Nightengale's Notebook: Bruce Bochy says 'never say never' on dugout return; who's on the MLB trading block?

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Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY
·8 min read
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Bruce Bochy walked away after winning three World Series titles with the San Francisco Giants a year ago, but instead of strolling into the Hall of Fame in a year, there’s a pit stop he may still make.

Bochy, 66, enjoys his job as senior advisor with the Giants and working with the young minor leaguers in the organization, but if someone calls seeking his availability about managing later this summer or this winter, he told USA TODAY Sports that he plans to at least listen.

“As long as I did it, you’re going to miss it,’’ said Bochy, who recently spent two weeks in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Giants’ minor-league camp. “You miss the dugout. The competition. There’s so much about the game that you miss being in the dugout and running a ballgame.

“I’m really happy doing what I’m doing, but you can never say never in this game, or anything in life. It would have to be the right fit. It would have to be a great situation.

“But that’s not driving me right now. I love doing work here with the Giants.’’

Bruce Bochy led the Giants to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Bruce Bochy led the Giants to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Bochy, of course, would be delaying a probable nomination on the Today’s Era Committee ballot of the Hall of Fame this winter if he returns to the dugout, but he insists it’s a non-factor.

“I’m not assuming anything,’’ he said, “on that end.’’

Bochy, just one of 11 managers to win at least 2,000 games, while leading his teams to four pennants and three World Series titles in his 25-year career, is a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame.

And just because you’re in the Hall of Fame, as Tony La Russa proved with the Chicago Whtie Sox, it doesn’t restrict you from a return.

“Tony’s a great story,’’ Bochy says, “it tells me why you just don’t say no. You never know. I wouldn’t rule anything out.’’

Olympic glory

Adrian Gonzalez, who last played in the major leagues in 2018, is working out these days in hopes of leading Mexico to glory in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Gonzalez, the five-time All-Star who will be 39 in May, says that it’s always been a dream to represent Mexico in the Olympics.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,’’ Gonzalez said. “I’ve talked to guys like Adam Jones, Ian Kinsler and guys who want to play in the Olympics. We never had a chance when we played in the big leagues, and now we finally do.’’

Adrian Gonzalez during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Adrian Gonzalez during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Gonzalez is playing for the expansion Guadalajara Mariachis of the Mexican League to prepare for the Olympics. Mexico is one of four teams to qualify for the six-team Olympic Field, joining Japan, South Korea and Israel.

Gonzalez isn’t using the Mexican League or the Olympics to showcase his skills, but simply as a matter of pride, having already represented Mexico in youth tournaments, the Caribbean World Series and the World Baseball Classic.

“I’m looking forward to the Mariachis and making the Olympic team,’’ he said, “nothing past that. That’s all I want.’’

Once the Olympics are over, well, then he can officially retire.

Corbin Burnes making history

Corbin Burnes has a 0.37 ERA in his first four starts.
Corbin Burnes has a 0.37 ERA in his first four starts.

Certainly, no one has dominated the game like Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets the past four years, so it may sounds sacrilegious to say, but one GM uttered the words anyways.

“Everyone talks about deGrom, understandably so,’’ he said, “but I’m telling you, the best pitcher in the game right now is Corbin Burnes (of the Milwaukee Brewers). What he’s doing is mind-boggling. I’ll take him over anyone.’’

– In Burnes’ first four starts this year, he has struck out 40 batters without giving up a walk. It’s the longest four-game streak by a starter at any point during the season since at least 1893.

– He has a 0.37 ERA, giving up one run in 24 ⅓ innings, and has pitched 18 consecutive scoreless innings.

– He is yielding a .098 batting average, and has a 0.33 WHIP (walks and hits per nine innings).

– His control is so uncanny that of the 85 batters he as faced this year, only 10 have reached a three-ball count, only one had a 3-0 count.

Scouting legend dies

The baseball world lost a scouting icon when Arizona Diamondbacks special assistant, Bill Bryk, 70, died, leaving the scouting fraternity in mourning.

The Diamondbacks are exchanging ideas to preserve his legacy and may either dedicate a stadium seat in the scouting section in his honor or name their tryout camps after Bryk.

“Bill was bigger than life,’’ Minnesota Twins scout Billy Milos said. “He helped so many people, in and out of the game of baseball. He connected with everyone. He was the king of workouts. In the history of baseball, nobody had more tryout camps than Bill Bryk.’’

LaTroy Hawkins, who grew up in Gary, Indiana, had a 21-year career as a pitcher, but perhaps never would have made it without Bryk.

Bryk was the first scout to discover Hawkins, and the man who convinced him to quit catching and become a pitcher.

“I remember going to a tryout camp at Block Stadium in East Chicago where Kenny Lofton was from,’’ Hawkins said. “That’s where Bill Bryk saw me. The following year he came to see me in high school. I hit a ball to left field that I thought was gone, and I was already getting in a trot, but it didn’t go out. So, I had to hustle to second base.

“When the inning was over, Bryk came to the fence and said, 'Hawkins, before you get into your Cadillac next time, make sure it’s out.’ Well, either the next at-bat or the one after, I hit a homer and I got into my Cadillac. I crossed home plate and said, “What that far enough for you?’ He laughed and told that story to everyone forever.’’

That was Bryk, as Chicago Cubs scout Jake Ciarrachi says, one of a kind. He had so many tryout camps in hopes of helping kids get a shot.

“He always wanted to give players a chance,’’ Ciarrachi says, “especially from the independent leagues. Nobody had more tryout camps.’’

Says D'backs scout Chris Carminucci: “He was a mentor, a best friend, a brother, everything you’d want. We spoke every day for 10 years. He was an advocate for the underdogs, fighting for the guy that nobody fought for. He would talk to everybody.

“Kids these days call it networking. He called it friendship.’’

Around the league...

Blake Snell and Yu Darvish stole the headlines this winter, but several scouts and baseball executives polled believe that the best of the Padres’ additions is Joe Musgrove. He became the first Padres pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter and has been their ace with a 1.04 ERA and a 12.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first four starts.

– Several scouts predicted this spring that Mets star Francisco Lindor could struggle in the NL East given his problems handling the fastball, and the division filled with several of the finest fastball pitchers in baseball. Sure enough, Lindor is off to a rough start, hitting .204 with a meager .286 slugging percentage, one homer and three RBI in his first 15 games.

Javier Baez is a free agent after the 2021 season.
Javier Baez is a free agent after the 2021 season.

– Cubs shortstop Javier Baez, who turned down a contract extension worth $180 million a year ago, as ESPN’s Buster Olney reported, may want a mulligan on that decision. His value is plummeting with 34 strikeouts in his first 68 at-bats.

– If the Nationals fall out of the race, three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is a valuable commodity. Yet, considering he is 37, has no-trade rights and is earning $35 million, the return may not be nearly what Washington wants.

– Clubs are salivating at the possibility of acquiring Rockies right-hander German Marquez at the trade deadline. He is in the third year of a five-year, $43 million contract and is owed just $7.5 million this year, $11 million in 2022 and $15 million in 2023 with a club option for $16 million in 2024. He could be a top three starter for most teams in baseball.

– Congrats to Orioles starter Matt Harvey who picked up his first victory since July 13, 2019. He had been 0-5 with an 8.16 ERA with three different teams. “To be honest,’’ Harvey said, “I didn’t know if it was ever going to happen again."

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– Giants catcher Curt Casali entered the weekend having caught five consecutive shutouts, one of only five catchers to achieve the feat since 1900, and the first to do it with five different starting pitchers.

– Can you imagine facing the Brewers in a wild-card game or a best-of-five opening series? They’ve got Burnes and Brandon Woodruff at the front end of the rotation and Devin Williams and Josh Hader at the back end of the bullpen. Hader has never looked better, giving up just one hit in six outings through Friday.

– The Giants could bring in a haul of prospects with starters Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez and Alex Wood all on the last year of their contracts.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB news, rumors: Bruce Bochy open to return, trade block takes shape