NBC Sports

Why new Giant Robertson credits Duffy for his past success

NBC Sports
USATSI

The current Giants have some Tampa Bay Rays ties, so Daniel Robertson will have plenty of familiar faces to turn to as he tries to get comfortable in the NL. But when the Giants picked up Robertson in late August, the utility infielder turned to a former Giant for his scouting report. 

Robertson, called up from the alternate site Tuesday, said he's very close with former Rays teammate Matt Duffy. He sent Duffy a text after the Giants picked him up for cash or a player to be named later. 

"I was like, I'm going back to the house that Duffy built," Robertson told his friend. 

The Giants traded Duffy to the Rays in 2016 and Robertson, a former A's first-rounder, was called up a year later. He struggled as a rookie but had a .797 OPS in 2018, and he said a lot of that is due to a fellow versatile infielder who helped him work on his craft. 

"I credit Matt Duffy for a lot of my success in 2018 with the Rays," Robertson said Tuesday. "He really solidified a good mental approach for me and I still talk to him just about every week via text message. He's a good buddy of mine."

Duffy currently is at the alternate site of the New York Yankees, hoping to eventually join their big league roster as a depth piece. For now, that's what Robertson is for the Giants. He can play second, short and third and can handle the outfield in a pinch.

 

The Giants are hoping to get a right-handed boost for their bench, and as they watched Robertson take swings while on the taxi squad in recent days, coaches got a familiar feeling. Robertson has a lot of the same swing principles as Dodgers star Justin Turner, and said he has worked with specialist Doug Latta in Los Angeles -- famous for helping Turner break through -- to try and find his past form. 

Latta also worked with Mac Williamson, helping him alter his swing before a breakout that was halted by a concussion. Hunter Pence visited Latta after leaving the Giants in 2018, and the instructor's work has been studied by new Giants hitting coaches at all levels. Robertson said he found himself speaking the same language as the instructors in Sacramento. 

"I'm not trying to be Justin Turner," he said. "It's a lot of the same feels, a lot of the same thoughts on where you want to be. A lot of it may look kind of similar with what J.T. does, but I'm trying to create my own version of it and make it what works for me and my body and how I move. 

"I don't think my leg kick is as high as his, but as far as getting in that setup and what you want, it's a lot of similar stuff. It's simplified my approach, it's simplified my mentality in the box. I'm not trying to have a 10-step hitting process to hit a 95 mph fastball. You just can't do that."

RELATED: Giants come home with playoff destiny in own hands

Robertson ran into Williamson quite a bit over the offseason as the two worked on their swings. At some point he might play Williamson's old spot in left, but for now he's in Duffy's spots.

Robertson came in late in the game at third in Tuesday's blowout and started at short on Wednesday. He was 3-for-5 in the series, showing the skills that intrigued the Giants, and have them thinking the 2018 version of Robertson can be found.