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Impromptu center fielder had ‘crazy’ (and solid) day in Giants debut

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

LaMonte Wade Jr. called it a “crazy” day, but he was glad it was the positive form of the word.

He got called up to a team for whom he had never played to patrol a complicated center field he had never seen. Since being traded from Minnesota in the offseason, he had known life as a Giant to be based first in Scottsdale for spring training and then Sacramento, where he played with the alternate site.

The Giants knew they might have an opening on their roster, waiting on a scan to come back on Reyes Moronta, and knew they might have a need in center field, with Austin Slater’s foot banged up from fouling a pitch off and wanting to give Mauricio Dubon a day off against a tough righty. So Wade, on the taxi squad, was called Saturday night and told to drive to the park in the morning.

Moronta was found to have mild flexor strain that forced him to the 10-day injured list, and Slater was not yet ready to go (although he was available off the bench, Gabe Kapler said). So about an hour before game time, Wade was added to the roster and became a walking pair of ears.

Oracle Park is notorious for its winds, giving headaches to even accomplished outfielders who play in San Francisco often. Wade had 32 games of major league experience and none overlooking the Cove. So he went from outfielder to outfielder, mentioning Darin Ruf among the many he talked with.

“Just telling me about the wall, about how it kicks off the brick walls and then the type of communication that we have to have, who’s going to back up who,” Wade said after his first game at Oracle Park and first as a Giant. “And we talked a lot about the wind, about how not to look at the flags because the flags don’t really give you a true story as to how the wind is actually moving, as opposed to pretty much every other park that you go to.”

Wade acknowledged there were nerves in the third inning, when Charlie Blackmon lifted the first fly ball of the day to him.

“Luckily it wasn’t too tough of a play,” Wade said after the 4-0 Giants win over the Rockies. “But after you get that one, you’re back in game mode.”

He never left game mode in an impressive Giants debut, holding his own in center and getting on base three out of four times, with a hustle double to right field, a single to right-center and a hard-earned walk.

The sixth-inning base on balls might have best showed what the Giants see in the 27-year-old, who was traded for righty Shaun Anderson. Wade has a minor league history of working pitchers and fighting through at-bats, with more walks than strikeouts on his resume. Facing righty German Marquez, he worked the count full and then laid off a fastball a few inches off the outside of the plate, loading the bases for Ruf (who would bounce out).

Wade has been toying with his swing and timing, adjusting his leg kick and working on getting his hands back and said it was still a work in progress during the spring, during which he got on base enough but batted just .182.

“I feel more comfortable,” said Wade, whose swings reinforced that. “We’ve been working on it a lot, it didn’t stop at spring training.

“… Today was good, but just got to keep grinding, keep working and get that repeatable.”

Brandon Belt had some fun with his first steal since Aug. 27, 2019, which followed a walk and set up a run.

Marquez was not paying attention to him, and neither was Colorado first baseman Josh Fuentes, who was playing off the bag in the first inning.

“That was really the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Belt said, pretty much playing the character of Brandon Belt. “Some people call it stupidity, I like to call it instincts.”

He kept leading until he noticed how far off the bag he was. So he took off and easily stole the base, without Marquez throwing home or to second.

Antoan [Richardson, the first-base coach] kept telling me to get off the base. He told me I was good, and I could keep on getting off. Eventually I looked up and I felt like I was halfway there, so I just went ahead and took off, and the middle infielders were playing way off the bag. It was one of those opportunities that just worked out.

“Probably not something I’m going to do all the time, but it worked out today.”

A few forgotten but significant defensive plays: Brandon Crawford keeping his foot on second base while reaching for a poor Jose Alvarez throw to get a force in the seventh, and Curt Casali blocking an Anthony DeSclafani curveball in the dirt in the sixth inning.

After the block, DeSclafani got Sam Hilliard swinging on his last pitch of the afternoon to get out of a second-and-third jam and keep the Rockies from scoring in what was a 2-0 game.

“Anytime you’re blocking a ball in front of you with runners at second and third, it gives the pitcher a ton of confidence to rip his secondary weapons,” Kapler said. “If there’s any doubt in a pitcher’s mind that that pitch is going to get blocked, it’s hard to repeat it because in the back of your mind you have a little doubt.”


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