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‘Unheard of’: Donovan Solano is building a case to play every day

Chris Mezzavilla/KNBR

Mike Yastrzemski is not the only Giant trying to prove his breakout year was no fluke.

And not the only one doing so successfully.

An inning before Yastrzemski’s first Splash Hit won the Giants a game over the Padres, it was Donovan Solano’s three-run homer that brought them back into the game. With two on, Craig Stammen had stayed away from Solano, pounding three pitches outside, before he ran a changeup in on Solano’s hands. He whipped the bat across and uppercutted the pitch 380 feet to left, turning a 6-3 deficit into a tie game.

“He is one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t get his nickname, ‘Donnie Barrels,’ for nothing,” Yastrzmeski said of Solano, who hit .330 last year. “He always find the barrel, always hits the ball hard, and he’s super clutch. Think he had a couple walk-offs last year.

“To be able to hit a ball that was 5 inches off the plate, in on his hands, for a homer, it’s unheard of.”

Solano was only in the lineup because the hitters the Giants have trusted against righty starters have struggled (Mauricio Dubon is 1-for-11 with five strikeouts against righties) and because their third baseman had struggled (so many Wilmer Flores throws have been an adventure). So the Giants rely on the 32-year-old at second and against southpaws; how about third and against righties?

Solano, who was better against lefties but still slashed .320/.333/.450 against righties last year, is proving he’s a weapon regardless of the situation

“I’m here to play as many games as possible,” Solano said, through translator Erwin Higueros, after the 7-6 win Wednesday night. “I’m here to represent the Giants organization that gave me an opportunity to be here and to play baseball. So if my role is to play against lefties, I will do it. If my role is to play against righties, I will do that. If my role is to play every single day, I will do that.”

The Giants are open to any hitter impressing amid an offensive start that has been underwhelming. They hoped someone would emerge from their sea of major league second basemen, bringing in Flores (who is better suited at first) and Yolmer Sanchez (rehabbing in Sacramento) while still holding on to Dubon — competition everywhere Solano looks.

“He’s just a real professional hitter,” Gabe Kapler said. “That nickname — Donnie Barrels — didn’t come from me. It came from his teammates, people who were here with him before me. But I certainly think it applies.”

In the tiny sample size of this season, Solano is 0-for-5 against southpaws and 6-for-10 against righties. His seven RBIs tie him for fourth in all of baseball, behind only Nelson Cruz, Nicholas Castellanos and Dansby Swanson.

For Yastrzemski, the concern was a player who had spent his career in the minors, then displayed power he hadn’t in the past, would regress in Year Two. For Solano, the concern was a veteran who has bounced around the league, up and down from the minors, since 2012 would be less lucky, a .417 BABIP signaling a downturn could come.

Instead, he has begun signaling his bat can’t be wasted on the bench.


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