An April trade will catch any player by surprise, and Mike Tauchman admitted he was shocked when he was shipped across the country on Tuesday afternoon. The newest Giant also said he's very excited about the new opportunity, and that feeling might have grown when he saw Wednesday's lineup.
Tauchman went right in as the center fielder, and he's part of a group that shows what the Giants believe in. Late bloomer Alex Dickerson will be alongside him in left and Darin Ruf, who has found new life after a stint overseas, is in right. Curt Casali, who is getting his most acclaim as a big leaguer, is catching. Tommy La Stella, who got a three-year deal after a late-career breakthrough, is leading off and playing second base.
Oracle Park has become a home for second chances, and Tauchman looks poised for a long audition. He also seems to be on-brand already. As he talked about a whirlwind 24 hours, the 30-year-old outfielder said what stood out in his research on Wednesday's long flight was how good a job the Giants do of grinding. They currently lead the Majors with 4.09 pitches per plate appearance, and Tauchman is built in that mold.
"That's something this team strives to do and they've been doing a great job of it," he said. "Just continuing to drown starting pitchers out there and getting into the bullpen, where night after night you're getting into the bullpen early, that adds up over a series or over a year."
That's a mantra that might as well be printed on the back of Gabe Kapler's business card, but the manager sees more than just a tough at-bat in Tauchman. The Giants view him as a plus defender, and Tauchman said he has always been comfortable in center. Kapler also said he's looking forward to watching Tauchman run the bases.
"We could use a savvy baserunner and this is something that he's known for, his ability to make good baserunning decisions," Kapler said. "We're excited to see him on the bases and he's got a history of stealing bases, as well."
Tauchman has a chance to become the primary center fielder against right-handed pitching, as the Giants have been using Austin Slater and Mauricio Dubon in those situations. The Giants know some of what he'll bring to the table, but they're hoping for more of what the AL East saw in 2019, when Tauchman hit 13 homers and was one of the league's better players for a stretch. He hasn't hit a homer in more limited action since.
"From conversations that I've had, watching video, and just kind of analyzing Mike from afar, I think there was a more aggressive pass in there in '19 than there was last year, and I think we're seeing that aggressive pass show up in a small sample in '21 in New York, so there's some optimism that he's feeling more confident with his swings," Kapler said.
It's impossible to compare any player to Mike Yastrzemski, but the Giants saw him hit for power at the big league level after showing a good approach in the minors, a recipe they believe in. Tauchman said he played against Yastrzemski in the minors and has been facing Dickerson since college, and he noted that he worked with hitting coach Donnie Ecker a couple offseasons ago.
Tauchman's biggest connection to the Giants, though, comes from his first two years in the big leagues. He came up with the Rockies and faced 2017-18 Giants teams that struggled. A lot has changed since then, and the Giants are hoping Tauchman can be the latest success story for a new front office and help them build on a hot start.
"This team is playing really good baseball at a high level in a tough division, so the fact that I'm getting the opportunity to come here and contribute to that, it's really exciting," Tauchman said.