Defense gives Ahmed Giants' shortstop job over Luciano

March 28th, 2024

SAN DIEGO -- For the first time since 2011, someone other than Brandon Crawford served as the Giants’ Opening Day shortstop, though it wasn't the top prospect who had been viewed as his heir apparent.

Veteran , who came into camp as a non-roster invitee, earned the start there in Thursday’s regular-season opener after beating out rookie for the everyday job during Spring Training.

The Giants were hoping Luciano -- the club’s No. 2 prospect -- would claim the starting spot this year, but the 22-year-old rookie was slowed by a hamstring injury and struggled to find his timing at the plate early in camp. He began to heat up toward the end of exhibition play, crushing two homers over his last five spring games, but the Giants still decided to go with Ahmed, a 10-year veteran with two Gold Glove Awards to his name.

“Luci was playing well there at the end, but we still feel like maybe there’s some development defensively,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I think his bat is going to play here right now. Just get a little bit more comfortable at the shortstop position. That’s kind of the decision there at this point.”

Ahmed, 34, was released by the D-backs last September, but he worked to retool his swing over the offseason and impressed the Giants by batting .355 (11-for-31) with two home runs over 13 Spring Training games this year.

“It feels good,” Ahmed said. “Anytime you come into a situation that’s not guaranteed, it’s just show up and do your best and prepare to the best of your abilities and hope things work out. Obviously, I had a good spring. But I love being here. I love this team. I love what we have going here. I’m excited for the season.”

While Luciano will open the season at Triple-A Sacramento, Ahmed believes it won’t be long before the young slugger is back in the big leagues with the Giants.

“He’s obviously a very talented player,” Ahmed said. “You guys saw the home runs, especially lately, but he’s got a lot of talent. I think he’s going to be a great player. Defensively, he improved in camp, too. He’s got great potential. He’s definitely going to help this organization for a long time.”

With Ahmed and third baseman Matt Chapman -- a four-time Gold Glove winner -- manning the left side of the infield, the Giants should have a vastly improved defense that will pair perfectly with a pitching staff that led the Majors with a 48.7 percent groundball rate in 2023.

“Obviously, we’ve got some really good arms in the rotation and some guys who are going to get some big outs for us all year,” Ahmed said. “We lead the league in ground-ball percentage, so having a good infield defense out there is obviously a huge priority. Chapman and I, Thairo [Estrada], the guys at first base -- [Wilmer Flores] and LaMonte [Wade Jr.] -- we’re going to do our best to pick it for those guys all year.”

Bart nabs a spot on Opening Day roster

had appeared to be the odd man out in the catching mix this spring, but the Giants decided to carry only 12 pitchers on their 26-man roster on Thursday, creating an extra spot for a third catcher.

San Francisco is a man short in the bullpen, so it’s unclear how long the club will be able to hang on to Bart, who is out of options and can’t be sent to the Minors without being exposed to waivers.

“This is the way you start,” Melvin said. “You never know how it’s going to go after that. But he had a great spring. As far as depth in the catching position, you’re always a foul tip away from being in a tough spot, as you saw even during the spring when Patrick [Bailey] took that one off his hand.”

Despite the lingering uncertainty, Bart said he’s trying not to look too far down the road and is grateful for another opportunity to contribute to the Giants.

“You can look at it a number of ways,” Bart said. “For me, it's an opportunity. You never take any opportunity for granted, so my approach was just to come in and do my best, be the best person I can be and let everything else play its way out. This is where I’m at, and I’m excited about it.”

Rotation plans

Left-hander Blake Snell will pitch in a Minor League game in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Friday, which could line him up to start the Giants’ series finale at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. Right-hander Keaton Winn, meanwhile, is likely to make his season debut against the Dodgers on Monday. Sunday’s starter remains unclear, though the Giants could call up pitching prospect Mason Black or veteran right-hander Daulton Jefferies to make a spot start.