. He has made it to Sacramento despite missing last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Injuries limited Bishop to 134 games in his first three seasons.

That may explain why Bishop and his wife Claudia are staying in a hotel instead of renting an apartment in Sacramento. Claudia is the daughter of former NHL star Claude Lemieux. Her father played for six teams in his 21-year career, so Claudia realizes her husband’s stay in Sacramento could be for weeks or end tomorrow.

As long as Bishop has a locker in Sacramento, he will play for the present rather than think of what the future might hold. His brother Braden , who was also an outfielder, was a frequent passenger on the baseball elevator during his eight-year career. He spent an entire season with one team only twice. His major-league career consisted of just 47 games over three seasons with the Seattle Mariners.

Hunter Bishop gets a fist bump from Rob Riggins, the River Cats assistant hitting coach, before taking the field on Sunday.

“It’s really cool to see guys go up, but it’s not fun to see guys come back. I didn’t know how frequent it was,” said Bishop, who will turn 26 on Tuesday. “My brother did that, so I can remember mentally how it took a toll on him. Like they say, it’s hard to make it (to the major leagues) and even harder to stay. With a team like the Giants, there’s so many moving parts. I don’t know if other organizations are like that.”

Those parts have been on the move in June with the Giants making at least one transaction on 15 of the first 22 days. There were five on Saturday. Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski and pitcher Keaton Winn were placed on the injured list, outfiielder Luis Matos and third baseman David Villar were recalled from the River Cats and Tyler Fitzgerald was optioned to Sacramento just a day after being recalled.

Bishop has been a fixture in Sacramento’s lineup, starting in 18 of 20 games this month. He has played each of the three outfield positions in June with 11 starts in center, three in right and two in left. He has also been the designated hitter in two games. Bishop has batted as high as leadoff and as low as sixth this month.

Four consecutive games in the leadoff spot got Bishop back on track at the plate. He went 9-for-15 with three doubles, a home run, three RBI and seven runs scored against the Albuqeurque Isotopes. His batting average went from .246 on June 4 to .309 on June 8. He attributed his surge to seeing more fastballs in the leadoff spot.

Bishop’s average dipped in the past seven games with a 4-for-27 slump leaving him at .276.. He went 2-for-5 with two infield singles in Sunday’s 5-4 victory over Round Rock. Bishop is not one to fret about his numbers because “there’s going to be really bad games and there’s going to be really good games. It’s about how you can close the gap by making the bad games average and the good games great.”

The Giants drafted Bishop with the 10th overall pick in 2019 after he batted .342 with 22 homers and 63 RBI in 57 games as a junior at Arizona State. He has just two more homers than that in 191 minor-league games, including four in 32 games with the River Cats. And one of those four was of the inside-the-park variety that produced two runs for Sacramento in a 4-1 victory over Oklahoma City on May 15.

First baseman Trenton Brooks scored on the homer, which snapped a seventh-inning tie, and also came home on a Bishop single in the fourth. Bishop could not have been happier when Brooks joined the Giants and made his major-league debut May 28. Brooks made it after being a 17th-round pick ( 512th overall) in 2016.

For as long as Bishop stays in Sacramento, he hopes Brooks never comes back.

Been there, done that, still at it

One perfect inning of relief Wednesday night did nothing more than lower Drew Pomeranz’s ERA to 7.71. And his appearance for the Dodgers’ Triple A affiliate in Oklahoma City came with the Sacramento River Cats batting in the eighth inning and leading 4-1 at Sutter Health Park. Pomeranz should have been handed a mop on his way to the mound.

Oklahoma City did not score after Drew Avans led off with a homer, so there was little chance of a comeback. And there was also little interest in a rally because several fans, including those wearing Dodgers shirts and caps, were already on their way home. The attendance was announced as 4,293, but you could have bet a foul ball would hit an empty seat and won.

Drew Pomeranz and his son Tate

Pomeranz was a National League All-Star with the San Diego Padres in 1916. The left-hander earned a World Series ring in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox. And here he was Wednesday night, closing out a loss with his seventh inning of work in seven appearances this season. That is a far cry from his total of 62 starts and 340.1 innings in 2016-17.

At least his wife Carolyn, 3-year-old son Tate and in-laws were on hand until the end because they were obligated to stay. Carolyn took advantage of her husband’s six-day stay in Sacramento to visit her parents in Orinda and bring them to the game Wednesday. Tate enjoyed a cup of ice cream and was entertained by Dinger, the River Cats mascot.

The 35-year-old Pomeranz has not pitched in the major leagues since 2021 when he appeared in 27 games with the Padres. He has pitched for seven major-league teams, including the A’s and Giants, but not the one that drafted him. The Indians selected Pomeranz with the fifth overall pick in 2010 and then traded him to the Rockies in August 2011.

Tate Pomeranz pays more attention to his cup of ice cream than to the game.

His major-league debut came a month later and he earned the victory by allowing two hits in five scoreless innings as the Rockies beat the Reds 4-1. Pomeranz was traded in December 2013 to the A’s and optioned in July 2014 to Sacramento when the team was the A’s Triple A affiliate. The A’s then traded Pomeranz to the Padres five months later.

That proved fortuitous for Pomeranz. Not only was he voted to the NL All-Star team in 2016, but he also pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game in front of a partisan Padres crowd at Petco Park. The All-Star excitement did not last long, however. When the season resumed after the three-day break, Pomeranz had to pack his bags after being shipped to the Red Sox.

Pormeranz appeared in 26 games, including 11 starts, in 2018 when the Red Sox won their ninth world championship. This is his 14th professional season and could turn out to be his third in a row without any major-league action. None of that seemed to matter Wednesday as Pomeranz held his son as Tate stood on a railing along the right-field foul line.

The thought of Tate watching his father pitch in the majors will drive Pomeranz even though he is nearly out of gas after appearing in 369 games, making 204 starts and pitching 1,191.2 innings.

Majors so close, but yet so far

Oklahoma City left fielder Miguel Vargas is knocked off his feet when he is hit by a pitch on his left arm in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Sacramento at Sutter Health Park.

Jorge Soler of the Giants and Jason Heyward of the Dodgers are spending a few days in the minors as they shake off the rust from being sidelined with injuries.

Drew Avans is greeted in the dugout after leading off with a homer for Oklahoma City. Catcher Chris Okey falls with the ball in his glove after catching a foul popup.

Oklahoma City’s Drew Pomeranz visits with his 3-year-old son Tate. A youngster joins Sacramento shortstop Donovan Walton on the field for the national anthem.