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PEORIA, Ariz. — The COVID-19 pandemic proved the old adage that bad news travels fast, but it appears good news also makes the rounds rather quickly.

It didn’t take long for an announcement from the California Department of Public Health to reach the practice field at Scottsdale Stadium or the dugout at the Peoria Sports Complex where the Giants lost 9-3 to the Padres in eight innings on Friday evening.

When California officials revealed plans that could allow the Giants to host at least 8,000 fans at Oracle Park by the team’s home opener on April 9, it was met with resounding joy from a team that dearly missed its supporters last year.

“We want to share this experience with the fans and in some ways, the game is not fully the game without our fans around,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said.

Giants catcher Curt Casali, who signed a one-year deal with the club during the offseason, echoed Kapler’s sentiments. Related Articles

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“There was some buzz,” Casali said. “I think there was more buzz when my wife told me that it was official. It came out in the news and you know she was ecstatic because our families didn’t get to see us play last year in person and it’s a big treat to have a family member in the big leagues and it’s an awesome experience for us to be able to share it with them.”

Casali had surgery to remove the hamate bone in his left hand over the offseason and was slightly delayed in making his spring training debut. He said he felt an itch to return to the field Friday, particularly because he wants to impress a new organization and coaching staff, and was motivated by his chance to play in front of fans for the first time since last spring.

“Walking out to the field today, even with the small amount of fans out there, it was it was a different feeling,” Casali said. “You have a pep in your step and honestly that’s why we play this game.”

Casali said he often gets off to slow starts at the plate during spring training, but he made an immediate impression Friday by doubling down the left field line off Padres right-hander Emilio Pagan. Pagan will be a candidate to close games at the back of a tough San Diego bullpen, but the Giants had their best inning against him on Friday as Casali, Wilmer Flores, Darin Ruf and Joey Bart all recorded base hits against him in a three-run frame. If at first you don’t succeed…

The Padres lineup is loaded and there’s little doubt around the industry San Diego poses a significant threat to the Dodgers’ uninterrupted reign atop the National League West.

It’s not often a team rolls out all of its regulars in a spring training game, but that’s exactly what the Padres did on Friday at the Peoria Sports Complex. The Giants’ lineup didn’t measure up to what the Padres offered (and it probably won’t in the regular season, either), but San Diego’s cast of stars provided a great measuring stick for a number of pitchers competing for roster spots.

Giants Rule 5 draft choice Dedniel Núñez has never pitched above A-ball, but when he entered Friday’s game in the third inning, he was greeted by two of baseball’s $300 million men, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado.

For a moment, Núñez appeared overmatched.

The hard-throwing right-hander gave up an opposite-field single to Tatis on the first pitch of his outing and then served up a RBI double into the gap on a fastball to Machado.

It’s reasonable to expect any young pitcher to feel the heat, but Núñez didn’t melt.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Núñez later explained. “I was more anxious because I wanted to strike them out and I couldn’t do that.”

The former Mets prospect responded by relying on an excellent slider the rest of the inning as he induced a flyout from first baseman Eric Hosmer before striking out Tommy Pham swinging and punching out Wil Myers looking with his breaking ball.

“His slider is absolutely ridiculous,” Casali, who caught Núñez, said. “It’s a wipeout pitch. It’s one of the best I’ve seen. I’m really excited for that.”

Even the best pitchers in the majors will struggle against Tatis and Machado, but it was impressive to see Núñez bounce back against a trio of players with All-Star potential. After a quick 1-2-3 outing in his spring debut against the Rangers, Núñez may have shown the Giants more about what he’s capable of in a game when he initially struggled. Insurance for Belt? Not so fast

The Giants announced Friday they agreed to terms on a minor league deal with power-hitting first baseman Justin Bour, a first baseman with three career 20-home run season.

Bour’s addition initially appeared to be an insurance policy for first baseman Brandon Belt, who only began baseball activities Wednesday due to a bout with a non-COVID illness. The Giants have expressed concern about having enough time for him to be ready for Opening Day, but the club didn’t actually make the move with Bour in response to Belt’s extended absence.

Unlike the vast majority of veteran players the Giants have signed to minor league contracts in recent months, Bour did not receive an invitation to major league spring training and will instead report to minor league camp in Scottsdale on April 1.

In other words, the team has no plans for Bour to be ready for Opening Day either.

Why pursue Bour? The Giants need quality depth at the upper levels of the minor leagues and he appears to be a solid candidate to open the year at Triple-A.

Bour is familiar with Kapler as he spent part of the 2018 season with the Phillies before traveling overseas in 2020 where he played for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. Bour hit 17 home runs and posted an .760 OPS last year, so it’s been a few years since he was impressing in the middle of the Miami Marlins lineup, but he’ll have the respect of others in the organization who have played abroad and attempted to rebuild their careers in the United States.

“I think for him, he’ll be able to fit right in to the clubhouse,” Darin Ruf, who spent three seasons playing in the Korean Baseball Organization, said. “From what I hear, he’s a great teammate. And you know just from the times that I’ve seen him on TV on Intentional Talk and things like that he seems like quite a guy.”

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SF Giants plan to significantly expand Oracle Park capacity for May home games

With the Dodgers and Padres set to make trips to Oracle Park in May, the Giants are hoping to receive a huge boost from the home crowd for highly anticipated divisional matchups.

As a greater percentage of the population receives COVID-19 vaccines, the Giants have plans to expand Oracle Park capacity to 50% for their eight home games in May. A city of San Francisco health order permitted the franchise to host up to 8,900 fans at its first homestand of the season, but the team has already received approval for capacity to increase to nearly 10,000 for the club’s upcoming seven-game homestand featuring series against the Marlins and Rockies.

The Giants are able to sell about 1,000 additional tickets for upcoming series due to new “vaccinated-only” sections that will make their debut beginning Thursday, April 22 when the team hosts the Marlins. The Giants will not require social distancing in the vaccinated-only sections, which will be spread in various locations around the ballpark according to team spokesperson Staci Slaughter. Related Articles

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Children 16 and under will be allowed to sit in vaccinated-only sections with proof of a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken within 72 hours of first pitch. Kids aged two and under are not subject to any coronavirus-related restrictions.

Giants season-ticket holders will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for May home games and will receive an email from the organization on Wednesday with details on how to secure seats. The Giants plan to offer eight-game packages to season-ticket holders in May, allowing all season-ticket holders the chance to attend each home game.

The Giants will also make four-game ticket packages and one-game ticket sales available.

Barring any changes from San Francisco health officials, fans will still be required to show proof of a full vaccination or a negative coronavirus test result upon entering the ballpark. Slaughter said the Giants believe around 60% of their season-ticket holders are already fully vaccinated and that number is expected to increase in the coming weeks.

Despite Oracle Park’s capacity being restricted to 8,900 for the first homestand, the Giants were unable to sell out any of their six home games, including their home opener against the Rockies. With the team off to a 10-6 start, a larger share of fans able to provide proof of full vaccinations and marquee series against two division opponents, the Giants are optimistic their crowd sizes will increase in May.

The Giants are planning to include their May 31 home game against the Angels in their June ticket packages, which are expected to go on sale in mid-May.

Fans who attend games at Oracle Park in May will continue to be required to wear face coverings concessions sales will continue to take place through the MLB Ballpark mobile app.

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