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SAN FRANCISCO – Buster Posey is getting a routine day off, Tim Hudson is making progress toward a return to the rotation Thursday at Coors Field and Gregor Blanco is getting a start in left field over Tyler Colvin as the Giants try for a victory behind Tim Lincecum over the Miami Marlins on Saturday.
But perhaps the biggest current story is a non-story: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Angel Pagan.
I was off Friday but watched the game on TV, and after the Giants came back to tie before losing 6-5 in the ninth, it was easy to forget about Pagan’s catch in center field in the seventh inning.
He covered tons of ground – 90 feet, maybe 100 – before checking the wall, looking back up, re-finding the ball, reaching across his body, securing the catch, then smartly turning so that as much surface area as possible could disperse the force when his left side collided with the padded wall.
Extra style points for the cap popping off and the hair flowing.
A week earlier at Dodger Stadium, Pagan made the best throw I’ve seen him make as a Giant – a quick release from medium center field and a one-hop strike to the plate -- to throw out Adrian Gonzalez.
The newer defensive metrics are seldom kind to Pagan, and his minus-7.3 UZR/150 (meaning he would cost the Giants seven more runs than the average center fielder over 150 games) ranks 14th out of 20 big league center fielders with enough innings to qualify, according to Fangraphs.com.
But Pagan also leads the NL in putouts with 97, he has committed one error in 100 chances, and baseball-reference.com has him at eight total zone runs saved – fifth most in the major leagues, and behind only Atlanta’s Jason Heyward among NL outfielders.
Then there’s the eye test, and a play like the seventh inning Friday night. Back in 2012, and before his hamstring surgery in the middle of last season, several scouts told me that Pagan was a below-average center fielder and profiled better in left field.
Then he came back from the surgery last September and surprised everyone. He didn’t lose a step. If anything, he gained one, along with better awareness and just better overall play in center field.
He’s continuing to play a solidly above average center field this season.
“He’s done a great job, playing great baseball on both sides,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That throw he made in L.A. was electric. He’s played a nice center field and last night, that was a great catch.”
Did Bochy think that Pagan’s days might be over in center field when he had a torn hamstring tendon removed last year?
“I’ll be honest, yeah, when I saw the size of the tendon they took out,” Bochy said. “That was scary looking. I didn’t know how much that would affect his speed or agility. There were concerns, to be honest.”
Then, of course, there is what Pagan is doing in the leadoff spot. He ranks sixth in the NL with a .329 average, his 17 multi-hit games are tied for second most in the NL and he’s hit safely in 30 of his 37 starts. He is batting .381 at AT&T Park, too.
Pagan might be the most irreplaceable player on the roster, other than Buster Posey, and he’s proving durable thus far. Only Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen and Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez have played more innings in center field that Pagan.
And he’s doing it all with two hamstring tendons instead of three.
“I mean, have you seen it?” Bochy said. “I think you would be impressed.”
The manager was referring to a picture of the removed tendon that Pagan showed him. No, he doesn’t keep it in a specimen jar in his locker.
Hudson (strained left hip) played catch, is scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound Sunday and is penciled in to start Thursday at Coors Field. He missed a turn Friday night because the hip stiffened up during and after his outing last Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
[RELATED: Giants to skip Tim Hudson's start on Friday]
One other quick note: Bochy said he would’ve had Sergio Romo pitch the 10th inning Friday night if the game went extras. Instead the Marlins scored on Santiago Casilla in his second inning of work. Bochy said he was trying to stretch everyone out a little more because he had to use his long man, Yusmeiro Petit, to start for Hudson.