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Opinion: Casey McGehee struggles with Giants, may create opening for Cats’ Adam Duvall

River Cats infielder Adam Duvall waits to bat at Raley Field Tuesday April 28, 2015 in West Sacramento, Calif. He’s leading the Cats in hitting at .372. He’s hit four home runs and has 16 RBI. He’s 26 years old and in his sixth pro season.
River Cats infielder Adam Duvall waits to bat at Raley Field Tuesday April 28, 2015 in West Sacramento, Calif. He’s leading the Cats in hitting at .372. He’s hit four home runs and has 16 RBI. He’s 26 years old and in his sixth pro season. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

The anti-social media rumble out of the Bay Area has gotten a bit extreme lately in its assessment of the third-base situation in San Francisco.

Some Giants fans have even called for the demise of the position’s current occupant, Casey McGehee. They’re upset over McGehee’s slow break from the gate. The offseason acquisition from Miami was hitting .164 with two RBIs entering Wednesday night’s game against the Dodgers. He’s also hit into eight of the Giants’ 21 double plays this season.

It wouldn’t be unfair for anybody to recommend that Giants manager Bruce Bochy bench McGehee. But suggesting his execution, as has been reported by bloggers who monitor Giants-related fan sites and Twitter feeds – it seems to be a disproportionate sentence for poor Casey’s crime.

Eighty-four miles east of Willie Mays Plaza, the April tribulations of Casey McGehee carry some implications for a young man from Louisville who labors on Ballpark Drive in West Sacramento.

Adam Duvall plays third base for the River Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of McGehee’s Giants. As McGehee moans over his .164, the fine print at the end of Duvall’s line in Wednesday’s box score read .366.

McGehee, for sure, is battling major-league arms in the batter’s boneyard of bay-chilled AT&T Park, while Duvall has rendered his abuse of Pacific Coast League pitching in the mountain and desert airs of Salt Lake City and El Paso, as well as in the comfortable Raley Field confines near the Tower Bridge.

But 202 points is 202 points, and it’s a difference you’d think has come to the attention of management types in the Giants organization.

Whether it has or hasn’t is of no matter to Duvall.

“I don’t really pay attention to that, to be honest,” Duvall, an honest-looking sort, said earlier this week in the home team’s clubhouse after the Cats’ 6-5 victory over the Tacoma Rainiers.

“Like I tell everybody, I’m just trying to be the best baseball player I can be. The best offensive player, the best defensive player – that’s all I can control. I can’t control anything going on anywhere else.”

For awhile there, Duvall, 26, was in major control.

Between April 11 and April 21, the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder had struck the ball safely in 11 consecutive games. In 49 official at-bats during those 11 glorious days, he produced 22 hits. Three of them were home runs, six went for two bases and another one for three.

A week ago Sunday in Salt Lake, Duvall became the first River Cats batter ever to hit for the cycle. His average at the end of the streak stood at .436.

The equal-minded Duvall held off on an end zone dance. Riding high in April, he found himself shot down the week before May. In Monday’s defeat of Tacoma, Adam went 0 for 4 and hit into two double plays. In a 3-1 win against the Rainiers on Tuesday, Duvall was 1 for 4 and left four runners on base, though he did hit his fifth homer of the season.

Monday night wouldn’t have been such a downer had Rainiers second baseman Ketel Marte not raced into short right to rob Duvall of what looked like a sure dinker. Duvall also drew an intentional walk and landed a drop shot into the grass behind the pitcher’s mound. His out at first advanced the runners and set up teammate Jarrett Parker, who now swings the hot bat for the Cats, for a two-run single.

Duvall knows baseball is a game that will drive you crazy if you let it. He also appears to have the equanimity of mind to keep that from happening.

“I just didn’t see the ball tonight,” Duvall said Monday. “You’re going to have those nights. You’re going to have those series. You’ve just got to try to even it out a little bit, grind those at bats out, because not every night are you going to see it or feel good or feel it.”

On the other side of the ball, Duvall hadn’t made an error all year in 31 chances at third base. Against Tacoma, he brought in a ground smash a step to his left from Marte in the seventh inning and backhanded a blast down the line by Jesus Montero in the eighth, each time straightening for a strong throw across for the out.

He’s comfortable with the glove at third, but Duvall’s destiny lives in the barrel of his bat.

“If he continues to hit, they’ll find a place for him,” River Cat manager Bob Mariano said of the Giants.

Duvall’s profile reads power. He hit 30 home runs for San Jose in 2012, 17 in Richmond for the Flying Squirrels in 2013 and 27 last year in Fresno. He’s got five so far this year.

While enjoying his cup of coffee in San Francisco last year, Duvall took time between sips to knock three balls out of the park. He never would have forgotten his first major-league homer under any circumstance, but it became even more memorable when it came in his first big-league game, on a night when a bunch of friends and family flew into San Francisco to watch him break the champagne bottle over baseball’s bow.

“It was all whirlwind,” he said.

Now he’s back on the grind, as McGehee is on his. He knows Casey could flip the switch tonight and rap out another 177-hit season like he did in last year with the Marlins, to put a sock in the Twidiots’ keyboards.

Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 30 to correct that Ballpark Drive is east of Willie Mays Plaza.

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