Kelby Tomlinson arrived at AT&T Park on Saturday morning to learn from Giants manager Bruce Bochy that he’d be making his first major-league start in the outfield against the Chicago Cubs.
Tomlinson, a utility infielder, got some work in the outfield last fall in the instructional league – but that was mostly in center field. Tomlinson is playing left field Saturday. The last time he played left field in a game?
“I think maybe one time when I was in middle school,” Tomlinson said.
The reason he’s there Saturday: Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan have “some minor hamstring soreness,” Bochy said. Pagan’s is in his left hamstring, which has nagged him in the past. Pence’s is in his upper right hamstring, behind the knee.
“We think they’ll be OK to go tomorrow,” Bochy said before Saturday’s game. “But they definitely need a day today.”
Bochy said he noticed Pence “hobbled a little bit” running down the line in San Diego and asked the right fielder about it. Pence said he thought it was general soreness but showed up Saturday and “it was bothering him a little bit more,” Bochy said.
Pence will get treatment and is available to pinch-hit, as is Pagan.
The result is an odd Giants lineup. Tomlinson is batting third. Bochy said that’s partly because he wanted Matt Duffy to hit fifth behind Buster Posey, giving Posey some protection. But it also gives the Giants more speed at the top of the lineup against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, who is notorious for his aversion to throwing to bases.
“That was part of it, sure,” Bochy said.
Lester rarely throws over to first base to hold runners on. Last year, opponents were successful on 80 percent of stolen bases against him – 44 for 55. This season, though, would-be base-stealers are just 4 for 7.
“He is quick to home,” Bochy said. “(Catcher David) Ross is throwing the ball well, too. It’s more a case that we hope to get on base, get some runners out there and create some havoc.”
The Giants have a handful of players who could try bunting for a hit and making Lester make a good throw to first. Duffy was putting down base-hit bunts in batting practice, and Tomlinson said he’s aware of Lester’s throwing quirk.
“I’ve watched some film on that and heard about that,” Tomlinson said. “We’ll see how that plays out in the game.”
Bochy had no reservations about putting Tomlinson in left field and praised Tomlinson for how he has adapted to a utility role this year. Tomlinson is 14 for 26 over his last 11 games and 13 for 30 this season against left-handers. He said he was going to take some fly balls in left during batting practice to get acclimated ahead of the 4:15 p.m. start.
“I told (Bochy) I’d be ready,” Tomlinson said.