He ranged back and to his left, having been playing shallow, and darted on a smooth path toward right-center. He glanced over his shoulder, stuck out his glove, and Mauricio Dubon made it look easing recording the out off Tyler Heineman’s bat. He bounced against the outfield wall like it was a plaything.
He made it look like he is a center fielder. Which, in eight days, he very well may be in a major league game.
The former infielder is now a utilityman and trying to prove he can handle the middle of an outfield, a position he hadn’t played since the 2016 Arizona Fall League. The Giants think he’s athletic enough to handle the job, and after a few weeks in Arizona, a break that was spent seeking advice about the position, and a few weeks in San Francisco, Dubon is convincing the Giants they are right.
It wasn’t quite a highlite-reel grab, but it is one that instills confidence as the Giants decide who will be their Opening Day center fielder next Thursday. The fact the Dodgers will be pitching Clayton Kershaw makes Dubon’s righty bat a near lineup certainty.
“It certainly makes our staff’s job easier when he can move around the diamond and be flexible,” Gabe Kapler said on a Zoom call. “And right now we see him as a capable shortstop, second baseman and center fielder, and those players don’t grow on trees.”
Here’s the excellent running catch by Mauricio Dubon, who’s quickly learning about center field and Oracle Park’s new dimensions. pic.twitter.com/cHAqwg4QQw
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) July 16, 2020
Kapler said the staff has debated whether Dubon or Mike Yastrzemski would man center when they’re both on the field, and they chose the less-experienced option in part because it’s oftentimes easier to pick up the ball off the bat from straight-on.
Dubon made a quick read on Heineman’s drive and had a bead on it throughout.
“He got what a good outfielder’s supposed to do: first step,” said Wilmer Flores, Dubon’s intrasquad teammate who watched the play develop from third base. “He just got it real quick. The rest is history because he’s got the feet to do it.”
Flores called Dubon “so athletic,” words the Giants both endorse and crave. The fact that Dubon’s swing looks just fine, too — he singled off Sam Coonrod in a 1-for-3 day — will help his case.
The Giants’ other options are not as enticing, especially with Billy Hamilton still away from the team. Steven Duggar has come on strong of late, but he has yet to prove he can hit major league pitching consistently — and his lefty bat is not a fit against southpaws. Yastrzemski can shift over, though he’s a better right fielder. Jaylin Davis is in the mix, though there are experience issues there, too.
Dubon, as always, said Sunday he feels confident playing center and feels he has gotten the reps he needs. His glove helped make the same point three days later.