SCOTTSDALE — From what he remembered of his wife’s research, it had been a year and two days since Jalynne Crawford and family had seen Brandon play in person.
“I think everybody heard my kids at the game today,” Crawford said with a smile during the Giants’ 3-1 win over the White Sox at Scottsdale Stadium.
A notable part about having limited fans in seats — there was an announced attendance of 947 on Thursday — is the ease through which hecklers and apparently four rambunctious children can be heard.
For Crawford’s part, he was able to give them something to cheer about.
In the longtime Giants shortstop’s first appearance of the Cactus League, he first hit a flare to shallow right that was caught and then lined a missile back up the middle, caroming off pitcher Codi Heuer (who would be OK) for a single.
Brandon Crawford’s first Cactus League hit was a sizzler off White Sox pitcher Codi Heuer, who stayed in the game. pic.twitter.com/bYKsa33Lgi
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) March 4, 2021
The stadium gun had the pitch at 98 mph, so getting the bat around already bodes well.
“It was one of the first ones I got on the barrel in a live at-bat in practice or a game. It definitely felt good,” said the 34-year-old, who’s entering the final season of his contract. “I feel like my swing’s been pretty good in the cage so far.”
The Giants have been slow to unroll their veterans — Evan Longoria has not played through four games but should in “the next couple days,” Gabe Kapler said — and Crawford targets 50-60 at-bats before he feels he’ll be ready.
The Giants will try to get him those looks while also conserving him as much as possible; there might not be a more important Giant at the moment.
Behind Crawford at shortstop is Mauricio Dubon, who 1) hasn’t shown enough at the big-league level to guarantee he can hold down the position and 2) is the starting center fielder. Behind Dubon, Kapler has mentioned veteran Arismendy Alcantara, who is not on the roster. Dubon is expected to start at the spot Friday, and hyped prospect Marco Luciano has seen time there this spring, but he’s 19 years old.
They are woefully thin at shortstop, and thus keeping Crawford fresh and healthy now is especially important.
“There are few that know their body better than Brandon Crawford, and so we’ll just keep checking in with them, do everything in our power to keep him fresh and healthy,” Kapler said over Zoom. “…He’s a really important piece of our lineup and our defense.”
For Crawford, this season already was going to be different. He has said he doesn’t want to think about the future and that expiring contract, with so much focus on both Luciano and the superstar shortstops (Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, etc) about to hit free agency.
The spring is a bit different, too. The Giants can’t afford to lose him and want to be careful.
“Just kind of working in a little bit slower to make sure my body’s feeling good,” he said.