Recent stories out of Scottsdale, Ariz., reported that the Giants will begin the season with only four outfielders. They were false. The Giants are carrying six; two of them, however, will be playing in Sacramento.
The money won’t be the same, of course, and neither will the hotels. Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson will have to deal with the rigors of Pacific Coast League travel with 3 a.m. wakeup calls and a schedule that includes only two off-days in the season’s second half as they patrol the outfield some 90 miles from AT&T Park.
Nobody likes to think about injuries, but the Giants have a right fielder who missed 110 games last year, a center fielder who was out for 101 and a left fielder who did time on the disabled list, too. The fourth outfielder also wound up on the DL when he got hit in the head by a thrown ball during warmups in Philadelphia.
Giants fans kneel at night asking for the blessing of good health for Hunter Pence, Denard Span, Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco. But as Mick Jagger once told us, you can’t always get what you want. Over the next six months, the Giants’ outfield is likely to need Parker and Williamson. So enjoy them while they’re down here, while they try to prove they belong up there.
In spring training, Williamson, 25, looked the most ready to move west on I-80, and he has the most cause to be patient. Management made it clear going into Scottsdale that his time will come. For now, the bosses want to flavor him with some seasoning by the banks of the Sacramento. He missed a season of minor-league ball because of an elbow injury that required surgery.
“I completely understand the decision to get me out here, and I’m all in,” Williamson said.
Williamson sought to mess up the plan with a bombastic spring that included five home runs entering Wednesday’s game at Raley Field between the River Cats and Giants. River Cats fans know when Williamson muscles up, on a frame that includes 240 pounds spread across 6 feet and 4 inches, his home runs usually are not cheap. He bombed one last year over the clubhouse at Raley Field. He also showed this spring he can hit a little for average, batting .298.
Last fall, Parker, 27, had an interesting September as the Giants fell out of contention. After his call-up, he hit six homers, drove in 14 runs and finished his first visit to the majors with a .347 batting average. He had a career afternoon in Oakland when he slugged three homers with seven RBIs. Only one other man has done that for the Giants. His name is Willie Mays.
Unfortunately for Parker, spring followed fall, and his March average entering Wednesday’s game was .232. He had three home runs and 11 RBIs, but it wasn’t enough to get him to the bigs, and for now he’s in Sacramento.
“All I can do is keep playing hard,” Parker said.
It will be River Cats manager Jose Alguacil’s job in the early months of the season to keep these two happy. They, of course, believe they are major-league material, and if you’re at the Triple-A level, why get up in the morning if you don’t think that way? Alguacil does not envision a problem. He testified Wednesday to the players’ good attitude.
“These guys are going to be good,” Alguacil said. “And hopefully, they’re not here for too long. That’s my goal, to try to get everybody out of here.”
Williamson and Parker aren’t the only River Cats just a sprained ankle from the majors. Andrew Susac, the catcher from Jesuit who helped the Giants reach the World Series in 2014, was sent down in the final transaction of the spring. Relief pitcher Mike Broadway is eyeing another crack after his terrific 2015 season for the River Cats. Clayton Blackburn or Ty Blach or 51-game major-league winner Ricky Romero could be in line for a spot start or a call-up if anybody up there goes down. Infielder Grant Green, a former A’s first-round pick, has major-league experience. Kyle Blanks, a very large first baseman at 6-6 and 265, has 33 career major-league home runs and is another one of those “Four-A” types – a minor-major tweener who knows how to handle himself in big-league parks.
The 162-game season is frequently called a marathon, which is a misnomer, really. Players such as Williamson and Parker will log three times the 26.2 miles each time they’re called up to San Francisco, and each time they are, they hope it will be the last.