A couple weeks after the Giants’ victory parade last Halloween, Andrew Susac was in Hawaii for a short vacation. That the timing dovetailed so neatly was the result of some keen foresight. Susac said he and then-girlfriend Maggie Doremus considered earlier dates when scheduling the trip last summer.
“But I was like, well, if I get called up and we go to the World Series, we’re going to look really stupid,” he said.
That, of course, was how the season unfolded for the Roseville native and Jesuit High School product, which is how Susac, who started the season in Triple A, ended up on a beach in November, “reminiscing on what the hell just happened.”
“And I was like, ‘Sweet,’” he said. “I mean, it does not get much better than that.”
Except it did – Susac proposed to Doremus in Hawaii, and the two are now engaged.
It capped quite a year for Susac, 24, who made his major-league debut in late July and became the Giants’ backup catcher after Hector Sanchez was lost to a concussion. Susac returned to camp as the frontrunner to keep his job. But he’ll have to hold off the more experienced Sanchez, who is now healthy.
Manager Bruce Bochy said that competition will come down to “whoever we think is our best guy to back up Buster (Posey) on both sides, the defense and the offense. They’re both going to play (this spring). This thing’s going to go all the way to the end.”
Susac was laid up with a tooth infection the past several days but started the Giants’ Cactus League opener against the A’s on Tuesday and played three innings. He flied out to left field and drew a walk, departing long before the A’s finalized a 9-4 win in front of a crowd of 7,820 at Hohokam Stadium.
“Right now, sure, you’d like to know that you have the job going into the season,” Susac said before the game. “That said, I’m not in that position, nor is (Sanchez).
“To say I have great competition over there is an understatement. He’s got experience, knows the pitching staff, he’s a great person. I’m really looking forward to battling him. I didn’t sign up for baseball for a nice, paved road.”
Susac made a quick impact last season, hitting .273 with three home runs and 19 RBIs in 88 at-bats. He would likely have a sizeable role if he makes the Opening Day roster – Posey caught 110 games last season – and while Posey remains the franchise catcher, the Giants are always cognizant about giving him days off or at first base.
It would be a significant step for a player who is still relatively green – Susac retains his rookie status and was recently ranked No. 88 on Baseball America’s list of the Top 100 Prospects, the only player in the Giants’ organization to make the list. But Susac does have the experience of being thrown into the fire – his first big-league at-bat came against Clayton Kershaw – for a team in the middle of a World Series run.
“That’s invaluable – you can’t make up that scenario anywhere else,” Susac said. “I remember last year in spring training it was like, ‘Holy crap, 15,000 (fans)?’ So that was an eye-opener for me. Confidence-wise, it’s been unbelievable.”
Sanchez said he watched Susac and the Giants down the stretch while recovering from lingering concussion symptoms and that Susac “did an amazing job.”
“I feel glad for him,” Sanchez said. “We’ve got a good relationship, and I hope he keeps doing the job, keeps swinging the bat the way he did, and his defense is amazing.”
Sanchez, too, is happy to be competing for the backup job. The 25-year-old was limited to 66 games last year after sustaining a concussion July 25 against the Dodgers, then took another foul tip off the mask while rehabbing in the minors in mid-August and was shut down for the season. He admitted there were times that he wondered if he would play again.
“I was thinking about the (former Giants catcher Mike Matheny) case, about that guy and not playing anymore (because of concussions), and what if that happened to me?” Sanchez said. “I was thinking, I’m too young for that. I was really sad and frustrated.”
Doctors cleared Sanchez to return, though, and he went home to Venezuela this offseason to play winter ball, though solely as a designated hitter. Sanchez said he felt good enough to try catching in games in Venezuela, but the Giants shot down the idea. He replaced Susac behind the plate Tuesday and said that while he knows the dangers of the position, he wants to be a catcher “no matter what.”
“Sometimes in live BP, when the guy hits a foul ball, I close my eyes,” Sanchez said. “That’ll be there. But I just try to turn the page and think like nothing happened.”
The competition between the catchers is genial. Susac said Sanchez “showed me the ropes” when he joined the organization, and Sanchez said nothing has changed with their relationship, given the circumstances.
“We don’t make the decision,” Sanchez said. “I just hope he keeps working hard, and for myself, doing the same thing – working hard every day, and see what happens.”