Programming note: Giants-Rockies coverage starts today at 12:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
DENVER — A coffee cup in his hand and tears in his eyes, Casey McGehee looked around a hallway in a park that’s usually heaven for hitters. The veteran is hoping Coors Field is not the sight of his last big league game.
The Giants made a surprise move on Sunday morning, designating the 32-year-old McGehee for assignment and installing 24-year-old Matt Duffy as their everyday third baseman. The move was made in part because the Giants wanted to keep 13 pitchers during this stretch, and that meant adding Hunter Strickland to the roster.
McGehee was acquired in the offseason to replace Pablo Sandoval. He never came close to giving the Giants what they hoped for, hitting .200 in 110 at-bats, with a .282 slugging percentage and a league-high 12 double plays. After driving in 76 runs for the Marlins last season, McGehee had just nine RBI for the Giants, nearly half of them coming on one grand slam.
McGehee, a Santa Cruz native who was so excited about coming back home, was still trying to process the news Sunday morning. He was gracious while speaking with reporters.
“I think it’s always surprising when stuff like this happens,” he said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of time to process it. Obviously I’m disappointed. It’s not the kind of news you want to hear ever. The only thing I can say is I wish that obviously I would have gotten off to a little different start.
“If you get off to the kind of start I feel I’m capable of and expect of myself, we’re not having this conversation.”
The Giants are hopeful that McGehee will opt to join their Triple-A team in Sacramento, and general manager Bobby Evans said the club felt that he needs more at-bats to get back to his 2014 form. McGehee said he will talk to his wife and kids before making a decision.
“I’m pretty sure yesterday wasn’t the last baseball game I played in,” he said. “I still feel like I’ve got a lot left, a lot to offer. I still feel I’m the same guy who was (fourth) in the league in hits last year. (This is) not a decision I feel I’m capable of making in 10 minutes. Other people are involved, my family and myself.
“At the end of the day it is a team game and I try to play for the team. As far as life, you’ve got another team you’ve got to consider and that’s your wife and kids.”
Before speaking to reporters, McGehee pulled Duffy into an office and told him not to feel bad about forcing this move. McGehee said a similar thing happened when he took Bill Hall’s job in Milwaukee earlier in his career.
Evans said the Giants want to stick with 13 pitchers through at least the June 3 off day, and that meant adding Strickland for more than just Saturday’s doubleheader. With Joaquin Arias now an important player as the backup at three positions, it seems a near-lock that another veteran will be designated for assignment on Monday. Travis Ishikawa’s rehab assignment is over and the Giants have no room on the active roster.
Evans was complimentary of McGehee, saying he felt part of the rough start was because of a bruised knee suffered on Opening Day.
“Coming off spring training, I think that set him back,” Evans said. “He was Comeback Player of the Year last year for a reason. The injury had some effect.”
McGehee, who was noticeably hobbled for a stretch of April games, wouldn’t use it as an excuse.
“Who knows? I had the best year of my career with a bad knee,” he said. “If I’m going out there, I expect to perform. Everybody has got something bothering them. I guess that’s nice for them to try to make an excuse, but I don’t need excuses. If I get out there, I expect myself to perform.”
He never was able to do it consistently, following a three-hit game and his grand slam with long funks. Bochy stood behind the veteran until it became clear in recent days that it was just impossible to send McGehee out there over Duffy, who is hitting .299 with two homers and 19 RBI and seemingly gets more comfortable defensively by the day.
“As his playing time has picked up, he’s playing well,” Bochy said of Duffy. “Last year he handled himself so well with everything we threw at him. This is a tough kid that’s doing very well. I think he’s earned this playing time, to be honest.”