San Francisco Giants send 20 players to Triple-A Fresno

Heath Hembree, who recorded 15 saves last season for the Fresno Grizzlies, was among 20 players sent to Triple-A on Friday by the San Francisco Giants.

The San Francisco Giants made their first wholesale roster cuts of spring training Friday, sending 21 players to minor-league camp and 20 to Triple-A Fresno.

Reassigned to Fresno were pitchers Brett Bochy, Boof Bonser, Steve Edlefsen, Heath Hembree, Mitch Lively, Shane Loux and Michael Kickham; catcher Tyler LaTorre; infielders Ricky Oropesa, Adam Duvall and Brock Bond; and outfielder Gary Brown.

Optioned to Triple-A were pitchers Jake Dunning, Chris Heston, Dan Otero and Sandy Rosario; infielders Ehire Adrianza and Nick Noonan; and outfielders Roger Kieschnick and Juan Perez.

Pitcher Edwin Escobar was optioned to Class-A San Jose.

What’s the difference between being optioned and reassigned? Players on the Giants’ 40-man roster must be optioned; non-roster players are reassigned.

This doesn’t guarantee all 20 of these players will be wearing Grizzlies uniforms come April 4. It just means they’ll be playing in Triple-A games during spring training, unless the Giants need extra bodies.

Fresno Grizzlies getting chance to leave Giant impression

The Fresno Grizzlies’ 2013 season opener is three weeks away — April 4  at Chukchansi Park — making this a good time to check up on how our Boys of Summer are doing in spring training.

With the parent-club San Francisco Giants sending so many players to the World Baseball Classic, more minor -leaguers are getting a chance to show what they can do in Cactus League competition. Through Thursday’s games, seven of the 10 players with the most at-bats (Kensuke Tenaka, Nick Noonan, Cole Gillespie, Francisco Peguero, Roger Kieschnick, Gary Brown and Brett Pill) are thought to be on the bubble between Triple-A and the majors.

Early last week, I made an attempt to predict the Grizzlies’ opening day roster. (The list would look slightly different if I did it today.) Here are some of the latest goings on as the regular reason approaches:

*** Brett Pill is expected to be out three to four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday. Terrible timing for Pill, who is fighting for a roster spot and has nothing left to prove in Triple-A. The timing means Pill could open the season on the disabled list, or in Fresno on a rehab assignment. Pill appeared in 48 games last season for the World Series champs.

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Predicting the 2013 Fresno Grizzlies

Brock Bond, who boasts a .410 career on-base percentage, is predicted to return to the Fresno Grizzlies for another season.

One month from today, on April 4, the Fresno Grizzlies will trot onto the infield in their spiffy home whites for the first of 72 Pacific Coast League ballgames at Chukchansi Park.

You can practically taste the hot dogs and Tecate Light.

In what’s become an annual tradition, here are my predictions for the Grizzlies’ 25-man opening day roster. The last two years I’ve gotten about 20 names correct. It’s inevitable that someone on this list will get injured, and the San Francisco Giants typically stash a couple players in “extended spring training.” There’s also the possibility the Giants have someone in their minor-league camp ticketed for Triple-A that I don’t know about. We don’t get much news from Indian School Park during spring training.

So in other words, this ain’t no can of corn. But here goes:

Catchers (2): Jackson Williams, Guillermo Quiroz

(Both are fairly obvious choices. Tyler LaTorre will also figure in the mix.)

Infielders (6): Brett Pill, Brock Bond, Nick Noonan, Kensuke Tanaka, Ehire Adrianza, Tony Abreu

(The Giants don’t necessarily need a backup 1B with Buster Posey set to play 20-25 games there. Pill, who has a minor-league option, could be the odd man out. … Tanaka has told reporters he’d accept Triple-A assignment, so start brushing up on your Japanese. … Abreu has yet to play in the Cactus League, so Wilson Valdez is predicted to win the Giants’ backup infield job.)

Outfielders (4): Gary Brown, Francisco Peguero, Roger Kieschnick, Juan Perez

(This assumes Cole Gillespie makes the big-league roster. … Peguero is certainly giving the Giants something to think about, but they probably want him to play regularly.

Pitchers (13): Yusmeiro Petit, Chris Heston, Michael Kickham, Boof Bonser, Shane Loux, Heath Hembree, Jean Machi, Dan Otero, Mitch Lively, Scott Proctor, Steve Edlefsen, Sandy Rosario, Brett Bochy

(Jose Mijares’ injury means there are two open spots in the Giants’ bullpen. Chad Gaudin and Dan Runzler appear like the current front-runners. … Ryan Sadowski and Mason Tobin could also figure in; both were sent to minor-league camp last week to rehab injuries.)

4:50 p.m. update: I just realized Tony Abreu is on the Giants’ 40-man roster. So that probably gives him the edge over Wilson Valdez for a backup infield job.

March 6 update:  Guess I missed the news that Todd Linden re-signed with the Giants on a minor-league deal.  So there’s a very good chance the Grizzlies’ all-time leader in just about every offensive category will be back with the club.

They might be Grizzlies

Cole Gillespie, left, played against the Fresno Grizzlies for the last four season. He could be wearing a Grizzlies uniform in 2013.

After whetting your baseball-loving appetites in Tuesday’s post, today we’ll take a closer look at some San Francisco Giants prospects and minor-league free agents that could wind up with the Fresno Grizzlies.

Keep in mind this is all conjecture. No baseball player shows up to spring training hoping they’ll be sent to Triple-A. But in reality the Giants have few openings. By most accounts, there are only three vacancies on the 25-man roster: a backup infielder (to replace Ryan Theriot), a fifth outfielder and relief pitcher.

Of those who played for the Grizzlies last season, Nick Noonan should have a chance at the extra infielder spot while Roger Kieschnick and Francisco Peguero could be the fifth outfielder. The final bullpen slot looks to be a competition between Ramon Ramirez (brought back on a minor-league deal), Chad Gaudin, Jean Machi and perhaps Heath Hembree.

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Bullard’s Pacheco, Central’s Rodriguez earn Grizzlies Hot Stove awards

Central’s Rachel Rodriguez. (GARY KAZANJIAN/THE FRESNO BEE)

Niko Pacheco of Bullard and Rachel Rodriguez from Central will be honored Thursday as the prep baseball and softball players of the year at the Fresno Grizzlies’ 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove Gala.

The Kerman baseball squad is the team of the year and the Lions’ Jay Preuss is coach of the year.

The Al Radka Award winner also will be announced during the Hot Stove Gala at the Fresno Convention Center in downtown Fresno. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

The gala features  guest speakers Ryan Vogelsong of the San Francisco Giants and former Fresno State star Doug Fister of the Detroit Tigers.

As juniors last spring, Pacheco and Rodriguez helped lead their respective teams to Central Section D-I titles. Preuss’ Kerman team won the D-IV baseball title.

Baseball events dot Fresno calendar next week

Ryan Vogelsong pitched for the 2001 Fresno Grizzlies, going 3-3 with a 2.79 ERA in 10 starts. He also started the 2011 season with the Triple-A club before getting called up to the Giants and in 2012 started on Opening Day for the team while on a rehab assignment.

Spring training is right around the corner and Fresno also is gearing up for the start of the baseball season.

Next week, the Giants’ World Champions Trophy Tour comes to the Valley with several stops — notably Chuckchansi Park in Fresno on Feb. 5 from 6-8 p.m. The tour and both the 2010 and 2012 World Series trophies also will be at the Porterville College Gymnasium on Feb. 4 from 5-7 p.m., at the Reedley Community Center on Feb. 6 from 2-4 p.m. and in Sanger, at a site still to be determined, from 6-8 p.m. The tour also will make several other Valley stops, including Merced (Feb. 11), Los Banos (Feb. 12), Modesto (Feb. 19) and Atwater (Feb. 20).

Also next week, the Fresno Grizzlies host the 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove on Feb. 7 at the New Exhibit Hall Convention Center in downtown Fresno. Doors open at 5:30 pm. Guest speakers include team alum and current Giants star Ryan Vogelsong and Tigers star Doug Fister, the Merced native and former Fresno State star who pitched in the World Series this past fall against the Giants.

On Feb. 8, Fister will be inducted into the Fresno State Wall of Fame during the Dugout Club‘s Double Play Dinner at Clovis Veterans Memorial Hall as part of the baseball program’s alumni weekend that includes a golf tournament earlier in the day Feb. 8 and the annual alumni baseball game at Beiden Field at 2 p.m. Feb. 9.

Some season openers of note: The Bulldogs baseball team on Feb. 15-17 against UC Santa Barbara; the Bulldogs softball team hosts the Fresno State Kick-Off on Feb. 8-10 at Bulldog Diamond. The Fresno Pacific baseball home opener is Feb. 8 vs. Cal State Stanislaus. In the JC world, the Fresno City baseball team opens Friday at Sac City.