Conor Gillaspie doesn’t feel like talking.
While it’s hardly unusual for a big leaguer to brush aside a pregame interview request only to spend the next thirty minutes buried in his phone, that’s not what Gillaspie’s doing.
“Sorry. I don’t have any time today,” the 28-year-old third baseman says politely, as he sits in the black executive chair stationed in front of his locker while sipping a red Gatorade. “I like to make sure I get all my work in on the nights I’m starting. So, I don’t have any time to talk.”
It’s not even 4 p,m. on Friday afternoon, which means Gillaspie still has over three hours before the San Francisco Giants open their weekend set with the Philadelphia Phillies.
But as his pregame demeanor makes apparent, Gillaspie, who is the first position player out on the diamond during batting practice, has no intention of wasting his second shot with his first club.
Gillaspie was always supposed to end up at the hot corner at AT&T Park. The Giants selected the third baseman with the 37th overall pick in the 2008 — the same year they snagged Buster Posey with the fifth selection and plucked Brandon Crawford out of the fourth round.
Gillaspie beat both of the franchise cornerstones to the bigs – joining the Giants in September of 2008. The rapid call-up had been guaranteed in a verbal agreement when he signed with the club. The then-21-year-old managed one hit in his eight-game stint before returning to the anonymity of minor league life.
The highly-touted prospect didn’t resurface with the Giants until 2011 when he appeared in 15 games. In 2012, he made it into six contests, which was good enough to earn him a World Series ring. But by that point – after spending the majority of the past two seasons in Triple-A — the infielder’s development had officially stalled out.
In February of 2013, the Giants gave up on Gillaspie, trading him to the Chicago White Sox for a minor league reliever.
For the left-handed hitter, the change of scenery was much needed. Gillaspie spent 2013 as the White Sox’s starting third baseman and appeared to be taking off at the start of 2014.
“He went to Chicago and I think he was hitting in their three hole,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “I mean, this guy was one of the hottest hitters in baseball for a little while.”
Gillaspie hit .326 with an .861 OPS before the All-Star break, but he crashed back to earth in the second half. In his final 60 games, he hit .228 with a .614 OPS.
The struggles got even worse for Gillaspie last season, as he was designated for assignment by both the White Sox and the Los Angeles Angeles in the space of a month.
In February, the Giants brought back their former farmhand on a minor league deal. After opening the year with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, the Giants called him up in the final week of April to serve as a bench bat.
The early results were underwhelming, as he went 6-for-31 (.193) in his first five weeks as a reserve. Bochy never dwelt on the lack of results.
“He had a tough role,” Bochy explained. “You’re pinch-hitting, and those numbers don’t look good, but that’s easy to happen when you’re pinch-hitting. You hit three or four balls hard and they don’t fall, then it’s going to affect your numbers. The thing I like is that he was making good contact.”
With Ehire Adrianza out with a fractured foot since the middle of April and Kelby Tomlinson landing on the disabled list with sprained thumb ligament in early June, Gillaspie has slowly climbed the depth chart.
Then when a strained achilles sent Matt Duffy to the DL on the Giants recent road trip, Gillaspie became the starter by default. On June 21, in his first start in the place of Duffy, Gillaspie went 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBI.
Bochy hedged when asked if Gillaspie will get the majority of the at-bats in Duffy’s absence.
“Um. I’d say probably. Yea, but I’m going to keep them all in the mix,” Bochy said of Gillaspie who could share time with utility infielder Ramiro Pena. “It’s a tough call, but he could get the lion’s share. We’ll see. As always, how they play dictates how much [time they get].”
Duffy and Tomlinson could be back right after the All-Star break and Adrianza’s return might only be a couple of weeks behind that. But for now, the door is slightly ajar for the one-time top prospect.
“He’s the kind of guy I think a club needs,” Bochy said. “I know it’s something we need in case you have an injury to a [player] like Duffy. He’s got the experience. He’s got the bat and he can help fill in nicely.”Brandon CrawfordBruce Bochyconor gillaspiekarl buscheckMLBPhiladelphia Phillies