Called up a day before the Giants began a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, Adam Duvall hasn’t experienced the most comfortable introduction to major-league pitching.
He debuted Thursday against Mike Leake, owner of a career 0.87 ERA at AT&T Park. Friday night, it was Johnny Cueto, whose 1.88 ERA this season leads the majors. And throw in an at-bat against closer Aroldis Chapman, who has regularly registered at 100 mph and above on the AT&T Park radar gun, for good measure.
“I’ve faced guys that throw hard,” Duvall said Saturday. “I probably haven’t faced a guy that throws 103.”
It reflects well on Duvall that the 25-year-old didn’t look overmatched against Chapman on Thursday night, lining a changeup sharply but right at third baseman Todd Frazier for the final out of the Giants’ 3-1 loss. In his prior at-bat, Duvall had jumped an 0-2 slider from Leake for a home run to left field, becoming just the 13th Giants player since at least 1919 to homer for his first big-league hit.
Entering his third consecutive start Saturday night – this one against Alfredo Simon, who began the day tied for the National League lead with 10 wins – that was Duvall’s lone hit in seven at-bats since being called up when the Giants placed Angel Pagan on the disabled list. But it had yet to occur, Duvall said, that he’d stood in the batter’s box feeling overmatched.
“I feel like if I take my approach up there and get a pitch that I can handle, it’s on me,” Duvall said. “These pitchers are good, I definitely give them a lot of credit. At the same time, I just want to stick with my approach and what I’m doing. That’s all I can do.”
That served Duvall well at Triple-A Fresno, where the corner infielder was leading the Pacific Coast League with 23 homers to go with a .297 average and 67 RBIs at the time of his call-up. The Giants summoned their 11th-round pick from the 2010 draft hoping it might help spark an offense that has gone cold during their June fall-off, in which they’d lost 13 of 17 games before Saturday.
Duvall hit 30 homers at High-A San Jose in 2012 and 17 at Double-A Richmond last year and possesses what manager Bruce Bochy termed “easy power.” That was echoed by Joe Panik, the second baseman also called up from Fresno last week, who said that watching Duvall hit in Triple A had been “almost like a video game.”
“I wasn’t too surprised,” Panik said of Duvall’s first hit being a homer. “I’ve seen him do it so many times. It’s very fitting, just the way it was a great swing on a tough pitch.”
Still, Duvall said until his drive off Leake actually cleared the fence Thursday, he wasn’t assuming a home run. He’d heard about AT&T Park’s reputation as a fly-ball graveyard.
“It was good to get that one off my shoulders,” Duvall said. “Now I’ve just got to focus on driving the ball in the gaps, not trying to do too much with it. You can get into a little trouble when you try to create power. So I just try to take a nice, easy swing and get the barrel to the ball, and if it goes, it goes.”
Duvall got the ball from his first hit – the Giants tracked down the fan who caught it and Duvall traded him some signed memorabilia – and said it’ll probably go with his parents when they return home to Kentucky. That capped a whirlwind first 48 hours in San Francisco for Duvall, who learned he was being called up last Tuesday night in Texas, caught a morning flight and arrived at AT&T Park in time to see Tim Lincecum no-hit the Padres.
Duvall didn’t get into the game but joined his new teammates as they mobbed Lincecum on the field and Saturday identified that – not his home run – as the highlight of his short tenure in the majors. Things have slowed down a little, he said. But he still smiled a little at the fact that he and Panik – with whom he rode to the stadium Saturday afternoon – were in New Orleans a little more than a week ago, wearing “Fresno” across their chests.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling and it helps me to know that he’s right next to me,” Duvall said. “And a lot of these guys I’ve played with in spring training. So it’s been a pretty smooth transition, I’d say.”
• Brandon Belt (fractured left thumb) started at DH in a rehab game with Triple-A Fresno a night after going 2 for 3 with a homer with San Jose. Bochy said reports were that Belt “saw the ball well” Friday and is “a little further ahead than where we thought he’d be at this time” – one reason the Giants quickly bumped him up to Fresno.