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Duggar continues breakthrough with homer kickstarting Giants

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Steven Duggar is the fastest player on the Giants roster, and that speed shows up nearly every time he gets a start. 

Duggar often shows bunt on the first pitch of an at-bat, and when he put one down earlier this month at Coors Field he got down the line at 29.9 feet-per-second, the fastest sprint of the season for the Giants.

Duggar holds the top three sprint speed spots on base hits, the other two being a triple and his infield single in the ninth inning Thursday night. Four innings before that last one, Duggar finally got a chance to go into a slow trot.

His first homer of the season, a no-doubter to right-center, gave the Giants a lead that held up. The center fielder burst out of the box and then went into a jog, or as much of a jog as his legs will allow. Duggar made it around the bases in 20.10 seconds -- the third-fastest home run trot of the season for the Giants -- but for him it was a chance to relax and enjoy all the work that got him to this point.

"Excitement and rewarding," Duggar said of his first homer in two years. "We've worked so hard, this organization and everybody in that clubhouse, staff included. They're all extremely detail-oriented and we work really hard to bring home some wins. It was definitely rewarding tonight to see the swing just come along. I'm really honing in on the game plan and the preparation and everything that goes into it. It was nice."

 

The moment was a bit of a surprise, as Duggar wasn't in the original starting lineup and only got the call after Brandon Belt's side tightened up during BP. In the bigger picture, it also was somewhat unexpected. 

Last season and into this spring, Duggar seemed like someone in need of a fresh start. A new regime has brought in a whole new group of outfielders, including fellow left-handed options LaMonte Wade Jr. and Mike Tauchman, and it was fair to wonder about Duggar's future as a Giant. On a 2020 team without center field depth, he got 34 at-bats and started just 10 games, seven of which were in the corners.

The Giants never gave up on him, though, banking on his elite athleticism and the work ethic they were seeing behind the scenes. Duggar has worked tirelessly over the years to improve his swing and build his body. He still has trouble putting on weight, but the swing has been simplified and he's seeing results. 

"I feel stronger in my swing," he said. "I feel much more balanced, quick-twitched and explosive, but very calm. I think that's just what I've been trying to achieve for a while, just being simplistic."

Duggar credited the three hitting coaches -- Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind -- for helping him find his form, and manager Gabe Kapler for sticking with him. But this isn't just a development story. The Giants are in first place and trying to stay there, and right now Duggar is one of their best options in an inconsistent outfield. 

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After putting up a .458 OPS in those 34 at-bats last season, Duggar is at .813 through the same number this year.

"The at-bats have been strong recently," Kapler said. "He's been very competitive in the batter's box."

Since getting called back up at the end of April, Duggar is batting .290 with a .371 on-base percentage. He has a homer, triple and two doubles and has started 10 of the last 12 games.

"Obviously being optioned to the alternate site at the start of the year was frustrating, but at the same time I felt like we had built a really good foundation," Duggar said. "It's starting to come to fruition a little bit. I'm just continuing to stay the course, trusting the game plan and trusting the preparation, and just letting it fly when we're out there."

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