A literal step forward came with a metaphorical step back.
The Giants moved Tyler Heineman up behind the plate, trying to help him catch low balls earlier and frame them in trying to steal strikes.
If he has, it has not been worth its cost: three catcher’s interference calls.
The Giants lead the majors in errors with 16, and Heineman’s trouble with making contact with the bats might be the most perplexing facet of their defense.
On Tuesday with two on and no out in a game the Rockies were leading 1-0 in the fourth, Daniel Murphy appeared to fly out — but as soon as his swing concluded, he looked back and pointed. He had swung into Heineman’s glove, which itched forward, and thus was awarded first to load the bases in an inning in which Colorado scored two.
Gabe Kapler and catchers and bullpen coach Craig Albernaz spoke and decided they should find a “happy medium” with Heineman. They do not want to push him all the way back, Kapler adding praise for the opposing catcher, Tony Wolters, in underlining the importance of turning low balls into low strikes.
“It can really change games, and the reason it can change games is you change counts and, all of a sudden, you have the on-base, the slug advantage working in your favor for your pitcher if you can swing a 1-1 count to a 1-2 count or you get a big strikeout in a 2-2 count,” Kapler said over Zoom after the 5-2 loss to the Rockies.
“It’s a really valuable tool that we work really hard to achieve. But at this point, I think it’s reasonable to try to find a happy medium. I don’t think we need to overcorrect and push him way back in the box. We’re certainly going to ask that there’s something in the middle between the adjustment that he’s made and that sweet spot.”
With righty Jon Gray pitching Wednesday, the switch-hitting Heineman, who’s slashing .250/.357/.292, would be the more natural starter. Though the Giants did give Chadwick Tromp a look against a righty Monday.
Of course, some pitchers came to the Giants expecting to throw to Buster Posey.
“It’s a little different. I probably lead the meeting a little bit more than I would if Buster was here,” said Tuesday’s starter, Kevin Gausman. “But it’s a learning curve. I’ve had veteran catchers before, and I think there’s good and bad things to both sides.
“… I think communication is the biggest thing. We can talk to Heiney and Tromp and really just kind of hone in on their pitch calling and talk through some situations in the game.”
Gausman said Heineman called a “great game,” saying he only shook him off a couple times.
Gausman waited 10 years for Tuesday, which could not live up to the hype.
The Grandview High School, in Aurora, Colo., grad made his first big-league start at Coors Field after pitching there a decade earlier in a high-school game. He was scheduled to start in Denver last year, but the matchup was snowed out.
“I’ve planned this, that when I come and play here that I was going to have a crazy amount of people that I was going to have to get tickets for. Probably was going to have to buy an entire section, seriously,” said Gausman, whose plans had to change this year. “That kind of helped save me some money at least, so that’s a good thing.”
Gausman was at times overpowering, his fastball buzzing in at 97 mph and striking out seven in his 5 1/3 innings. He allowed four runs, for which his defense can be partly to blame. Gausman said he feels as good as he has since the break.
“I think it’s just a product of me getting into my every-five-day routine,” Gausman said. “That’s when I’m able to pitch my best.”
Steven Duggar on his double that bounced squarely off the top of the wall and caromed back onto the field like a pool ball with backspin:
“Personally I thought it was gone off the bat. But guess I might need to do a few more curls in the offseason.”
Kapler announced Logan Webb would start Wednesday night.