SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy has been waiting for a day like this from Casey McGehee. His third baseman was waiting for something much smaller, though. He didn’t need the three hits or a diving stop, he just needed to feel like a real baseball player again.
That feeling came rushing back when an early grounder took a weird hop on McGehee on Saturday, but he stuck with the play and got an out. Sounds simple, but for McGehee, nothing has come easy in his first month back in Northern California.
He entered this game with a .164 batting average, a defensive reputation that was in tatters and a tenuous hold on his everyday job. He then went out and picked up a season-high three hits and played solid defense, and it all started with a routine grounder.
“You never know what’s going to get you to relax,” he said.
The Giants hope this is just the beginning. The McGehee who started a rally with a second-inning single and drove in a run with a fifth-inning single is the one they brought here. They hoped that the Santa Cruz native would thrive while playing near home, but the return might have only made the last month harder to take on a day-to-day basis.
“I understand that, because when I got traded to Atlanta it was the same deal,” Georgia native Tim Hudson said. “It’s one of those things where once that novelty wears off, it’s more normal. This game is hard enough to play without putting that added pressure on yourself.”
McGehee has been hesitant to admit that the added pressure is there. He hasn’t made excuses, even as he was taking the field for a couple of weeks with a bruise covering his entire lower leg. But on Saturday, he was finally able to smile.
“Obviously the big thing is Huddy,” he said. “You’ve got a good team over there and to be able to secure a series win was big. But I guess on a personal level, I’m able to breathe a sigh of relief. The last couple of days I felt like my at-bats were getting better, I just wasn’t getting results. It’s nice to have a couple fall in.”
McGehee even reached on an infield single, giving him his first three-hit game in orange and black. He only had three two-hit games in his first 18, but today’s use-the-whole-field McGehee looked more like the player who hit .287 last season.
“He had good at-bats the whole game,” Bochy said. “It’s coming with him. It was a matter of time. This guy can hit. It just seems like he’s getting more and more comfortable.”
He’s healthier, too, and that might be the biggest positive. It has been clear the last three or four days that McGehee is simply moving around better. His diving stop Saturday came on the same play that a couple weeks back had McGehee practically tumbling around in the dirt near shortstop.
“I’m feeling better and with that there’s certainly confidence that I can do certain things and my leg is not going to fall off,” he said smiling.
McGehee didn’t know it, but his outburst may have been perfectly timed. An ESPN report came out during the game that Brian Sabean and top lieutenant Lee Elder have been watching the Mets and Nationals this weekend, with the speculation in New York being that infielder Daniel Murphy will be available via trade at some point. The Giants would certainly prefer to solve their third-base issues with McGehee and use all their ammo to jolt the starting staff, and a few more days like Saturday would give them some peace of mind.
“You know, it’s just one day,” McGehee said. “The thing is coming back tomorrow and having the same mindset that even if it’s something small, you find a way to help the team win … the intent or effort to do that has been there. Today was a day where it worked out that way.
“You like to think you’re mentally tough enough or whatever, but sometimes it’s just nice to see good things happen. It helps your confidence.”