SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The breakout season Zach Green was waiting for contained the same frustrations.
The third baseman sizzled at Triple-A Sacramento, launching 25 home runs in just 252 at-bats. He posted a .380 on-base percentage, and while the numbers were inflated in the PCL last year, his look filled with helium.
He forced his way to the majors — finally — debuting in July, at age 25, seven years after being a prized third-round draft pick from Sacramento who skipped college for the Phillies.
Yet, even as reached the big time, he did so with a hip that bothered him throughout the season. He played through the lingering pain, but it got worse until it became clear he was going to be lying on an operating table on Sept. 16 rather than sitting in a major league dugout.
It was a second hip surgery for a player who admits “I definitely have a history of injuries.” Add wrist and elbow surgeries to the mix, and it makes sense why he was available following the 2018 season as a minor league free agent. Farhan Zaidi brought him home to Sacramento and kept him around following the hip surgery, which certainly helped the Giants’ chances of keeping the third baseman, who said there was “some” interest from other teams this offseason.
“Ending the year like that with injuries, it was just tough. I don’t know how my situation would have been [if I were healthy],” Green said Tuesday, a day after he announced himself in camp by crushing a home run. “I imagine it would have been different in the offseason if I had never gotten hurt. Who knows. But all I know is I was excited to come back here and they were excited for me to come back, too. Sometimes that’s all you need.”
What Green needs is a healthy season to prove his body can hold up and his bat can translate to the big-league level. He was down for about three months after he went under the knife, rehabilitated, went through the everyday work of being able to move again and began preparing for a spring training for which he said he felt “about a month behind.”
“It never really felt like I had an offseason. Surgery in September, season’s still going on, been grinding ever since,” Green said.
The team has slow-played him, appearing in just his second game Monday, but his bat looked to be in midseason form. His fourth plate appearance of the camp saw him first take a tough Edwin Jackson slider a touch outside on a 1-2 count, then power a fastball the other way, easily clearing the right-center-field fence.
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“Green earned himself another pitch and obviously a pitch to drive,” Kapler said of the 1-2 take against the Arizona pitcher. “He’s flashed that power in the minor league level in the past. We want to give him an opportunity to show us that he can do it at this level as well.”
Green can prove himself if his body can stay upright. He said the hip “nagged” at him last season, and was sure to say he now feels great. He sounds a bit weary when he says that “pain is such a normalcy a lot of times in a baseball season”; he hasn’t been dealing with bruises but rather with serious ailments.
On the field and at the plate, it’s more of the same. His surge last season came from tunneling his vision, focusing on pitches in certain spots where he could do damage and taking the rest. His hip is improved, while his batting mindset is unchanged. Evan Longoria, while he is signed through 2022, is not the future of the Giants. A combination of good performances from the third basemen this season could clear a path for Green — if he remains off operating tables.
“I think that they believe in me,” Green said of the Giants. “And I definitely believe in this team and the path we’re taking. I think it’s going really well.”