SAN FRANCISCO -- No one has played more games for the Giants this season than Kevin Pillar. Earlier this week, manager Bruce Bochy met with Pillar and offered him the opportunity to take a well-earned breather during the final week of the regular season. Pillar declined, expressing a desire to continue to play out his 2019 campaign.
The moment was emblematic of the dedication and durability that Pillar has shown in his first year with the Giants, qualities that helped make him the recipient of the 2019 Willie Mac Award, which is given annually to the club’s most inspirational player. Bochy, accompanied by Estela McCovey, presented the award to Pillar before Friday night’s series opener against the Dodgers.
“I didn’t know Kevin before he got here,” Bochy said. “I heard a lot of things about him, and it was all that was advertised. How he plays the game, how dependable, how durable he is. I mean, I just took for granted he was fine every day and put his name in the lineup.”
Giants players, coaches, trainers and fans vote on the Willie Mac Award, which was established in 1980 in honor of Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who passed away last October. Past winners include Mike Krukow, Dave Dravecky, Shawon Dunston, Omar Vizquel, Ryan Vogelsong, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford and Will Smith, all of whom were on hand for Friday night’s ceremony.
“It definitely blew me away,” said Pillar, who caught Friday's ceremonial first pitch from his father, Mike. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet. I just come to work, and I do my job. To be voted by your peers and your coaching staff and people that are with you every single day means the world to me. You just never really know what to expect when you get traded and come to a new environment, but the three things that I know that I can do every single day is work hard, play hard and be a good teammate. Getting that award kind of reiterates that I’m doing the right things.”
Acquired from the Blue Jays in exchange for Alen Hanson, Derek Law and Juan De Paula in April, Pillar has enjoyed a career season this year and entered Friday batting .265 with a .738 OPS over 153 games with the Giants. He leads the team in hits (156), home runs (21), RBIs (86) and extra-base hits (61) while supplying a constant stream of highlight-reel catches in center field.
“That Pillar [trade] might have changed our season big time,” right-hander Jeff Samardzija said. “I think we might have been looking at a little bit different of a year if we didn’t bring that guy over. He’s been by far the most consistent force on this team.”
This marked the first year that the Willie Mac Award was not presented by McCovey himself, imbuing the ceremony with a bit more emotional heft for the Giants.
“That man was so loved by the players in the clubhouse,” Bochy said before the game. “He was a real gentleman, a real class man and a fun guy to have around the clubhouse and talk baseball. He was a big fan. He watched all these games, knew everything about these players. He will be missed tonight and we’ll all be thinking about him.”
● Bumgarner is lined up to start the Giants’ regular-season finale Sunday, but Bochy said “it’s not a definite” that he will pitch. Bochy plans to talk with Bumgarner before making a final decision.
“We have coverage there with the pitching if we want to make a change,” Bochy said. “I don’t want him to feel like he has any obligation there.”
● An MRI exam revealed a mild left oblique strain for Tyler Beede, who was forced to depart his final start of the season Thursday after 3 1/3 hitless innings against the Rockies. Beede said the injury is not expected to impact his normal offseason routine.