Leading Off

Sacramento’s John Bowker getting second shot at dream with Giants

Rarely is there a second chance to make a first impression.

But that’s where Sacramento’s John Bowker finds himself with the Giants this spring.

The 24-year-old who hit a single and home run and had three RBIs in his major-league debut on April 12, 2008, and became the first Giants player to hit home runs in his first two games, is now a 31-year-old journeyman clinging to his big-league dreams after signing a minor-league contract in January.

Odds are long that Bowker will earn a roster spot. But the odds at just getting the chance to wear a Giants jersey for a second time seemed a lot longer.

Giants fans hungered for a slugger to replace Barry Bonds, who played his final season in 2007. That player seemed to be Bowker, who had seven hits, two home runs, a triple and seven RBIs while batting .538 in his first four games.

He played 111 big-league games in 2008, but inconsistency in 2009 brought Bowker back to reality – and eventually back to Fresno. In 2010 he was traded to Pittsburgh and then Philadelphia the next year.

After playing mostly in the minors during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Bowker asked for and received his release so he could play in Japan.

After three seasons in the Nippon Professional League, mostly with the Yomiuri Giants, Bowker is looking to finish his career in San Francisco, where he started it.

With center fielder Angel Pagan having back spasms following offseason surgery and right fielder Hunter Pence likely out until May with a broken forearm, the Giants could give Bowker a long look.

But if he doesn’t make the big-league roster, Bowker could return to Sacramento to play for the River Cats, the Giants’ new Triple-A affiliate. It’s not the major leagues, but it’s home.

Victor Contreras


What to watch

NBA, Kings at Phoenix,

7 p.m., CSNCA: It’s the first game of a four-game trip that also includes New Orleans, Memphis and Houston.

On this date

1961: Cincinnati ends Ohio State’s 32-game winning streak with a 70-65 victory in the NCAA championship.

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