SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Late in one of the first full-squad workouts of the spring, Mauricio Dubon jogged out to center field and spent a few minutes running down line drives to the gaps. He looked like a natural, like someone who had spent his whole life patrolling center field. That's exactly what a Red Sox scout thought four years ago as he watched Dubon, then a 21-year-old shortstop, shag fly balls for fun.
Dubon was so fluid that day that he was told he would be playing center field in the Arizona Fall League. He made five starts there, along with a dozen at shortstop, before returning to the infield full-time the next season after a trade to the Brewers.
Now one of the most exciting players in a third organization, Dubon is reliving the experience. When they dealt for Dubon last July 31, the Giants were open about their internal evaluations that the wiry infielder could turn into San Francisco's version of Chris Taylor of Kiké Hernandez. After watching Dubon float around the field at Scottsdale Stadium for a month, manager Gabe Kapler has no doubt.
"I can really, legitimately see him playing center field quite a bit," Kapler said Friday. "I think earlier in camp I was saying we're going to take more of a wait-and-see approach. I think at this point he has demonstrated he can play center field, he can play shortstop for us."
Kapler said he would like to see a bit more of Dubon at third, and he started there Friday against his old team. Dubon is the starting center fielder on Monday, with Steven Duggar sliding over to right so the newcomer can get some additional reps.
Thus far, Dubon has played 28 innings at second base, 11 at shortstop, five in center field and three at third base. The Giants are confident he can handle left or right in a pinch (he is experienced with both angles since he has played second and short in the minors) and Kapler has talked of getting Dubon some reps at first base. Dubon hasn't done much work there but has worked on scoops. The concept is a simple one: Dubon has a chance to impact the Giants every single day, and they would like him to do it at different spots, allowing Kapler to mix and match with his veterans.
Dubon has just over 100 big league at-bats and some organizations might prefer for a player like that to settle in at one position. But the Giants feel Dubon can mentally handle it, and there's little doubt that their best chance -- perhaps their only chance -- at having a competitive lineup is to get creative. They'll look a lot better against left-handed starters, for instance, if Dubon can play center, with Donovan Solano at short and Wilmer Flores at second. It'll be much easier, too, for Kapler to make mid-game double-switches if he's confident Dubon can slide from position to position and fill the gaps.
The Giants have had this in their back pocket since they dealt Drew Pomeranz for Dubon last July, and the talk ramped up when Kevin Pillar was non-tendered. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said that day that Dubon could be an option to fill some of those innings, and over time the Giants have become more confident.
Dubon still has a little work to do on some throws to become truly comfortable as a utility player. He was off with one at third on Friday, but Kapler said Dubon is working on getting more carry with those longer throws. Earlier in that game, he drifted back on a pop-up down the left-field line and easily snagged it as he approached the seats. It was the kind of play that reminded the staff why they were so confident this offseason that Dubon could handle the outfield.
"I think it's just the way his hips move," Kapler said earlier this spring. "He's flexible in his hips, but he's also explosive with that first step and light on his feet. There's plenty of arm strength. So he has got what it takes to move around out there."