Lee's bat, speed spark 5-run inning in first game with Giants

Hicks hits 100 mph in his debut

February 28th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- had to wait a few extra days to get his first taste of Cactus League action after experiencing a bout of side soreness last week, but that didn’t stop him from hitting the ground running in his Giants debut on Tuesday.

San Francisco’s new center fielder offered a glimpse at his table-setting abilities by delivering a leadoff single that sparked a five-run bottom of the first inning in the Giants’ 10-10 tie with the Mariners at Scottsdale Stadium.

Lee, who is expected to serve as the club’s everyday leadoff hitter after signing a six-year, $113 million contract during the offseason, bounced an offspeed pitch from Mariners right-hander George Kirby through the right side for his first hit in a Giants uniform, drawing a nice applause from the 6,418 fans in attendance.

“Kirby is a very known pitcher,” Lee said via interpreter Justin Han. “He was at two strikes, and I just thought, ‘Let’s just make contact.’ It went up in a good result, thankfully.”

Lee quickly showcased his speed by taking off for second base, which may have forced an error by Seattle shortstop Ryan Bliss, who missed a chance to turn a potential double play after bobbling a grounder off the bat of Thairo Estrada. Lee then put the Giants on the board by scoring from second on LaMonte Wade Jr.’s single to center field. Patrick Bailey delivered the big blow three batters later, crushing a grand slam out to the Charro Lodge in right field to put the Giants ahead, 5-2.

“It’s been kind of a long wait,” manager Bob Melvin said of Lee. “To be delayed a little bit and then to go up there and get a hit in his first at-bat and score a run, looked pretty good to me.”

Lee grounded out in his second plate appearance and then struck out swinging against right-hander Carlos Vargas in the fourth to finish 1-for-3 at the plate. The 25-year-old batted an impressive .340/.407/.491 during his KBO career, never hitting below .318 in any of his seven seasons, though he’s still adjusting to the higher velocity from Major League pitching.

“Talking about the fastballs, for sure, there is a difference,” said Lee, who also logged four innings in center field. “But I feel that the biggest difference will be the breaking ball speed. Compared to the KBO and the Major Leagues, it’s different.”

Lee wasn’t much of a basestealing threat in the KBO, swiping only 69 bags in seven seasons, though he could run more with the Giants, especially now that he’s fully recovered from the ankle surgery that forced him to miss most of the 2023 campaign.

“He definitely has some speed,” Melvin said. “He had the ankle injury, and my understanding was last year they wanted him to be a little bit more careful. But from what we've seen, there’s good foot speed, so we’re going to try to see what he can do.”

Hicks debuts

Lee wasn’t the only player who got a chance to suit up for the Giants for the first time on Tuesday.

Flamethrower also impressed in his San Francisco debut, topping out at 100 mph while giving up two runs on two hits over 1 2/3 innings in his first start of the spring. Hicks struck out four, though he also surrendered a two-run homer to Mitch Garver in the top of the first.

“I think I was a little excited,” Hicks said. “I threw a little harder than I was expecting that first inning. I looked back at the radar and it said 99, 98 [mph]. I had only hit 97s in lives, so I was probably a little happy, excited out there, and just kind of spraying a little bit to start. I feel like I locked in a little bit and made some really good pitches.”

Hicks, a converted reliever, had to grind through a 30-pitch first inning and then sat for a while due to the Giants’ extended rally against Kirby in the bottom half of the frame. His velocity dipped a bit when he returned to the mound in the second, but he was able to push it back up to the mid-90s and recorded two outs on six pitches before leaving the game.

“It was good to get that,” Hicks said. “I know it’s going to be a part of the game, just those long sits, long innings. I came out there and I think my first pitch of the second inning was 93 [mph], and then it kind of slowly worked up from there.”