Thomas Neal Could Help Giants' Power Outage

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants mulled a trade for Jermaine Dye last summer and plenty more rumors connected the two parties over the winter, when the slugging Bay Area native became a free agent.

But the Giants passed on Dye—maybe because they have a younger version in their midst.

Thomas Neal could be the kind of homegrown home run hitter the Giants haven't produced since the likes of Matt Williams and Will Clark. Neal, 22, turned heads last season while smacking tape-measure shots in the high Class A California League and further boosted his stock when he followed up with a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League. Now he'll step into big league camp for the first time hoping to make another impression.

When general manager Brian Sabean was asked which first-time campers he'll be most excited to see, Neal's name was the first one to drop.

"I think it's fair to say we've all taken notice," Sabean said.

Nobody needs to tell newly-promoted Double-A Richmond manager Andy Skeels about what Neal can do to help a ballclub on a daily basis. Skeels managed Neal in San Jose last year, and low Class Augusta the season before that. Both teams finished with the best record in all of minor league baseball.

"He took a lot of pride in that," Skeels said. "Talk about a joy to manage. He will do anything and everything you want him to do to become a major leaguer. He worked to improve his defense and as a baserunner. He seeks out answers. He takes what he learns and applies it. I don't see many things getting in his way."

A draft-and-follow selection out of Riverside (Calif.) CC, Neal missed a year after dislocating his shoulder in a mishap on the basepaths in short-season ball.

Skeels said playing everyday helped Neal lose some baby fat and learn how to focus. By the end of the Cal League season, he understood pitch patterns and made adjustments within at-bats, as evidenced by his final batting line: .337/.431/.579 with 22 homers.


• The Giants outrighted first baseman Jesus Guzman to Triple-A Fresno after they re-signed catcher Bengie Molina.

• The Giants signed righthanders Todd Wellemeyer and Guillermo Mota to minor league contracts. Mota will attempt to win a job in the bullpen, while Wellemeyer will be considered as a No. 5 starter if 20-year-old rookie Madison Bumgarner has a rough spring.