SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When he was coming up through the Minor Leagues, Mauricio Dubón made a habit of going out to center field to shag fly balls during batting practice.
“Just for fun, to kind of mess with the outfielders,” Dubón said. “Telling them, like, ‘Hey, I can play a better center field than you do.’ That kind of bit me in the butt now.”
Dubón, the Giants’ prized Trade Deadline acquisition from the Brewers last season, will have the opportunity to put those boasts to the test this Spring Training. A middle infielder by trade, Dubón is expected to get some reps in center field as he aims to expand his positional versatility, which has become a key tenet for San Francisco under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.
Dubón impressed in an extended audition at second base last season. But the Giants believe he can maximize his value to the club by becoming a superutility player who can bounce between the infield and outfield and create more flexibility for new manager Gabe Kapler.
“It might make sense for a guy like Dubón to be able to play multiple positions,” Kapler said last week. “If he can play shortstop, second base and get out into the outfield. We talked about him playing first base. If he played all those positions, it's much easier to get him in the lineup regularly than it is if he can only play one.”
Dubón logged five appearances in the outfield during a stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2016. He’s confident that he has the athleticism to become proficient in center field as he gains more exposure there this spring.
“It’s going to be fun,” Dubón said. “It’s going to be a fun experience. I’m going to do a good job over there. I’m an athlete, so I’ve got no problem with it.”
Dubón’s determination and self-belief have already made an impression on new first-base coach Antoan Richardson, who will work with the outfielders this year.
“He’s a confident young man,” said Richardson, who traveled to Miami to meet with Dubón this offseason. “I think his instincts are just really, really good. His willingness to want to be great -- I think those characteristics get you really excited about somebody like that.”
While Dubón is expecting to move around a lot this season, he’s still coming into Spring Training with the goal of winning the starting job at second base. He’ll face plenty of competition. Wilmer Flores, Donovan Solano and non-roster invitee Yolmer Sánchez, who won the American League Gold Glove Award at second base for the White Sox last year, will also be fighting for playing time there.
“I’m trying to win the spot,” Dubón said. “It’s going to be a fun competition. I don’t doubt that. It’s going to be a really fun competition. [Sánchez is] a good player. We’ll see how it goes. I’m excited. I’m excited for Donovan, too. Donovan is a good player, and he hit .400 here with us [on the road]. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be challenging for everybody, and it’s going to bring the best out of everybody.”
• Outfielder Austin Slater is also working to become more versatile this spring and took grounders at all four infield spots on Friday. Slater has played infield in the past, and he could have an easier path to the roster if he shows the ability to handle multiple positions and emerges as another weapon against left-handed pitching.
• In a bid to ramp up the intensity of the workouts, Kapler plans to bring in three local umpires to call balls and strikes and simulate game action during bullpen sessions on Saturday.
“We want to make this optional for our pitchers, so you might see a pitcher asking the umpire to get out of the way, which we highly encourage,” Kapler said. “At the same time, we want to heighten the level of competition.”