DENVER — Trevor Brown hit seven homers in the minor leagues and never had more than three in a season. That seemed a modest goal to chase when he made the Opening Day roster.
“I was thinking about the entire season and I thought I might end up with three,” Brown said Tuesday night at Coors Field.
He will end up with three. At least three. Brown hit two homers in a 7-2 win and has a team-high three in just eight at-bats. He’s the first Giant since Kevin Mitchell in 1991 to have his first three hits of a season go for home runs, and Brown seems as surprised as anyone. He’s a glove-first catcher, and a damn good one. Or at least he was.
“This is one of those ones where I get to finally look at both sides,” Brown said, smiling.
Brown was only starting Tuesday because Buster Posey has a sore foot and needed a day off. But if you think Brown, a surprise addition to the roster last September, is only here period because of an injury to Andrew Susac, you’d be mistaken. Brown was forcing the issue before Susac missed a week of spring training with an injury, and the Giants had talked about carrying three catchers. Ultimately, Bochy said, “it was a pretty easy call.” Susac needed to play everyday in Triple-A, and Brown had shown that he could work well with a big league staff.
“This kid has earned his spot on this team,” Bochy said. “He’s back here to handle the staff, and the hitting is icing on the cake. The way Brownie played this spring, he earned this.”
Brown’s starts have followed a familiar pattern. He catches a veteran, and afterward that veteran raves about working with this relatively unknown backup. Jeff Samardzija was the latest to fall in line Tuesday, giving Brown — or Brownie as they all call him — a heaping share of the credit for an eight-inning, six-hit, two-run gem against a tough Rockies lineup.
Samardzija stopped by Brown’s locker before talking to the media, a huge smile plastered across his face.
“I’m just excited for Brownie, man,” Samardzija said. “That’s going to be really good for us. I’m just really excited for him. It’s good to see young kids have success and do it the right way.”
Samardzija said Brown, known for his intelligence and work ethic, is an eager student, someone who does not get disheartened when a veteran shakes to another pitch. “He’s thinking with you,” Samardzija said. “It’s, ‘Why’d you shake me?’ To see a forward-thinking guy like that is important.”
Samardzija grabbed Brown before the game and pulled him back into the clubhouse for some extra homework. The two formed a plan for a tough Rockies lineup that, until Tuesday, starred another powerful Trevor. Rookie shortstop Trevor Story entered with seven homers, but Samardzija and Brown — who faced Story in the minors — hit him with a steady stream of cutters and sinkers.
Story struck out three times, and the first one showed the kind of stuff that made Samardzija such a tantalizing target for the front office and coaching staff. Samardzija threw Story six pitches, all of them hard, all of them away. The strikeout pitch was at 96 mph low and outside. Samardzija said it was a cutter.
“You throw a 96 mph cutter?” a reporter asked.
“Yeah,” Samardzija replied, smiling.
Brown lost track of some of the calls, and he wasn’t sure if that one was a cutter or sinker. All he knew was that everything was moving, and some of the pitches — like the one to Story — broke in unexpected ways.
“This is the kind of stuff he has,” Bochy said. “He just goes out there with confidence. When he knows he’s on top of his game, he attacks hitters on both sides. This guy, his potential is still so high. Obviously that’s why we acquired him.”
The Giants also gave Samardzija $90 million to eat innings, and on a night when Bochy was hoping for six, maybe seven, Samardzija went eight. He threw 111 pitches, just 19 in his final two frames.
“I couldn’t take him out,” Bochy said. “He just got better as he went.”
As Samardzija headed for the showers, Brown thumbed through an overflowing cell phone. Friends and family members were hitting him with some variation of the same question: “Who is this guy?” Brown wasn’t quite sure. He credited Posey for helping him out, saying the starting catcher pulled him aside after his first two at-bats and said his swing was a little long. Brown shortened it up and twice pulled balls into the left field seats.
Bochy said Posey (bruised foot) may need another day, which would mean another start for Brown. Either way, the rookie will wake up Wednesday leading all MLB catchers in homers.
“It’s been a crazy first couple of games for me,” he said. “But it’s been awesome. It’s been fun.”