Down on the Farm: Giants top C prospect opens up on concussion


Down on the Farm: Giants top C prospect opens up on concussion

The Giants' top catching prospect, Aramis Garcia, is taking the field at a different position than behind the dish for the first time in his pro career. If it was up to him, that wouldn't be the case. If it was up to the Giants, that wouldn't be the case either. 

But, health always comes first. 

Garcia, 24, sustained his second concussion in the last two years on April 20 as the San Jose Giants took on the Visalia Rawhide. A foul tip rocketed straight back and nailed him in the mask, where metal meets plastic, right on top of his forehead. 

"I mean, it squared me up straight on," Garcia said over the phone to "Pretty much the worst part of the mask you can get hit on and just kind of lost my balance for a second. I tried to stay in the game. 

"Initially I just thought it was because I got hit in that part of the mask that maybe my head just hurt, but after a couple innings I started to feel different and started to realize it was probably a headache because it started to get worse." 

Garcia came out of the game and was later diagnosed with a concussion. San Jose placed him on the seven-day disabled list and he was kept out of baseball activities for four or five days. Symptoms wise though, he describes the incident as a little more than mild. Once they settled down, Garcia progressed off the field enough to get him back on the field May 3.

Last season, the Giants' second-round pick from the 2014 MLB Draft missed a large chunk due to a freak injury. Hustling to second base to break up a double play, Garcia took a knee to the face resulting in several facial fractures that necessitated surgery and kept him out for two months. 

After he returned to the field last season, he had to make an equipment change.

"I kind of have to wear a hockey-style mask because of my surgery last year," Garcia explained. "I can't wear a two-piece anymore because the pad on the two-piece mask, it kind of goes over the cheek bones and that's one of the areas I had surgery on last year." 

This actually isn't Garcia's first time wearing a hockey-style mask. He wore one in high school, but once he reached college ball at Florida International he switched to a two-piece mask. And he actually prefers the hockey-style mask for two different reasons — vision and comfort. 

The bars on a hockey-style mask are much closer to your face, making your line of vision clearer. Plus, there's padding all along the larger catcher's mask compared to an old-school two-piece. The real question though, does a hockey-mask give you more protection than the minimalist two-piece? 

"There's different opinions on it,” Garcia says. “Some people believe with the two-piece you're able to, because the mask falls off when you're hit, that limits impact. Other people say that the hockey-style is better, so I honestly couldn't tell you.” 

For the time being, Garcia's mask is being put to rest. Since San Jose activated him off the DL, he has strictly played first base and DH. As someone who is usually part of so much of the action and takes pride in his defense, it's frustrating to not catch right now, but Garcia understands the Giants' thought process. 

"Mentally, I'm just trying to stay positive. They're doing this because they want me in the lineup, they want me to get my at-bats," Garcia said on the move away from catching for now. "I feel the same exact way. I don't want to be on the DL anymore after last year and then the short stint this year. I want to play as many games as possible.”

The Giants are finding ways to get Garcia in the lineup for good reason. Before his concussion, Garcia was batting .348 with four home runs and 15 RBI in 11 games played. Since the injury, his offensive numbers have taken a tumble. In 13 games off the DL, Garcia has hit .188 with two home runs, but has drove in another 10 runs.

Even after missing time due to his injury and falling in a slump since returning, Garcia still leads San Jose in RBI (25), already passing his total of 24 in 47 games last year. For him, it's all about keeping it simple and sending credit to his teammates where credit is due. 

"You gotta credit the guys in front of me too and even in the bottom of the order when we have a big inning going. I mean, those guys are getting on base and giving me the opportunity to drive guys in.

"It's just all about having an approach, trying to keep things simple, having an idea of how the pitcher's gonna attack you."

As he mans first base, Garcia feels much more comfortable there than as a DH. He has prior experience playing some first at FIU, but keeping his body loose hasn't exactly been easy at DH.

"You try to do things, like my last start at DH I would do it like Little League style," Garcia said while laughing. "I would run out and go warm up the right fielder just to get a sprint in and keep my arm loose. If that's gonna help me feel like I'm warm for my next at-bat as opposed to sitting in the dugout for 20 or 30 minutes, I'd rather do that." 

The Giants have seen this before. Buster Posey spent time on the seven-day concussion DL this season after taking one off the head at the plate against the D’backs. San Francisco has also gone through a similar situation with a former top catching prospect.

Tommy Joseph, the Giants’ second-round pick in 2009, eventually moved off the position after sustaining multiple concussions. Joseph, now with the Phillies as part of the Hunter Pence trade, hit 21 home runs last season in 107 games.

Garcia is fully committed to catching again when the Giants decide to put him back there and from what he's been told, the move is only temporary. For now, he's taking a leadership mentality no matter where the Giants put him in the field. 

"You just try to do what you can to help your team win and you keep moving forward." Spoken like a true catcher.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”

Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too


Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too

Will Clark won his first and only Gold Glove at first base for the Giants at age 27 in 1991. It was Clark's sixth year in the major leagues. 

Steven Duggar won't have to wait that long to win the biggest hardware for his defense in Clark's eyes. 

"He can play Gold Glove center field right now in the big leagues. He can flat out go get it in center field," Clark said on the Giants' prospect Tuesday on KNBR. "He can definitely, definitely play a Gold Glove center field." 

Clark, who now serves a role in the Giants' front office after playing in five straight All-Star Games for his former team from 1988-92, has watched Duggar closely for more than just this spring training. When asked about his feelings on the 24-year-old, Clark made them clear right away. 

"I've seen Steve parts of the last two seasons in the minor leagues and I am definitely a Steven Duggar fan," Clark said. 

The question with Duggar has always been his bat. He has elite speed, gets great jumps in center field and everyone from Bruce Bochy to Buster Posey has praised his ability to track down fly balls. 

"His thing is, how quick is he going to make the adjustment in the big leagues with the pitching. I know there's a lot of people that are asking that question right now," Clark. 

Count The Thrill as one of the leaders in Camp Duggar. He joined many others in complimenting his glove left and right. But what he has to say about the Clemson product's bat is what puts him over the top. 

"He's succeeded at each level he's been at," Clark pointed out. "He will do it at the major league level and I'm kind of staking my reputation on that."

This is confidence -- to say the least -- coming from someone who was a .303 lifetime hitter and bashed 284 home runs in 15 seasons. 

Over three years in the minor leagues, Duggar is a .292 career hitter with a .384 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. Duggar started off scorching hot this spring with the Giants, but has cooled down with the Cactus League soon coming to a close. In 16 games, Duggar is slashing .250/.353/.545 and has shown more pop with four home runs.