As the Giants introduced their coaching staff and players to honor last year’s World Series championship team during a ceremony before Monday’s home opener at AT&T Park, a key contributor was conspicuously absent.
When announcer Jon Miller said Travis Ishikawa’s name,, a camera panning along the third-base line showed only a gap in the line of players, because Ishikawa was about 90 miles away in Sacramento, rehabbing from a back injury. The crowd, somewhat confused, applauded anyway, and Giants outfielder Justin Maxwell held a plaque bearing Ishikawa’s name up to the camera.
Ishikawa said Wednesday the whoops moment had just happened when he walked into the River Cats’ clubhouse Monday. Teammates told him about it, and he saw a replay.
“I saw my plaque being held up by Maxwell, so that was pretty cool,” Ishikawa said. “I was surprised. I figured they would’ve just kind of skipped me because I wasn’t there.
“I would’ve loved to be there for the opening day and the festivities. I missed the 2010 banner-raising and obviously I missed this one. But I think it’s more important for me to be here and making sure that I’m healthy, getting myself ready for the rest of the season, instead of just partaking in a day of festivities.”
Monday’s ovation showed Ishikawa hasn’t been forgotten. As Miller detailed, Ishikawa, 31, circled back to his first major-league team last year and hit one of the most dramatic postseason home runs in Giants history to win Game 5 of the National League Championship Series and clinch the pennant.
Ishikawa started the season on the disabled list after a lower back strain hampered him during spring training. He is eligible to be activated, but he likely will remain in Triple A at least through Sunday, when the Giants finish a stretch of 14 games in 14 days to begin the season. Manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants want to stay covered with 13 pitchers through the weekend, but after that will have some “tough calls” with Ishikawa ready.
And Ishikawa said he’s ready. He said his back feels “great” and he hasn’t had any pain since he started playing rehab games at extended spring training. Ishikawa, who wasn’t in the River Cats’ lineup Wednesday because it was a scheduled day off, is 4 for 14 with four singles and two walks through his first four Triple-A games. He said he “took good swings” Tuesday, even on the outs, and feels he’s ready to hit major-league pitching.
“I felt like that before I even got here,” Ishikawa said. “Obviously I know they want me to get at-bats, I know I needed at-bats. The first couple days here, first few at-bats, it took me a little bit to kind of get my feet wet. Now I’m definitely feeling a lot better, and I’m kind of just waiting to see what (the Giants) want to do.”
With the River Cats, Ishikawa has started one game as the designated hitter, one in the outfield and two at first base, and he said he’s up to speed defensively. If activated by the Giants, he could help strengthen a lineup that Tuesday night had light-hitting Gregor Blanco in the fifth spot with Buster Posey getting a night off and Casey McGehee sidelined by a knee bruise.
The Giants lost their fifth consecutive game Tuesday, a stretch in which they scored just seven runs while making a habit of stranding runners on base. Ishikawa said he isn’t worried about the early trend.
“Every team goes through it, I don’t think it’s anything to be concerned with,” Ishikawa said. “They’re getting guys on base and getting the hits, it’s just missing that key hit that any moment can happen.
“If you saw the (season-opening) Arizona series, we had at least 10 hits in the first three games, scoring runs, so we know it’s there. It’s just a matter of getting that one big hit to kind of get us rolling.”
While eager to return, Ishikawa said he hasn’t been told anything about the Giants’ plans for him and “that’s not for me to worry about.” He will, however, be back at AT&T Park soon – if just briefly. The Giants will receive their 2014 World Series rings before playing the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday, and Ishikawa said: “I’ll be there.”
It will be the second ring ceremony for Ishikawa, who also was a part of the 2010 World Series team. By the following spring, though, he was back in Triple A, and it wasn’t until last May that he played another game in a Giants uniform.
This time, he shouldn’t have to wait nearly that long.