Estrada making most of 'second opportunity'
LOS ANGELES -- The Giants took a significant hit when they placed All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford on the injured list with a mild left oblique strain on Monday, but his replacement, Thairo Estrada, is doing his best to help lessen the blow.
Estrada entered Thursday batting .341 with a .962 OPS and two home runs over 18 games this year, and his production has taken on greater import now that he’s been thrust into a starting role for the first-place Giants. Filling in for Crawford -- San Francisco’s first-half MVP -- is no easy task, but Estrada hasn’t looked overwhelmed by the assignment thus far, going 4-for-10 with a home run and three RBIs in the first three games of his club’s pivotal series at Dodger Stadium this week.
“I think the most important thing is confidence,” Estrada said in Spanish. “I have the opportunity to play on this stage, so I’m going to enjoy the game and go out there with a positive mindset every day.”
Estrada, 25, broke into the Majors with the Yankees in 2019 and hit .214 with a .615 OPS over 61 games across two seasons for New York before being designated for assignment in April. The Giants, who were looking to bolster their upper-level shortstop depth, acquired Estrada in exchange for cash considerations and sent him to Triple-A Sacramento, where he batted .385 with a 1.057 OPS and seven homers over 37 games before earning his first callup with San Francisco on June 6.
Estrada has worked to make minor mechanical tweaks since joining the Giants, but he said the biggest difference for him has been to adopt a more selective approach at the plate, which is a key part of San Francisco’s offensive philosophy.
“At the Minor League level, I think the quality of contact was really impressive,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He always had good bat-to-ball skills. We knew that when we acquired him. I think he’s controlled the strike zone better than we expected him to. We knew he was capable of it, but I don’t think that he had shown it as consistently as he did for us at Triple-A, which is one of the reasons he’s on our roster right now.”
Estrada has overcome a lot to earn the opportunity to become a regular contributor in the Majors. In February 2018, when he was a prospect in the Yankees organization, Estrada was shot in the right hip during a robbery attempt in his native Venezuela.
Estrada said he was having dinner at a restaurant with his wife when two teenagers apprehended him and demanded cash or his cellphone. When Estrada explained that he only had credit cards on him, the assailants refused to believe him and shot him.
“You can’t even imagine how difficult it is to go through something that you never expected to happen,” Estrada said. “But I also chose to stay positive and stay strong mentally. I thought a lot about my family, my dad, my fans, and I kept working. I never stopped working, and I knew that I could overcome it. God gave me a second opportunity to return to baseball, and here we are, thankfully.”
Estrada credited fellow infielders Wilmer Flores and Donovan Solano with helping to ease his transition to the Giants, though he said he’s also learned a lot from observing Crawford.
“I watch him a lot and try to pick up a couple of things from him,” Estrada said. “I try to be just as consistent as him and ask him a lot of questions. He’s someone who has a ton of experience in the big leagues, so it’s a pleasure to be able to get to know him and be part of the same team.”