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Jankowski thriving in leadoff opportunity

Outfielder finishes 3-for-5 during win vs. Pirates, adds 5-star catch to resume
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PITTSBURGH -- The Padres' best outfielder this season didn't break camp with the club.

He was available, but after a year lost to injury in 2017, Travis Jankowski was optioned to Triple-A El Paso to start the season.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Padres' best outfielder this season didn't break camp with the club.

He was available, but after a year lost to injury in 2017, Travis Jankowski was optioned to Triple-A El Paso to start the season.

View Full Game Coverage

"Initially, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't upset," Jankowski said following the Padres' 6-2 victory over the Pirates on Saturday night. "I had to come back to Spring Training after the team broke, and that really hit hard. I kind of used that time to get some frustration out, get the sulking out. Once it was game time, it was time to go, man.

"As long as I'm in Triple-A, I'm going to help the club win down there and do everything I can to get better and be up here."

It took a month, but Jankowski got "here." And he's wasted no time making an impact.

Video: SD@PIT: Jankowski steals second, call stands

Jankowski did it all from the leadoff spot on Saturday, going 3-for-5 with a bunt single and a pair of stolen bases. He's filled a gaping void for the Padres at the top of their lineup. Take a look at his contributions through 59 plate appearances there, compared with the rest of the club:

Jankowski: .412/.491/.549
Other Padres leadoff hitters: .162/.227/.331

"The biggest thing this year is I'm not throwing away at-bats," Jankowski said. "I think previously in my career, I'd go into that last at-bat, 2-for-4, and be content. ... This year, I'm not throwing it away."

After a 2-for-4 showing on Friday night in which he struck out looking in his final at-bat, Jankowski said he was up until 2 a.m., angry at himself for letting Pirates reliever Kyle Crick off the hook. He'll sleep soundly on Saturday.

One play in the seventh inning drew extra praise from Padres manager Andy Green. With two outs and starting pitcher Clayton Richard on second base, Jankowski attempted to lay down a bunt. It went foul.

On the play, third baseman David Freese barely moved from his deep position beyond the third-base bag. Jankowski noticed, and he took the free base he was being offered, bunting perfectly on the next pitch.

"That's good baseball, setting up Eric Hosmer in a two-RBI situation," Green said. "Reading the game, that's been impressed upon Travis for a few years now. That probably fired me up as much as anything he's ever done. That's really sound baseball."

Jankowski offered an exclamation point on a brilliant all-around display two innings later. He got the perfect break on a Freese line drive in the ninth and made a diving catch to end the game. The play featured a 25-percent catch probability -- five stars according to Statcast™.

"He's flying around the field, laying out, catching balls, stealing bases," Green said. "It's high-energy baseball."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Travis Jankowski