If Mike Leake stays hot the final two months of the season and helps the Giants make it into the playoffs, the club will know who else to thank.
Adam Duvall, until recently a power-hitting corner infielder for the Triple-A River Cats, won’t get a World Series share if the Giants win their fourth in sixth years. But even though he couldn’t establish his long ball for the long haul in San Francisco, Duvall stayed focused in Sacramento. He led the Pacific Coast League in home runs with 26. He made himself marketable.
Last week, the Giants traded Duvall to the Cincinnati Reds for Leake, a right-handed pitcher and proven major-league starter. Now playing with the Reds’ Triple-A club in Louisville of the International League, Duvall took a break a couple days ago to reflect on the deal he believes will benefit both the Giants and himself.
“Yeah, obviously he’s a great pitcher, and I think he’ll really help them out,” Duvall said. “They looked to better their club and get ready for the postseason. I wish them nothing but the best.”
It was hard to see any scenario in which Duvall moved up to the Giants. Matt Duffy’s big rookie season shut him off at third base. Brandon Belt’s solid play left him no opening at first base.
I hope I have a good opportunity here with the Reds, and I’m looking forward to getting up there and trying to stick up there and play the best baseball I can play.
Adam Duvall, after being traded by the Giants
The Reds want to give Duvall a shot in left field. He’ll take it.
“I hope I have a good opportunity here with the Reds, and I’m looking forward to getting up there and trying to stick up there and play the best baseball I can play,” Duvall said in a telephone interview from Norfolk, Va., where Louisville was playing the Baltimore Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate.
In the deal for Leake, the Giants gave up another minor leaguer, pitcher Keury Mella, 22, who is probably years from helping the Reds. Duvall, 26, might be in line for a September call-up.
“It’s such a great opportunity for him,” said River Cats manager Bob Mariano, who has worked with Duvall since 2010. “It’s bittersweet for us – he’s sort of like your own son. You develop him, you see him progressing through the years, defensively and offensively, and then you see him go. But we know it’s a business. We’re always looking down the road for somebody or some trade to put us over the top.”
Last week’s trade was the second time Leake figured into a Duvall career milestone. The first was June 26, 2014, in San Francisco. It was the seventh inning of Duvall’s first major-league game. He fell behind in the count 0-2 against Leake when he swung out of protection mode – and homered to left field. It was his first major-league hit.
“He threw me a pretty good curveball that I think was a ball, but I ended up swinging at it and I think I got the barrel to it,” Duvall said. “My family and friends were there, and they were able to see it, and it was pretty cool.”
There had been speculation in recent weeks about the Giants’ interest in Leake. Brian Sabean, the team’s vice president of baseball operations, called the trade rumors “ridiculous” when he was in Sacramento in late June to watch the River Cats.
They became less so last Thursday when a phone call came into the River Cats’ dugout at Raley Field during a game against the Las Vegas 51s. Giants general manager Bobby Evans was on the line, asking for Duvall, but Duvall was on third base and couldn’t take the call. Evans was put on hold.
When Duvall came off the field after the third out, he was told the deal was in the works.
28 Triple-A home runs by Adam Duvall this season
“They didn’t even take me out of the game then, because it was still pending and they didn’t want to make any moves right then,” Duvall said. “Two innings later, it was done.”
Just like that, Duvall’s sixth season in the Giants’ organization was over. Not that it upset Duvall, because it didn’t – he has nothing but praise for the Giants. And not that it affected his ability to hit for distance, because in his first at-bat in his first game in Louisville on Sunday, he pasted one over the 405 mark in center field for his 27th home run this season. He has since hit No. 28.
“Yeah, I was excited,” Duvall said of Sunday’s homer – especially since Louisville is his hometown and he played college ball there. “I had a lot of friends and family out at the game and was pretty excited to get back home and play in front of them.”
Duvall called the Giants “a first-class organization” and said he was grateful for the support from the team and its fans.
As for Sacramento, “The city really grew on me,” Duvall said. He liked fishing in the American River, and he also got to know the downtown scene, mentioning Firestone Public House and The Mix as favorite night spots.
“I love the city,” he said. “I had a great time when I was there.”
Now he’s back in Louisville, keeping his bat powered up.
He’ll be watching Leake and the Giants.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, is only two hours away.