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Former Giant Gerardo Parra finds home with Nationals in World Series

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Former Giant Gerardo Parra finds home with Nationals in World Series

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez answered nine questions during his press conference last week after the Nationals beat the Cardinals and clinched a spot in the World Series. By far the longest response came when Martinez was asked about a player who started this season with the Giants. 

Gerardo Parra was supposed to be a temporary outfield solution for the Giants, but he was designated for assignment on May 3, clearing a spot for Mike Gerber, who had gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. In Washington D.C., Parra has been exactly what the Giants hoped they were getting. 

The 32-year-old outfielder's stats don't jump off the page. He had a .747 OPS and eight homers in the regular season after catching on with the Nationals, who gave him 204 at-bats, about twice what he ended up getting in San Francisco. But Parra's energy has made a difference for a team that was 19-31 but recovered to take down the rest of the National League. 

The Giants at one point hoped to see the same in their own dugout. Parra and Yangervis Solarte were brought in during spring training and immediately injected a bit more life into a clubhouse that has too often relied solely on Pablo Sandoval's liveliness. They were popular in the clubhouse, serving as mentors for younger players and dancing in the dugout even as the Giants got off to a slow start. When the two were let go in early May, Bruce Bochy repeatedly called them "great guys." But the Giants couldn't justify any more at-bats for veterans in a season going nowhere. 

"As a player, it's a game of production," Bochy said at the time. 

The Nationals had plenty of it in their lineup, and Parra and others have helped keep the clubhouse on course during a surprise run. The Nationals dispatched of the Brewers, Dodgers and Cardinals and will begin the World Series tonight in Houston. 

Parra has just three at-bats during the postseason, but a late pinch-hit appearance in the NLCS clincher was one of the more memorable moments of the series. As they have done since Parra changed his walk-up music to "Baby Shark" in June, Nationals fans erupted when the veteran outfielder was announced. 

Martinez later joked that he only put Parra in the game to get the fans going in a tense spot. 

"What he's done in that clubhouse has really changed the way these guys go about their business," Martinez told reporters. "I mean, it was business ... he made it fun for this team."

The Giants hoped to latch on to that, but Parra served another purpose, as well. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi brought in several well-liked veterans on cheap non-guaranteed deals to try and keep the lineup afloat until reinforcements could arrive from Triple-A. 

Gerber was not the answer, and Mac Williamson's ensuing cameo didn't work either. But eventually most of the at-bats ticketed for Parra ended up being given to Mike Yastrzemski, a revelation who can serve as a full-time starter moving forward. 

That was never going to be Parra's role in San Francisco, but the Giants did try to work him in early as a versatile defender who could provide some production from the left side. It was impossible to keep him around, though, when he started the year with a .198 average through 30 games. 

Parra caught on with the Nationals shortly after the move and it couldn't have worked out better. He'll be in the dugout during a World Series game tonight, wearing his tinted sunglasses and giving massive hugs to young teammates and generally serving as a key glue guy for Martinez. Perhaps at some point over the next week, the Baby Shark routine will take over a key moment of the World Series. 

As he celebrated a pennant last week, Martinez recalled how Parra had met with him during a slump shortly after he joined the Nationals. The veteran was down because he wasn't hitting, but Martinez implored him to just bring energy, play loud music in the clubhouse, and keep pumping up a young team that had gotten off to a disappointing start. That's a message Bochy has given to Sandoval at times. 

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"After that, he started hitting again, and he came back to my office a few days later and he goes, 'Hey, thank you. I didn't realize that I need to have fun, too,'" Martinez recalled. "I said, yeah, hey, bring it every day ... it's what you bring on and off the field that I care about, and he's that guy. Those guys up there, every one of his teammates love him -- love him. All the fans love him. He's just that guy. He's the Parra Shark."

Giants' Heliot Ramos could make MLB debut in 2020, Gabe Kapler says

Giants' Heliot Ramos could make MLB debut in 2020, Gabe Kapler says

The start to MLB's ramp-up to the season certainly hasn't gone smooth. Four Giants already have tested positive for the coronavirus, and workouts at Oracle Park were suspended Tuesday pending the results of tests conducted this past weekend. 

If there actually is a season this year, Giants fans could get a glimpse of their exciting future. Manager Gabe Kapler already has raved about 18-year-old Marco Luciano, catcher Joey Bart is set to learn another position to help his major-league chances in the near future and a 20-year-old outfielder could make his MLB debut this season. It certainly didn't take long for Heliot Ramos to impress Kapler.

"I'm never one to rule anything out, and Ramos has shown especially well in these first couple of days," Kapler said Monday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Ramos, the Giants' first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, might have been their most impressive prospect last year. He spent the entire season as a 19-year-old and made it all the way to Double-A Richmond. Through 77 games in Class A San Jose, Ramos hit .306 with 13 homers and 18 doubles before playing his final 25 games in Richmond. 

He only played two games with the big league club in spring training, but he did crush a two-run homer against the Colorado Rockies. On Monday, he opened eyes yet again with his approach at the plate. 

"He had another couple of good at-bats (Monday), just missed a hanging slider ... the whole camp kind of opened their mouths like, 'He really just missed putting that ball in the seats,' " Kapler said. "His engine is really incredible. Excellent bat speed, good throwing arm, smart kid, really great to have around." 

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Ramos likely would have started the season in Triple-A Sacramento this year, or even played a few more games in Richmond. Now as he's part of the Giants' 60-man roster, he'll be in Sacramento at the Giants' sister site when the MLB season begins.

But at only 20 years old, Ramos could be in San Francisco playing for the Giants as soon as this season. 

"Wouldn't rule anything out," Kapler said. "Likelihood is there's probably a little more development there."

Why Gabe Kapler isn't worried about Giants suspending camp Tuesday

Why Gabe Kapler isn't worried about Giants suspending camp Tuesday

The Giants have spent weeks preparing for every possibility that might pop up during a spring training held at Oracle Park amid a continued coronavirus outbreak.

But there's one thing they could not have planned for, a hurdle nobody quite saw coming across the league. 

A missing FedEx truck. 

On Tuesday the Giants announced that their afternoon workout had been canceled because they are awaiting test results from Saturday. Manager Gabe Kapler said the Giants, like at least a half-dozen other teams, had issues relating to their courier who was supposed to take a round of COVID-19 tests to MLB's facility in Utah. Because the Giants did not have Saturday's results back, they were unable to take the field Tuesday.

A few players, mostly pitchers, were able to take part in a light workout in the morning before the staff made the decision to call off the day's activities. Kapler said he's confident Saturday's test results will come back Tuesday at some point, allowing the Giants to take the field as planned Wednesday. 

While some executives around the league have blasted MLB's handling of all this, Kapler was diplomatic, saying he has a "level of empathy for everybody" working hard to keep camps running across the league.

"Nobody expected this to be easy," Kapler said, "And everybody is doing the best that they can."

It will have to be better, though. Players already have a high level of distrust with the league and trepidation about playing this season, as Buster Posey made clear Saturday. Continued issues could lead to a wave of players opting out before the season even starts, and people across the game have said publicly the last couple of days that they need to see MLB clean up the process. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The issues started over the weekend when the A's were unable to hold a workout because their test results had been delayed by a lack of pickups over the holiday weekend. On Monday, the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros had to cancel workouts because of delays for Friday's testing. The Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels also have had to push back workouts. 

Players are supposed to be tested every other day, and Kapler was hopeful that the process would get back on track quickly. The Giants had another round of testing Monday and hope to get that back Wednesday. Kapler was confident the protocols would be better figured out in the coming days. 

"I feel as confident today as I did yesterday," he said. "I understand that there's going to be hiccups along the way. I think our club does, as well. Our players and staff are included in that. I still have confidence for sure."

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The Giants were supposed to hold their first intrasquad scrimmage on Tuesday. They had moved it up a few days because camp had been going well over the weekend, and there is some urgency to all of this. The Giants will open at Dodger Stadium on July 23, and while they have not had any known big leaguers test positive for COVID-19 -- four members of the organization have, overall -- there is very little time to get the healthy players ready. 

Kapler, though, focused on the positive. He said this would not be a significant setback, noting that it could be a needed break for players, coaches and support staff, most of whom rushed to San Francisco in the last two weeks and jumped right into a modified camp with extreme safety protocols. Kapler said the Giants would use this as a "mental recovery day."

"There's some benefit to that," he said.