ORACLE PARK — In the seventh inning of Monday night’s 6-5 loss to the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants right fielder Steven Duggar fielded his first ricochet at Oracle Park.
Moved while newly-acquired Kevin Pillar gets his bearings, Duggar — who had not taken fly balls in Oracle’s tricky right field until before the home opener last week — played a high drive from Francisco Mejia perfectly. The ball glanced off the protruding rightmost Levi’s scalloped logo, and right to Duggar, who kept the ball in the corner, rather than pursuing too deeply and getting out-played by the stadium. He caught it on a bounce, and fired to second to hold Mejia to a double.
“It hit off the left, and it kicked back to me,” Duggar said. “That’s just something I’ve tried to make an adjustment to … Everyone in this locker room has to make adjustments.”
After starting 11 straight games to start the season and re-learning right field on the fly in one of the league’s toughest parks to play the position following the acquisition of Kevin Pillar, Duggar finally gets a day off on Tuesday. It was a day off that was supposed to happen in the second game of the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before Tuesday’s game, he was still in right, learning, just like the rest of the newly-constituted Giants outfield.
“What I noticed, when I was out there the first day taking BP, there’s a lot of nooks and crannies out there, and you need to put yourself in the best position possible to make a play,” Duggar said. “When I noticed that ball was starting to carry a little bit further than I thought it would, the last thing that I wanted to do was run into that, go too far in. It might hit off something, so I was trying to keep the ball in that corner.”
The day off isn’t any kind of indication that Duggar’s surgically-repaired right shoulder is ailing, but comes at a good time for the 25-year old, though he won’t admit it. He’s seen his batting average slide from a high of .292 in Los Angeles to just .222 entrant Tuesday’s action.
“I feel good, shoulder feels good, body feels good, so it gives me a day to work on some things, getting prepared for later in the night,” Duggar said. “Offensively, I’ve probably missed a couple pitches that I probably should have hit in the last couple days, but I think I’m just trying to make little adjustments along the way and keep it moving.”
“I knew it would be one game in this series,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “I decided to give him the night off, that way he can have the day game.”
With more time on Tuesday, not having to prepare to face Padres left-hander Joey Lucchesi, Duggar was able to get more cage work, fixing some of the kinks in his swing. While he gets the day off against a lefty, Tyler Austin — acquired on Monday — will get to hit, after going 1-for-2 with a walk and a tough grab on a pop-up into the swirling China Basin winds while starting at first base. Austin began taking balls in the outfield during batting practice,as he works to acclimate himself to left field at Oracle Park. He hasn’t played the outfield in more than two years.
With the constant shuffling on the roster, Pillar — coming from seven years in Toronto — has been eased in by playing center, and Austin will be eased in by playing first, though he will eventually figure in as a right-handed left field bat.
“New team, new league … with me, it’s just getting to know them a little bit, and what’s their best fit, where in the lineup, where to play,” Bochy said. “Tyler Austin, he hasn’t played in the outfield for a while, but I need to get him out there. We need to give him some work in left field, because I see that happening … By the time we hit the road, he’ll be ready to play left field.”
San Francisco will next hit the road in a week, traveling to face the Washington Nationals at 4:05 p.m. Pacific on April 16.
— A day after taking a 93-mph fastball off the shoulder and then off the face, Gerardo Parra is back in the lineup and playing left, while Pillar is starting in center and leading off. Having both Pillar and Duggar to trade off center and right, plus Parra’s ability to play all three outfield spots — though Bochy was doubtful he’d have to play center, given the fact he has both Pillar and Duggar — San Francisco’s bench is more flexible than it was at the start of the year.
Yangervis Solarte — getting his second straight start at second in light of his numbers against lefties — can also play the outfield, as can Brandon Belt, who has done so this series.
“It does allow you to go with one less outfielder,” Bochy said. “That was the plan.”
“It’s only going to get better,” Bochy said. “He’s adjusting to the hip being fixed, the ability for him to release those hips when he swings, so it’s going to get more comfortable. I’ve always said it takes timne, when you’ve had a surgery, subconsciously, you’re still a little hesitant maybe, even though you don’t want to be. Your brain’s telling you, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready to do this,’ and you can see it getting better. I think you’ll see more and more of that.