Williamson brings rebuilt swing to Giants
Outfielder takes injured Pence's spot on roster after sizzling start to Minors season
ANAHEIM -- Mac Williamson is happy to be out of the Pacific Coast League, where teams do devilish things like make you hit against position players.
The outfielder was called up to the Giants on Friday, replacing Hunter Pence, who went to the 10-day disabled list with a sprained right thumb. Williamson didn't take long to make his presence felt, hitting a two-run homer in the fifth against the Angels in the Giants' 8-1 win.
Williamson's home run was a rocket. It left the bat at 114.2 mph, according to Statcast™, and traveled a projected 434 feet. That exit velocity made it the hardest home run hit by any Giants player since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015, surpassing a 113.5 mph Hunter Pence home run from July 21, 2015.
All the more impressive was that Williamson, a right-handed hitter, hit it to right field. His home run was tied for the third-hardest opposite-field homer by any MLB hitter since Statcast™ started tracking, behind only Giancarlo Stanton's 117.3 mph homer in Toronto on March 29 and Jorge Alfaro's 114.5 mph homer in Philadelphia on April 7.
In the big leagues, Williamson anticipates a little more predictability. He went 0-for-2 while hitting against two different position players during a runway game against the Reno Aces.
Against everybody else? Williamson continued the production he started during his impressive spring by posting a 1.026 slugging percentage at Triple-A Sacramento, with a cartoon-like 1.626 OPS in 39 at-bats.
Of his 19 hits, nine went for extra bases, including six home runs. He had 19 RBIs and generally looked like the guy who was having fun with his retooled swing that he showed off in Arizona during the month of March.
"A lot of things went my way, I will say that," Williamson said from the visitors' clubhouse at Angel Stadium on Friday. "If I put a barrel on it, it seemed to find a hole or a gap. But I felt like I was hitting the ball well and getting the right pitches to hit. I was putting quality swings on pitches consistently."
Those swings will look awfully familiar to Southern California baseball fans. It bears a strong resemblance to the swing of the Dodgers' Justin Turner. Williamson rebuilt his swing with the help of private coach Doug Latta, who helped Turner revive a stalled-out career.
Turner's breakthrough with the Dodgers came in 2015, at age 30. In 2016, Turner finished ninth in the NL MVP voting. Last year, Turner was an NL All-Star for the first time.
Williamson has a jump on Turner in that he is 27 and finally ready to deliver on all that promise he had as a third-round pick by the Giants in 2012.
Armed now with a leg kick and a level swing through the zone, Williamson's moment seemed to have arrived. The Giants could use an offensive boost, having scored an National League-worst 51 runs heading into the series opener against the Angels.
Williamson won't have any of this savior talk. He's busy enough making sure he can keep himself on track, much less putting a Major League club on his broad shoulders.
"I'm definitely not a savior," Williamson said. "If you look around this clubhouse, there are some extremely talented players. I'm just trying to fit in and help out where I can. I'm definitely not coming in here thinking that I'm going to be changing things, or anything like that. I'm just a young kid trying to help out.
"But I will say that hitting is contagious. When guys start swinging well, everybody is swinging well and everything starts falling."
Manager Bruce Bochy made no promises when it comes to Williamson's playing time, but seemed to suggest he will get more chances in left field beyond Friday's game.
"Mac was swinging the bat well so he's going to get at-bats out there," Bochy said.
Giants line up DH plan in Anaheim
Bochy might use three different designated hitters in the three interleague games against the Angels this weekend.
Andrew McCutchen was batting third in the designated-hitter spot Friday. Bochy said he plans to use Buster Posey in the DH role on Saturday. For Sunday's series finale, the manager said he has a few options, but did offer Pablo Sandoval as one of those options.