Giants

Steven Duggar sets lofty goal of stealing 30 bases for Giants in 2019

Steven Duggar sets lofty goal of stealing 30 bases for Giants in 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When he was breaking into the majors last year and dealing with your typical rookie growing pains, Steven Duggar sat down with hitting coach Alonzo Powell.

"Check one box a night," Powell told Duggar in an effort to slow everything down. 

What Powell meant was that Duggar should focus on doing just one thing every game to help the Giants win. Run down a line drive to save your pitcher. Score a run. Knock in a teammate. Steal a base. Move a runner over from second to third. Just do something every night to contribute, and over time it will all add up.

In his second season, Duggar is ready to be a bit more ambitious, particularly in one area of his game that should blossom. 

"I've set a soft goal," he said this week when asked about stolen bases. "I'd like to get to 30. I think I can get to 30. It's a lofty goal, but I think that if I can set my sights high and try to aim for 30 -- if we could reach 30 that would be unreal -- but if we end up somewhere around 20 or 25, that would be great, too."

For the Giants, even 20 stolen bases has been lofty in recent years. Andrew McCutchen (13 steals) was the only Giant in double-figures last season. You have to go back to peak Hunter Pence in 2013 (22) to find someone who hit 20. Angel Pagan swiped 29 in 2012, but the Giants haven't had anyone steal 30 in so long that the man who did it in 2007, Dave Roberts, now manages the rival Dodgers.

Roberts was the first Giant in a decade to steal 30 bags. 

So, the soft goal is indeed a lofty one. But it's also one Duggar has the raw ability to reach. BaseballSavant.com allows you to organize players by five-foot splits, and Duggar's speed is elite by any measure. 

To travel 30 feet, Duggar had the fifth-fastest split (1.67 seconds) in the majors last year, giving him the same time as Billy Hamilton. For 60 feet, Duggar (2.76) ranks 13th, sandwiched between Hamilton and Trea Turner. Hamilton has four 50-steal seasons and Turner has swiped 40-plus each of the past two years.

There is more to this than natural speed, of course. Duggar was successful in five of six attempts last season but stole just 42 bases in the minors, where he battled injuries at times. The difference now, Duggar said, is that he's working with better technique. 

Duggar constantly stayed behind after workouts last spring to work on his first step with instructor Vince Coleman, who -- this is not a typo -- stole 100 bases in each of his first three big league seasons. Coleman immediately recognized a flaw in Duggar's technique. 

Duggar used to crouch low, meaning his first move would be to pop up a bit before he took off for second. Coleman showed him guys like Hamilton and Ricky Henderson who wasted no movement heading towards second base.

Duggar is more upright now -- "that's made a huge difference in the first step," he said -- and he has worked with Coleman and third base coach Ron Wotus on changing his mindset, too. 

"Before I was so nervous to get picked off that in the back of your mind your first step is always back instead of forward," he said. "It's more aggressive now. But it's also about knowing when to go, being smart, seeing who is hitting, who is on the mound -- there are a lot of factors."

The Giants will weigh them all, and you can bet that quite often they'll let Duggar take the risk, particularly if the defense is shifting and he may have a chance to catch defenders out of position. The roster has not been injected with power, and it remains unclear how the same lineup that was so poor the previous two seasons can support the pitching staff this season. 

[RELATED: Why Steven Duggar wants to bring bunts back to life for Giants in 2019]

One partial solution could be to have a disruptive leadoff hitter, allowing Duggar to dream of a season in which he is constantly taking second or third in front of Buster Posey and the rest of the core.  

"Every 90 feet could be huge for us," Duggar said.

Kevin Pillar emotional on Toronto return for first time since trade to Giants

Kevin Pillar emotional on Toronto return for first time since trade to Giants

Kevin Pillar started against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre in what he eventually admitted was an emotionally charged event for him.

Up until being traded to the Giants, Pillar spent his entire career as a member of the Toronto organization -- and they more than made him feel back at home.

The crowd had signs wishing him love, the Jays dedicated a video tribute to him, and the home crowd cheered when he went out on to the field -- even giving him a standing ovation. He made sure to wave and give his thanks to the fans who stuck by him all of those years. 

Following the Giants' 7-6 win, Pillar spoke to the media and talked about the many emotions going on:

"To come back and see the genuine appreciation that people have," Pillar told reporters. "The video tribute was a really nice touch."

[RELATED: Watch Pillar receive ovation from Jays fans]

Pillar found out about the tribute a few days prior, and he mentioned how he did his best to keep his composure, despite him being a very emotional guy.

Watch Kevin Pillar get ovation from Blue Jays fans in Toronto return

Watch Kevin Pillar get ovation from Blue Jays fans in Toronto return

Kevin Pillar never won any awards or championships during his seven years with the Blue Jays, but he definitely won over the hearts of Toronto fans with his highlight-reel catches.

So when the Giants center fielder went out to play defense in the bottom of the first inning Tuesday night, Blue Jays fans showed their appreciation for the 30-year-old.

It was a pretty emotional moment. We're sure Pillar was choking back tears as he watched the tribute video and tipped his cap to the fans.

The love for Pillar didn't stop there. When he came up for his first at-bat in the top of the second inning, the Blue Jays fans once again gave him a standing ovation.

But the cheering ended quickly as Pillar singled to left field and drove in Pablo Sandoval to give the Giants a 1-0 lead.

[RELATED: Pence finding home with Rangers]

Pillar and Crawford would later score on a Joe Panik double to right.

Not a bad homecoming for the Toronto fan favorite.