The River Cats gave out 1,500 T-shirts Friday night in the name of hometown catcher Andrew Susac, and there’s no way you can knock that.
“Susacramento,” it read, in all capital letters, which is about as terrific it can get even for somebody from Roseville, Susac’s real hometown. No matter. Susac, like Ralph Lauren, now knows what it’s like to have his name on a shirt.
But the Jesuit High School graduate can’t be totally enthralled, not when he’s dipped his toe in the waters of the major leagues. A full-body dunk was more like it. Susac started 55 games over two years for the Giants in relief of Buster Posey. He hit six home runs in 243 plate appearances, played in the World Series and caught Madison Bumgarner. And his locker was between Hunter Pence’s and Tim Lincecum’s.
So he’d rather have a T-shirt that reads “SusacFrancisco.” Still, he’s honored to be so honored with his own shirt.
“This is special,” Susac, 26, said Friday. “You see guys at the big-league level getting bobbleheads and stuff like that, and anytime you have your name recognized and you’re doing your family justice and making a good name for yourself, it’s all good. I was really excited when they told me about it.”
As for “SusacFrancisco,” Susac said, “Well, I think that would be more of the goal.”
The only thing not cooperating is Susac’s body. His thumb, his wrist, his shoulder – you need a program to keep track of the body parts that have put him on the disabled list the past year and a half.
Injuries may have relegated Susac to Triple A, but they have not defined him. He remains strong, with a major-league mindset. And if he doesn’t break through with the Giants – and with Posey holding down the squat by the Bay, it’s an imposing challenge – it will be somewhere else.
You may recall Adam Duvall, the third baseman-outfielder who played for the River Cats in 2015 until he got traded to the Cincinnati Reds for last year’s stretch-drive pitcher, Mike Leake. Duvall is making the most of his swings for the Reds. The left fielder has hit five home runs and has a .526 slugging percentage, which, as of Friday morning, was one point below Posey.
Will Susac be this year’s trading card at the July 31 deadline?
“You never know who’s watching,” Susac said. “You can do one thing one night, and a scout is watching, and all of a sudden you’re on the Blue Jays. You’ve really got to take that and know it’s out of your control. It’s too long of a season to dwell on or think about the bad-luck situations. You’ve got to keep grinding.”
Everyone knows about grinding, but very few have had to try to throw somebody out at second with a broken wrist.
Susac pushed through last year’s pain with the help of cortisone and other medications, but the underlying issue never improved, and he had surgery in September. Spring training flare-ups in the wrist cost him a chance at the backup catcher’s job, necessitating his assignment to Sacramento before the season.
Last month, his wrist finally began to feel better, and he sprang into action as a designated hitter. Two weeks ago in Tacoma, he went 3 for 5 with a home run and three RBIs, and his batting average nearly doubled, from .154 to .278.
The next thing Susac knew, a disturbance broke out in his shoulder. Diagnosis, tendinitis. The doctor prescribed seven days on the disabled list. Susac hopes he’ll be playing again by the middle of next week, when the River Cats host the Reno Aces.
Susac’s plan is to get back to the majors as quickly as possible and stay there as long as he can, with whatever team will have him.
Presumably that would be with the Giants. He sees them straddling the .500 mark, but he is confident they will play to their capabilities as the season progresses.
“They’ve got the pieces – they have the team they want,” said Susac, who’s now hitting .214 (6 for 28). “They’re scuffling a little bit, but I don’t think panic has set in at all. They know they’re good. They’re kind of like a .300 hitter that is hitting .230. They know at some point they’re going to get back up there.”
Like Giants fans around the world, Susac planned to spend the middle part of his Friday afternoon watching the live-stream workout of Tim Lincecum in Arizona. Susac said he spoke to his old battery mate two weeks ago.
“He said he was feeling pretty good,” Susac said.
Wouldn’t it be fun if the Giants sign Lincecum and send him to the River Cats to get in shape in time for a July 4 return to the majors?
He would look good in a Susacramento shirt.