His body was letting him down. He didn’t know his mind was, too.
It took the physical setbacks for Alex Dickerson to fix his mental approach.
The newest Giants sensation — nine RBIs in his first three games, bumping an outfielder the Padres had DFA’d this month into San Francisco’s No. 2 hitter Monday — is a study both in frustration and perseverance. After being a third-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2011, he debuted in the majors briefly with the Padres in 2015. He hit well in 84 2016 games (.257/.333/.455), even homering Sept. 22 against the Giants.
It would be his final major league home run until Friday.
“Certain things happen. You don’t get to play for a couple years,” Dickerson told KNBR on Monday, those certain things being a bulging disc and, once healthy again, Tommy John surgery. “It sucks. The reality of it is I’ve gotten to come back and get back to the major leagues and put another [homer] on the board. It’s been exciting for me.”
His team isn’t the only thing that has changed. The spring-training Tommy John surgery last year resulted from his overdoing it, throwing too often to get all the reps he could to prove himself. His back passed the baton to his elbow as the part of his body holding him back.
He went from a 26-year-old bursting on the scene in 2016 to a 29-year-old fighting for a spot in a crowded San Diego outfield, a battle he lost. He has gone from an overeager young player to a more relaxed person who’s appreciating this ride.
“Mentally, I’ve gotten stronger over those years because I got to see a lot of major league games from the dugout and get a feel of watching players and seeing how much being removed from it and how easy the game can look from afar,” Dickerson said before the Giants hosted the Rockies. “And you realize how much stress each individual person puts on themselves.
“And I think after seeing that for two years, I’ve just told myself, ‘Hey, this game’s going to beat you up. Even at its worst, you got to find a way to put a smile on your face.’ … I think that’s given me a new perspective this year. It’s taken a lot of the anxiety that I used to have back in 2016, it’s taken that away.”
So Dickerson didn’t sweat crushing the ball at Triple-A for San Diego (.342/.444/.541) but falling flat in the majors. He cited getting spiked early this season — which led to Mariners prospect Tito Polo getting suspended and released — and then dealing with “little knick-knack injuries that were coming up.”
He wasn’t surprised when the Padres no longer had the space for him, but he was grateful the Giants did.
“Went to Triple-A, made a quick little swing adjustment and ended up getting called up here right as I made that adjustment fortunately and felt good that first series,” said Dickerson, who went 5-for-12 with that homer, a triple and two doubles in the Arizona series. “Anybody that’s been around this game long enough knows it’s not what you’ve done for two or three games, [it’s] how are you going to find consistency in the rest of the season. And that’s what I’m going to be searching for.”
It’s what the Giants have been searching for, collecting outfielders like others stockpile lottery tickets in hopes some would pan out. Mike Yastrzemski has shown flashes. Tyler Austin has shown power. Steven Duggar is developing.
And suddenly, Dickerson is batting second.
“We certainly hope so, we think so,” manager Bruce Bochy said, asked if he thought Dickerson had the potential to keep up his hot start. “That’s why we acquired him. … He’s got the bat to do it. Biggest thing, I think he would say, too, is we need to keep him healthy, keep him on the field.”
Whether he’s playing or on the bench, his mind is now in the right spot.
“I’m very just appreciative of where I’m at,” Dickerson said.