Giants

Giants

SAN DIEGO -- On his final Opening Day as a manager, Bruce Bochy penciled in a left fielder he met a week ago and a right fielder he met a couple of days after that. 

"It's a unique position, no question," Bochy said before Thursday's Giants-Padres game. "I haven't done this before."

That's in large part because the future Hall of Famer has never spent a full season working with Farhan Zaidi, the Giants' new president of baseball operations. Zaidi likes to use the word "runway" to describe opportunities, as in the Giants will give guys such as Connor Joe and Michael Reed a legitimate opportunity to prove they're big leaguers.

There will be others, but Joe and Reed were the first to take the runway for two reasons. Zaidi was not enamored with the outfield group he inherited, including Mac Williamson, who was designated for assignment Thursday. But more importantly, Zaidi does believe both Joe and Reed have what it takes to break through.

"I'm excited to see what these guys can do," said Zaidi, who helped discover Max Muncy and Chris Taylor in Los Angeles. "I think Connor Joe and Michael Reed have both earned this opportunity with the springs that they've had and with what they did last year in Double-A and Triple-A. We've said all along that with where we are as a franchise and organization, to have a successful season, we're going to need some contributions from guys that maybe our fans aren't familiar with yet.

 

"But it'll be up to them now to make the fans familiar with them, with what they do on the field."

Both had shortened debuts Thursday, being lifted for veteran pinch-hitters in the seventh inning of a 2-0 loss to the Padres. There wasn't much to be gleaned other than that, but Joe did have an impressive first big league plate appearance, taking four pitches just off the edge of the zone to draw a walk. Expect more of that.

The Giants had a .300 OBP last year, their lowest mark in 33 years, and one of Zaidi's first goals was fixing that issue. Joe had a .363 OBP in the minors and was at .408 last season between Double-A and Triple-A. Reed had a .383 OBP in eight minor league seasons and posted an eye-popping .453 mark at the same two levels at which Joe played.

Sure, the Giants could use right-handed thump, but Zaidi went for versatility and strong plate appearances.

"They have some pop, but they also bring a lot of other things to the table in terms of their versatility and baserunning and their plate discipline," he said. "We really are just going to look for the best all-around players and not get too fixated on any one aspect."

That mindset has provided a hell of an opportunity for two players who were elsewhere most of the spring.

"They were in need of outfielders, and I plan to step up and be the best that I can be," said Reed, who can play all three spots.

Reed's parents flew in from Texas for the moment. Joe is from nearby Poway and had too many fans in attendance to count. A lot of people he grew up with are Padres season-ticket holders, anyway. 

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Joe said the nerves didn't get to him. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, but he was more anxious while trying to earn a job with the Reds all spring. Joe called the last two months a "grind" and said he finally got a good night of sleep Wednesday.

"It's been crazy," he said, "But a great crazy."