Utility man Fitzgerald learning new position for Giants

April 3rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

LOS ANGELES -- knew he’d be asked to move around after earning a utility spot with the Giants this year, but he didn’t necessarily expect to get reps at two new positions over the first week of the regular season.

The 25-year-old rookie made his pitching debut after he was brought in to work the eighth inning of the Giants’ 13-4 blowout loss to the Padres on Sunday. Though the bigger curveball came the next day, when he was originally in the club's starting lineup at first base.

Fitzgerald, a natural shortstop who has been taking grounders at first, logged his first appearance there in the Giants’ exhibition finale against the A’s on March 26. He was planning to borrow Wilmer Flores’ first base glove for his second taste of game action on Monday, though he didn’t end up needing it after Flores was cleared to return to the lineup following his scary fall into the Padres’ dugout on Sunday.

Flores and LaMonte Wade Jr. are expected to serve as the Giants’ primary first basemen this year, but Fitzgerald has continued to get pregame work there in case he needs to back up the spot again in the future.

San Francisco’s No. 20 prospect is no stranger to learning a new position on the fly. The Giants tried Fitzgerald out in center field for the first time in his career last season and were stunned at how quickly he took to the position. His ability to shift between the infield and the outfield was one of the reasons he ended up making his first Opening Day roster this year -- though he’s also expected to bring some much-needed speed off the bench late in games.

“Fitzy’s kind of that do-it-all role,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Fitzgerald has the most experience playing shortstop in the Minors, though he stumbled in his season debut there on Sunday, committing a fielding error on the first play of the game. Fitzgerald said afterward that he let the game speed up on him after getting his first chance to start in place of veteran Nick Ahmed.

“I’ve always prided myself on defense, so [Sunday] was very upsetting,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m just trying to show everybody the best I can that I can play multiple positions. I’m excited. I’m not going to put any pressure on myself like I did [Sunday]. Hopefully I’ll have some more confidence out there.”

Fitzgerald said he hasn’t felt overwhelmed by how much the Giants have put on his plate this year, but he acknowledged that there might be a tradeoff when having to juggle as many positions as he does.

“I’ve grown up playing short and [Sunday], I just didn’t feel like my normal self out there,” Fitzgerald said. “There are some times where you play so much you kind of give up a little bit. That’s just the nature of it. I’m just trying to be consistent and fill the roles better for when they need me.”