AT&T PARK— When Chase d’Arnaud told his wife Kaitlyn on Friday night that he’d been called up to the San Francisco Giants, she was overjoyed. Not for her husband — although she was happy for him — but because she wouldn’t have to take their one-year old son Jagger on his first plane flight.
The 31-year old utility man had been selected for the Triple-A All-Star Game in Columbus, S.C., and Kaitlyn would have had to have lugged a car seat and all the attendant infant-related gear on a cross-country flight. The six-hour drive from Westlake Village, Calif., to San Francisco is decidedly more preferable.
A .265 career hitter in the minors, d’Arnaud is having his best season yet, hitting .292 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs for Triple-A Sacramento this year. Having played seven positions this season with the River Cats, d’Arnaud will give the Giants flexibility as they try to navigate the latest injury to beset their roster: A groin strain by second baseman Joe Panik.
“I’m not even going to put that kind of pressure on myself, filling his shoes,” d’Arnaud said of replacing Panik. “I just need to play my game, be myself, and that’s all there is to it.”
d’Arnaud has played parts of six seasons for five different major league teams before the Giants (including three with the Pittsburgh Pirates), but has never played more than 84 games at the big league level, which he did for Atlanta in 2016. He played in 35 games last year for the Braves, Boston and San Diego.
While Jagger is learning with flash cards — “He’s very interactive,” d’Arnaud said — his dad won’t have to learn many new names. He played with Mark Melancon, Andrew McCutchen, Tony Watson and Gorkys Hernandez in Pittsburgh, both with and against Brandon Crawford while in Cape Cod and at Pepperdine, and played with Buster Posey with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League in 2009. “It’s a very familiar team,” d’Arnaud said.
d’Aranud found out about his promotion after a getting the day off for Sacramento in a game against the Reno Aces on Friday. He got up at 3:45 a.m., caught a flight at 6:30, got to San Francisco around 8 a.m., slept for an hour, and then came to AT&T.
“I’m ready to just smash some balls around the park,” d’Arnaud said.
“We need some help,” manager Bruce Bochy said. ” … He’s got some experience up here, so he’s not going to be in awe of anything. Fun guy. Enjoyed being around him this spring, and he worked hard this offseason on his swing. Looks like it’s paid some nice dividends for him. I’ll use him everywhere. He’s going to bring some value off the bench, too, because he’s a guy you can double switch anywhere.”
Before that, he’d played 32 games at second base, 16 at first, five at third, three in right and one each in left and center. He brings three gloves with him — his “lobster claw” first baseman’s glove, one for the other three infield spots, and an outfielder’s glove.
“I fully intend to go out there and get a bunch of reads out there in the outfield, just in case,” d’Arnaud said.”I know [Alen] Hanson will be filling in for Joe, mainly, at second base. He’s done really well, and I’m happy for him. I just want to be ready in case they need me to play the outfield, too.”
Bochy said that Hanson will play second against lefties, while d’Arnaud would play against left-handers. He could also spell Pablo Sandoval. This season in the minors, d’Arnaud is hitting .327 against left-handers, but also a very respectable .283 against righties. While Jagger is just now starting to walk (he doesn’t have the Moves Like Jagger — “Not yet,” d’Arnaud said), his dad has been doing plenty of running, swiping 15 bases on 18 attempts.
“He’s got pretty good instincts and feel on the bases,” Bochy said. “You saw him in spring — he doesn’t hesitate. He wants to go, and that’s the added value.”
Panik underwent an MRI Saturday morning, but the results were not available in pregame. Bochy said he will update the media after the game. Bochy said that Panik is “pretty sore today,” and he was put on the 10-day disabled list before the start of action, making room for d’Arnaud.
The Giants activated Saturday starter Jeff Samardzija from the disabled list before the game, and optioned right-hander Chris Stratton to Triple-A.
Samardzija will have no limitations after four three rehab starts, throwing 90 pitches four days ago.
“We don’t have to be careful with him,” Bochy said.
Bochy had said there would be another rotation casualty as both Samardzija and Johnny Cueto were activated, with Derek Holland having already been moved to the bullpen. Stratton was the logical choice.
After going 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in his first five starts, Stratton has fallen off a cliff. In his last five starts, Stratton was 1-4 with a 5.65 ERA and a .307 batting average against.
“He hasn’t quite been as sharp, and this gives him a chance to catch his breath, work on a couple things,” Bochy said. “… He said he’s gotten away from some of his strengths that he wants to work on.”
Stratton worked to improve his curveball in the offseason, and has been getting more break on it, but paradoxically, he’s thrown it with less frequency than he did last year — 18.6 percent in 2017 compared to 15.5 percent this season. He’s also throwing his fastball 64.7 percent of the time — a career high.
Stratton said he needed to work on his fastball command, which would allow him to use more of his off-speed stuff, and use it more effectively.
Bochy said that Stratton will throw some side sessions, and get some extra rest before taking the mound with the River Cats, who next play on Thursday.
“He’ll be back up here,” Bochy said.
Hunter Strickland was moved to the 60-day disabled list. He broke his hand on June 18 after blowing a save against Miami, and was placed on the 10-day disabled list on June 19. He had his broken fifth metacarpal operated on on June 20.
The Giants are working Austin Slater at second base “a bit,” Bochy said. Originally drafted as a second baseman out of Stanford, the No. 3 prospect in the Giants system could get some time there in an emergency situation.