ORACLE PARK — Even before he went down with back tightness a week and a half ago, it was apparent that Giants outfielder Steven Duggar wasn’t quite right.
Already a thin-framed speedster, Duggar had visibly dropped weight. By manager Bruce Bochy’s reckoning, 10-15 pounds. Whether or not that contributed to the injury is up for debate, but one thing’s for sure: Bochy tried to help.
“It’s not like he had room,” Bochy said before Friday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I told him to follow me around. Eat what I eat, you won’t have any problems. We’ll fix that.”
Not only has Duggar put some weight back on, but on Friday, he ran the bases, hit and threw from the outfield. He’s all set to head out on Saturday for a rehab stint in Sacramento, where he will get his timing back before re-joining the big club.
“He’s put on some weight, which I like,” Bochy said. “I think that’s going to help his strength and stamina. He’s going to go down there and get some reps and get his timing down.”
Duggar’s first season as a full-time starter had been tougher than his rookie campaign in 2018. His slash line slipped from .255/.303/.390 in 41 games to .234/.277/.343 in 67 games this year. The hope is that with a break from the everyday rigors, he’ll get himself right.
“I think as a young player they might put a little stress on themselves, and that can add to it, losing the weight,” Bochy said. “This gives him a chance to catch his breath and get it back and go down there and get some swings and get back up here.”
Brandon Crawford recorded his 13th double of the season in Thursday’s gamea gainst the Diamondbacks, and is now hitting .308 (12-for-39) with seven doubles and eight RBI in his past 11 games. Before that, Crawford had been mired in a season-long slump, hitting .202 with five homers and 56 strikeouts to 23 walks over his first 64 games, with a .245 batting average on balls in play (career baBIP: .296).
“He just looks a little freer up there,” Bochy said. “He looked like he’d lock himself off, and wasn’t allowing him to get through it as much, so he looks more free and easy. He’s getting to pitches he wasn’t quite getting to.”
Longoria struggling: Third baseman Evan Longoria is hitting a career-worst .222 this season, but that’s been brought down by a horrid stretch as of late. Over his last seven games, he’s hit just .083 with seven strikeouts and two walks in 26 plate appearances. It’s even more difficult to swallow because, from June 2-18, he was hitting .340 with just 11 strikeouts in 51 plate appearances, with a .489 slugging percentage and four extra-base hits.
“He really was coming on, I thought,” Bochy said. “He was swinging pretty good. They all go through it. He’s going through it right now. Pablo [Sandoval]’s going to get a little bit of time against the righties, but he’ll come out of it.”
Bullpen help: The Giants have the fifth-best bullpen ERA in the Majors (it was fourth, but then they gave up three runs on Thursday), and despite the relief corps being pretty much the team’s only bright spot, that’s where they’re going to be getting some help in the near future.
Left-hander Travis Bergen (left shoulder strain) has been on the shelf since May 21, but after seven minor league rehab appearances, he’s very close to returning.
“He’s fine. He’s throwing,” Bochy said. “It’s just when we decide to make the move. He does have a few more, but pretty soon, we’re going to have to make a call.”
Bergen made his big league debut earlier this season with San Francisco, posting a 4.24 ERA in 17 innings, striking out 15.
As for who would head out to make room for the former Rule 5 pick, options (literally) are limited. Dereck Rodriguez still has options, and since he’s been relegated to bullpen duty after returning from Triple-A Sacramento, he’s posted a middling 4.30 ERA. Second baseman Joe Panik and reliever Reyes Moronta have options, but neither is likely to be sent down. With outfield at-bats coming at a premium, it’s possible the Giants ship out Tyler Austin, but after a hot start, he’s gone from hitting .314 to .198. Over his last 17 games, he’s hitting .103, with eight pinch-hitting appearances and just two homers in 42 plate appearances.