Giants Return to SF for Home Opener at Revised Oracle Park

With the bullpens now beyond the outfield fences, the ballpark may play smaller

On the first day of Summer Camp, Mike Yastrzemski learned something about the new fences at Oracle Park. Yastrzemski ran into the wall in center while playing defense.

"It stays up," he said, smiling. 

The new bullpens are, indeed, very well built. They drew rave reviews from pitchers and members of the staff, enough to make you wonder why the Giants didn't make this change a decade ago. The visiting bullpen, in particular, figures to be a fun addition for fans, with a large deck surrounding it on two sides for anyone who would like to heckle Kenley Jansen before a future ninth inning. 

But as the Giants return home tonight, they're still a bit curious about what the changes will mean for hitters. They played most of their simulated games during the afternoon, when the ballpark plays more fair, but in an exhibition against the A's last Tuesday, the ball seemed to be flying. 

Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson homered and Oakland's Chad Pinder hit a shot that inexplicably was ruled a triple by replay. None of those homers went over the new fences, though. Thus far, all the Giants have to go on is those workouts and sim games.

"In our modified camp the ball did jump out of the ballpark during batting practice, it did jump out of the ballpark during our sim games," manager Gabe Kapler said. "But my caveat there is that we played those games during the day, we played those games and had that experience in generally very warm weather, and we played those games without much wind. 

"It's tough to tell whether that's about the new dimensions of the ballpark or was it just the warmth and the day games, or was it something else. It would be hard for me to find the right variable there."

We're dealing with the smallest of sample sizes here, but there was perhaps something instructive about that A's exhibition. Yastrzemski's homer shot out to right and Pinder's blast kept carrying and carrying until it hit the first row of seats in the arcade. Pinder is right-handed, too. 

As replay officials looked at the play over and over again, broadcaster Mike Krukow pointed out a factor nobody had previously talked about. The Giants sealed up their portwalk archways so that fans would not gather and try to catch a glimpse of the game through the right field wall, limiting, at least to some extent, the amount of wind that comes from the cove and pushes through right field. Perhaps that will keep a few balls from getting knocked down as they get up in the air in right and right-center. 

That change will be temporary, as the gate will reopen whenever fans return. But the new bullpens are here to stay, and outfielder Austin Slater noticed an immediate change that might help defenders as much as hitters. 

"The fences are lower and I think that's going to play. Maybe we'll see more robbed homers," he said. 

The fence was lowered from eight feet to seven, and it was brought in eight feet in dead center, five in left-center, and six in Triples Alley. What really stood out to Slater, though, was a change that was made where the previous bullpens lived for 20 years. 

[RELATED: Top prospect Marco Luciano impresses with defense]

The Giants lost a lot of bleacher seats when they cut into their outfield, but they made up some of that by adding a couple additional rows of premium seats down the lines. That cuts out some foul territory in a park that already didn't have much of it. It also added a new wrinkle for corner outfielders. 

"I think that's going to come into play more," Slater said. "A couple of feet in center, you might see a couple more homers. But I think as far as playing the lines, guys are going to have to start sliding sometimes before they even hit dirt down the lines. It's going to make right and left field a little tougher. I think that'll be interesting. That's something that hasn't really been talked about."

As Giants return home, will remodeled Oracle Park really play smaller? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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