Giants' Chris Shaw finally will get to play at Fenway Park after detour


Giants' Chris Shaw finally will get to play at Fenway Park after detour

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Major League Baseball released the 2019 schedule last August, Chris Shaw immediately circled September 17. Shaw grew up a few miles from Boston and lost count of how many times he sat in the cramped seats at Fenway Park while starring at Lexington High and Boston College.

Shaw took a big step toward accomplishing a lifelong dream when he was called up a few days after the schedule release, and he spent most of September getting regular time in the big leagues. With a new regime coming in and an increased focus on youth, Shaw's path to Fenway seemed relatively clear -- until a shocking phone call this spring. 

It was not a surprise that Shaw did not break camp with the Giants. But teammates were stunned and disappointed when he started the year back in Double-A for the first time since the early months of 2017. Six months from the series in Boston, Shaw found himself buried on the depth chart. 

"I had that thought many a time throughout the year," Shaw said. "It's not a thought you try and continue to have, but it is something that creeps in your mind, where you try and envision yourself being in Boston and not being with the team. That just would have crushed me."

That phone call from Farhan Zaidi could have crushed Shaw. Perhaps it would have for another player. It's unusual for a young player to hit 24 homers in Triple-A, earn a September promotion, and then find himself dropped two levels the next April, and the decision did not go unnoticed in the big league clubhouse. There was some confusion about Zaidi's methods early on, and Shaw's demotion was among the topics that veterans quietly grumbled about. 

Shaw did not allow any anger to show, though. His teammates in Richmond raved about the leadership he showed, and Giants executives took note of the behind-the-scenes work Shaw was doing with younger players as he tried to make his own swing adjustments. 

"A thing like that would have broken a lesser man, but Chris is the type of guy who sometimes you wonder if he's too good to be true with how he handles certain things," farm director Kyle Haines said. "He took it as a challenge. He went there on a mission to show that he wants to be not just in Triple-A, but in the big leagues. That's a great attitude to have. A lot of guys would have had some sour grapes, but Chris handled it as well as he possibly could."

When the Giants initially made the decision, they said Shaw needed to go back to Double-A because there wasn't enough playing time in a Triple-A outfield filled with imported lottery tickets. Zaidi told Shaw that Richmond would be a good place to get his bearings back, and insisted that the assignment was his fastest track back to the big leagues. 

"As difficult as it was to do at the beginning of the year, I made Richmond my big leagues," Shaw said. "Going into the year I envisioned it going a little differently, obviously, but the year I had, this might be my favorite season I've ever had. There were so many times where it was just like, am I going to be able to get up? Am I going to be a Giant? There were so many times where it would have been easy to throw in the towel and been like, this isn't your year. But I truly believed I was going to get back here and I let that be my motivation every day."

Shaw played 45 games in Double-A before heading back to Sacramento. He showed improved plate discipline at both stops, cutting his strikeout rate by nine percent from his previous stint in Triple-A while hitting 28 homers across two levels. 

The Giants called Shaw back up when rosters expanded September 1, and while he hasn't gotten much playing time, manager Bruce Bochy is well aware of what this trip means. He said he will try to get Shaw meaningful at-bats this week at Fenway, and Shaw was all smiles last week as he talked of the upcoming trip. 

"This is something I've wanted since I started playing baseball," he said. 

Those dreams blossomed in Lexington, a small town that's better known for being the location of the first shot fired in the Revolutionary War. Shaw joked that the entire city would show up at Fenway this week, and that might not be that far from the truth. On Wednesday, Lexington will celebrate "Chris Shaw Day," an honor that didn't seem possible at the end of the spring. 

[RELATED: MadBum in line to start Bochy's last game, as it should be]

The Giants always were going to spend this week in Boston, and Shaw was, too. His trip included an unexpected detour, but when the team faces the Red Sox this week, Shaw will be in the dugout, not watching from his couch. 

"Every single day I just wake up and it's just the best day of my life because I'm back in the big leagues," he said. "I'm just grateful to have this opportunity again. Last year in September, I don't know if I understood how fragile it is to be up here and how special it is. 

"You get down to Richmond and you think, 'Oh crap, I was in the big leagues last year.' So now that I'm here again, I'm not going to let any opportunity go by. I'm just really enjoying it."

Former Giant Gerardo Parra finds home with Nationals in World Series


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. 

[RELATED: Mark Kotsay enters Giants manager interviews as favorite]

"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."

MLB rumors: Mark Kotsay entered Giants manager interviews as favorite

MLB rumors: Mark Kotsay entered Giants manager interviews as favorite

As the Giants watch the World Series from home, their search for a new manager continues. Replacing a legend like Bruce Bochy won't be easy, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi can't wait forever. 

Interviews have begun, and the favorite coming into the process might be someone who would just have to switch sides in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported Monday that "word around the industry is that [Mark] Kotsay entered this process as a favored candidate." One source also told Baggarly that he would be surprised if the Giants didn't hire Kotsay.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic first reported on Oct. 9 that the Giants would interview Kotsay, who currently serves as the A's quality control coach.

Kotsay, 43, had a 17-year MLB career where he spent four seasons -- 2004 through '07 -- as an outfielder for the A's. Zaidi was a baseball operations analyst in Oakland when Kotsay played for the A's. 

Kotsay retired after the 2013 season and became a special assistant in the San Diego Padres' front office the next season. He then served as the Padres' hitting coach for the 2015 season and was the A's bench coach in 2016. 

[RELATED: Could MadBum's ugly road stats hurt him in free agency?]

The Giants already interviewed in-house candidates Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus. The San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman and John Shea reported Monday that San Francisco also interviewed Cubs first base coach Wil Venable on Friday.

Other reported candidates include Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler