SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Steven Duggar couldn’t help but notice that the Giants’ outfield mix became more crowded when they acquired LaMonte Wade Jr. from the Twins last month. In Wade, the Giants landed another left-handed hitter who they believe could be an option in center field, creating questions about Duggar’s fit with the club.
“The competition that [president of baseball operations] Farhan [Zaidi’s] brought in from the beginning -- it only makes everybody else better,” Duggar said prior to the Giants’ 7-6 win over the Cubs on Wednesday at Scottsdale Stadium. “To me personally, I’m just focused on myself. If I’m able to do the things that I want to do and train the way that I want to train, ultimately I think everything will work itself out.”
Duggar is 27 and entering his fourth season with the Giants, who drafted him in the sixth round of the 2015 Draft out of Clemson. He’s been slowed by shoulder injuries and hasn’t taken enough steps forward with his bat to cement a spot as a big league regular, but the good news is that the Giants’ outfield is filled with plenty of examples of players who managed to achieve breakthroughs in their late 20s.
Mike Yastrzemski, for example, didn’t debut in the Majors until 28, but he blossomed into a bona fide star and National League MVP candidate for the Giants last year.
"Sometimes it just takes a little longer for different guys to kind of break through and get an opportunity and run with it," Duggar said. "After last year, going home and just kind of replaying everything, I think the biggest focus is just to leave it all out there. Having conversations with [first base coach Antoan Richardson and manager Gabe Kapler], it's just, ‘go be me,’ man.”
For Duggar, that means returning to his aggressive style of play in center field, where he’s long been an elite defender, and at the plate, where the Giants believe he can lay down more bunts to give him more opportunities to exploit his speed on the basepaths.
“I’m trying to get back to myself,” Duggar said. “I’m an aggressive player, and it doesn’t always show up in a game, that’s on me. Part of that is just a mentality approach. I feel like if I get on first, there’s an opportunity to get to second, an opportunity to get to third. It’s only going to help the team.”
Duggar has slashed .236/.281/.349 over 135 games in the Majors and tried to narrow his stance to improve his production last year, but he said he’s now returned to his old swing. He had many conversations over the offseason with hitting coaches Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind about finding ways for him to be more quiet in the box, which he hopes will lead to more consistency at the plate.
He’s also hoping to bulk up a bit more to help him maintain his strength throughout the season. Duggar reported to Spring Training at 190 pounds, but he said he’s been talking with director of performance nutrition Leron Sarig about ways to tweak his diet to bump him up to 195-200 pounds.
Duggar opened Cactus League play by going 1-for-8 with six strikeouts over his first three games, but the results have been more encouraging as of late. He launched his first home run of the spring on Sunday and then added another solo shot to the opposite field and three walks on Tuesday.
“Personally, when I feel like I’m driving the ball the other way, that’s when we’re in a good spot,” Duggar said. “I’ve always felt like power has been the last thing to kind of come.”
Giants, KNBR extend partnership
The Giants on Wednesday announced a four-year extension with flagship radio station KNBR, which will continue to broadcast the club’s games through 2025.
“We are excited that KNBR will continue to deliver Giants baseball on the radio to Giants fans everywhere,” Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said in a statement. “Led by the best broadcast team in all of Major League Baseball in Jon Miller, Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Dave Flemming, we are thrilled that our partnership will continue to deliver top caliber play‐by‐play broadcasts, the pre‐game ‘Kruk & Kuip Show,’ the ‘Post Game Wrap’ and the off-season’s ‘Hot Stove League’ through at least 2025.”
• It was a productive day for Giants infielders, as Donovan Solano and Wilmer Flores combined to go 5-for-6 against the Cubs on Wednesday. Solano collected three singles and an RBI, while Flores launched a two-run shot to left field off left-hander Andrew Chafin for his second home run of the spring in the fifth.
“The first couple of games of the spring are always about getting the knowledge of the strike zone again,” Flores said. “Not much worrying about results. I’ve been feeling great. … On that particular pitch, I was looking fastball. [Chafin] only throws sliders and fastballs. I kind of knew it was coming and got it.”
• Left-hander Jarlin García yielded three hits, including an RBI single to former Giants infielder Matt Duffy, and struck out one over one inning in his first appearance of the spring.
“Jarlin came out and attacked the strike zone,” Kapler said. “He was healthy, that’s number one. The ball was coming out good. I think I saw a couple of 94 [mph]s on the board. That was good.”
• Pitching prospect Sean Hjelle worked around a two-out single to post a scoreless inning in his Cactus League debut on Wednesday. The 6-foot-11 Hjelle topped out at 95 mph, according to the stadium radar gun.
“Hjelle’s a different look,” Kapler said. “It’s a tough at-bat for hitters because you don’t often see limbs that long, and they’re trying to pick the ball up from a location they don’t normally see. Good, solid outing for him as well.”
• Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe suffered a left wrist muscle sprain while attempting to make a diving catch in right field against the Brewers on Tuesday, though Kapler said the Giants have yet to determine a timetable for his return to play.
The Giants will head to Tempe Diablo Stadium to face the Angels on Thursday at 12:10 p.m. PT. Veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto will make his second start of the spring and oppose Los Angeles righty Griffin Canning.