April 2012

Settling in at leadoff helps Pagan

Sunday, April 29

SAN FRANCISCO — A little stability can be a wonderful thing. Just as Angel Pagan.

Pagan extended his career-high hitting streak to 14 games in the Giants’ 4-1 victory Sunday over the San Diego Padres. He acknowledged that remaining almost exclusively in one position in the batting order — leadoff, in his case — has helped him focus.

Pagan has started 20 of the Giants’ 22 games, batting leadoff in 19 of them. This contrasts sharply with Pagan’s experience with the New York Mets, his previous employer. He batted .290 in 2010 despite appearing in every position in the batting order and starting at least one game in each except fourth and ninth. Last year was even more unwieldy for Pagan, who started in all spots in the batting order but ninth.

“It’s good to have the opportunity to be in the lineup, but it’s tough because you have to make adjustments from one day to another,” Pagan said, trying to remain diplomatic about his Mets tenure.

Pagan, who’s batting .308 (20-for-65) during his streak — the longest in the Major Leagues, matching Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold — said that life as a Giant is “much better.” He added, “I’ve been fighting very hard to get on base at least one time (each game). I don’t want to say get one hit. I really believe that as I go, we go. If I get on base, Melky (Cabrera, the Giants’ No. 2 hitter) will get his fastballs and drive them to the outfield.”

Chris Haft

How Sandoval, Mays stack up

Tuesday, April 24

Pablo Sandoval tied Willie Mays but didn’t necessarily equal him.

Sandoval matched Mays’ San Francisco-era franchise record by lengthening his season-opening hitting streak to 16 games in Monday’s doubleheader sweep at New York. Given the way Sandoval’s swinging, he could erase Mays’ mark Tuesday night when the Giants open a three-game series against Cincinnati at the hitters’ paradise known as Great American Ball Park.

Yet Mays generated numbers during his streak that Sandoval and every other Major League hitter would envy.

Mays hit a ridiculous .452 (28-for-62) before he went hitless in any 1960 game, compared with Sandoval’s current .333 (22-for-66). During their respective 16-game streaks, Sandoval has Mays beat in home runs (3-1) and RBIs (13-9). But while Sandoval has recorded excellent on-base (.389) and slugging percentages (.545) for an OPS of .934, Mays eclipsed that. His corresponding numbers befit the great player he was (.528, .613 and 1.141).

Sandoval deserves his due, however. He has carried the Giants’ offense at times, assuming a heavier burden than Mays did. The 2012 Giants have scored 71 runs; Mays’ Giants amassed 88 during his streak, including 10 and 18 on back-to-back days at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Can you imagine these Giants doing that? Moreover, Mays frequently was followed in the batting order by future Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda and often preceded by Jim Davenport, who hit .333 in San Francisco’s first 16 games that year. Sandoval is sandwiched by Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey, who are more than respectable. But it’s fair to say that Mays had a more potent offensive complement.

It’s intriguing to note that Mays homered only once during his streak. He and the Giants played their first seven games of the season at brand-new Candlestick Park, where the initial outfield dimensions frustrated power hitters. The center field fence stood 420 feet from home plate and the power alleys were 397 feet deep. Sensibly, the barriers were soon moved in. Mays somehow finished that year with 29 homers. He also collected 190 hits, the lone year he topped the National League in that category.

The Giants would be ecstatic if Sandoval finishes this season with similar statistics. There’s no reason he can’t.

Chris Haft

SF’s Otero relishes Opening Day experience

April 6

PHOENIX — As you might expect, Friday was a special time for Dan Otero.

This was officially Otero’s first day in the Major Leagues after spending five years in the Giants’ farm system. A 21st-round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, the right-handed reliever reveled in his surroundings at Chase Field, where the Giants opened their season.

Asked how long he had yearned for this day, Otero replied, “Since I was about three years old and given a baseball glove for Christmas. This is what I dreamed about. This is awesome, just to be a part of this, to be on the Opening Day roster.”

Some players resist the romance of the game. Not Otero, who grasped Opening Day’s significance.

“I’m a huge baseball fan,” said Otero, a Miami-area native. “I love the history of the game. So, growing up, I’d watch as many games as I possibly could. Opening Day was one of my favorite days because I could watch 10 games on different channels, flip back and forth, from one o’clock until 11 o’clock. It was great. So to be a part of it now is almost surreal.”

Wearing jersey No. 87, Otero was the Giants’ last non-starter to be introduced during pregame ceremonies. He looked calm enough as he stood on the first-base line, but before the game he admitted that this would not be an ordinary ceremony.

“I’ll definitely have some goosebumps,” Otero said. “I’ll try to stay in the moment. I just want to remember it and enjoy it.”

Otero, 27, earned his big league chance with an outstanding Spring Training performance. He recorded a 0.82 ERA, surrendering one earned run in 11 innings spanning 10 appearances. Besides garnering his place on the active roster — which could be vulnerable when Ryan Vogelsong is ready to return from the disabled list — Otero won the Harry S. Jordan award, which is given annually to the most dedicated and spirited player attending his first Major League camp.

- Chris Haft

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