Giants

How Marco Luciano impressed Giants hitting coach Donnie Ecker in camp

How Marco Luciano impressed Giants hitting coach Donnie Ecker in camp

The highlight of a three-week summer camp might have come from a player who never will see the field for the Giants this year. Early on, top prospect Marco Luciano hit a long homer on a fastball from Rico Garcia, a hard-throwing righty who made the opening day roster and has had a strong start to the 2020 season. 

That homer was the talk of camp for a few days, and on Friday, hitting coach Donnie Ecker revealed a cool behind-the-scenes story about the swing. 

"My favorite story with him was asking him to talk about four-seamers that have hop and have ride up in the zone," Ecker said on a Zoom call with reporters. "He talked about it and shared his experience with feeling like he's always fouling those pitches off. Our hitting department created a way to talk about game-planning with him for that (pitch) and the next day he ended up facing Rico Garcia and he homered on it. It told us a lot about the aptitude there."

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For an 18-year-old to walk into camp for the first time and homer off a mid 90s fastball is impressive in isolation. To do it a day after learning how to adjust to that pitch tells you why scouts believe Luciano could be a top five prospect in baseball by the end of this year. The Giants saw that potential at the plate and in the field, where Luciano showed the skills that can keep him at shortstop as he fills out.

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Ecker describes Luciano as "special" and told another story that demonstrates his ability to adapt. Luciano struggled against a slider machine one day and the next day came in eager to take another crack before doing anything else on the schedule.  

"He just asked for the slider machine, and it just lets us tap into the more important things beyond baseball, which is a little bit of their ethos and the ingredients that make them who they are," Ecker said. "I learned a lot in those 10 minutes around Luciano. There's a fire inside of him. He's got a really steely-eyed focus."

Mauricio Dubon got Rockies' attention; Gabe Kapler wants more of it

Mauricio Dubon got Rockies' attention; Gabe Kapler wants more of it

Gabe Kapler brought up the names David Ortiz and Bryce Harper, which is close to as lofty as you can go when praising one of your own young players. He laughed and said he wasn't comparing utility man Mauricio Dubon to either of those guys, both of whom are headed for Cooperstown, but they all do share one trait. 

Dubon wears his heart on his sleeve, and he wants that beat to pulse through his teammates in big games. When he pulled his hands in and shot a three-run homer into the empty seats at Coors Field on Thursday, Dubon stylishly dropped his bat and turned and screamed at his own dugout. He certainly enjoyed his trip around the bases, holding his finger to his lips as he touched the plate, but a few minutes later the Rockies got their revenge. 

A veteran team certainly noticed Dubon's emotions, and when Daniel Murphy swung it right back with a two-run blast, he glared at the center fielder as he rounded second. The Rockies would go on to win 6-4, dropping the Giants to 1-3 on this huge road trip. It was a disappointing finish, but they learned something about a player they picture as a big part of their future. 

"I played with guys who expressed themselves after a big home run. Bryce Harper is like that, every time he hits a big home run or does something great on the field he wants everybody in his dugout to experience that. He wants them to celebrate with him," Kapler said. "I think the same could be said for David. Mauricio has a long way to go but that's his personality. 

"I appreciate Mauricio for the energy and the passion that he brings to the field every day. As long as he's celebrating with his teammates, I support it."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Of course, not everybody does. The game is changing fast, but this still is a sport that doesn't embrace displays of emotion. Murphy made that clear with his grim stare out at Dubon as he touched second. 

Dubon said he didn't see Murphy looking out at him but he was told about it later. In typical Dubon fashion, the whole thing left him smiling.

"I thought it was cool. I thought it was pretty awesome," he said. "I had a lot of emotion knowing where I came from and it's the start of the year and me not playing every day right now, and then me not having a good first two at-bats. It was pretty emotional. I enjoyed it as everybody saw.

"What Daniel did, it is what it is, I guess. It's something that's been going on around the league forever. He's probably trying to get me grounded. I respect him a lot. I respect him a lot. I enjoy what he did, too."

For Dubon, there was no thought about showing up the Rockies. This was simply a release for a young player who entered the day with a .549 OPS and one extra-base hit. Dubon had seen his playing time dwindle, but he showed enough at the plate -- he later picked up another hit -- and in center that he should get back in the mix against the Dodgers, who will start two lefties this weekend. 

Dubon had perhaps his best all-around day in the big leagues, particularly because of where he started it. With Mike Yastrzemski getting a breather, Dubon was in center field, a position he picked up over the offseason and two abbreviated camps. He has impressed in workouts and over the first couple of weeks of the season, but Coors Field is a different monster, with massive gaps to cover as a center fielder. Dubon handled it all with ease, sprinting in to catch one shallow fly ball and getting a good jump on another that he gloved in front of right fielder Hunter Pence. In the second, he added to the highlight reel by robbing Matt Kemp of extra bases. 

Dubon took a perfect route on Kemp's deep fly to right-center, but it kept carrying in the thin air. As his feet hit the track, Dubon made a leaping grab.

"I think what was really impressive was his warning track and his wall awareness," Kapler said. "In that case, particularly not having much exposure to center field, not having much exposure to Coors Field, it's tricky, because you're not exactly sure how many steps you have before you hit the wall. I think he'll tell you that he thought he was a little bit closer to the wall than he was, but that's still a nuanced play. Having played here myself I can tell you it's tricky with the angles and the depth. I thought it was an excellent play."

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It was a good all-around day for one of the newer Giants, one who has brought some needed juice to the dugout. Kapler said he won't be the one to stifle it. 

"I think that baseball needs and will benefit from players who express themselves," he said. "It needs and benefits from players who are emotional, like Mauricio is."

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-4 loss vs. Rockies

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-4 loss vs. Rockies

BOX SCORE

The final game of a series always feels like a swing game, but this year the advantage is more pronounced. Every win is the equivalent of nearly three, and every loss the same, which made the Giants' bullpen blowup in the seventh inning Thursday particularly painful. 

San Francisco took a lead on Mauricio Dubon's first homer of the year, but within minutes the Rockies had tacked on a five-run frame of their own. They held on for a 6-4 win. 

The Giants dropped three of four to the surprising Rockies, the opposite of what they wanted on a road trip where the next two stops are Los Angeles and Houston. Here are three things you need to know to impress your friends on tonight's Zoom happy hours ... 

Dubon Day 

Dubon entered the day with a .549 OPS and without much recent playing time, but he survived Thursday morning's roster shuffle and responded with his best game of the year. Dubon started in a tough center field and looked like he's been playing the position his whole life: 

In the seventh, Dubon pulled his hands in on the first pitch from lefty Kyle Freeland and hit a no-doubter to left. He immediately dropped his bat, turned and screamed at the Giants dugout, firing up a group that didn't have much going to that point.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Familiarity Pays Off 

Tyler Anderson pitched the first five years of his career for the Rockies and actually had a much lower ERA (4.16) at home than on the road (5.36), so he was a perfect choice for getaway day. Anderson did his part, throwing five shutout innings against his former teammates. It was the first scoreless start for Anderson since his last one of 2018. 

Anderson struck out three and allowed just two hits, although he didn't figure in the decision. He left after throwing 66 pitches and reliever Wandy Peralta immediately gave up a homer to Trevor Story. 

Anderson has been a swingman so far this season but has made no secret of the fact he wants to start. He might get an opportunity now, with Drew Smyly on the injured list and no days off until next Thursday. Anderson would be lined up to start next week in Houston. 

[RELATED: Zaidi explains why the Giants still haven't called up Bart]

Not A Happy Homecoming 

Like Anderson, Rico Garcia is a former Rockie. He did not enjoy his day at Coors. 

Garcia came on in the seventh right after Dubon gave the Giants the lead and immediately gave up back-to-back doubles. Daniel Murphy put the Rockies back on top with a two-run blast to right off Garcia, who had no control of his breaking ball. 

Murphy had his own exaggerated reaction to the homer and stared Dubon down in center as he rounded second base. The runs were the first this year off Garcia, a former Rockies starting prospect who has thrived since the Giants moved him to the bullpen. 

Caleb Baragar followed Garcia and gave up a long two-run homer to Charlie Blackmon. Rough day for the rookies.