SAN FRANCISCO — Andrew Susac had an easy explanation for his triple off the wall Wednesday, the first of his career.
“I’m fast,” he said, smiling wide.
The Giants are more concerned with his swing than his speed right now, and manager Bruce Bochy liked what he saw Wednesday. Before the game, Bochy threw Susac’s name in the ring when talking about ways he can jolt the lineup while the team waits for injured outfielders Hunter Pence and Nori Aoki to return. The 25-year-old top prospect then went out and picked up two hits and started the decisive rally with a scorched grounder that forced an error.
Did Susac’s big night strengthen his hold on increased playing time?
“It did,” Bochy said. “He’s been swinging the bat better. With this increased playing time he’s gotten better swings off … I thought every at-bat was pretty good.”
There are many different ways the Giants can go while trying to survive life without two highly productive outfielders. Susac may provide them the most upside, even if his inclusion does complicate lineup decisions.
Brandon Belt started in left field Wednesday and Buster Posey slid over to first base. Belt had a rough night, striking out twice and misjudging a fly ball. Posey hit his second grand slam in five days. Bochy will take that kind of overall production from his new-look lineup, and Susac hopes that the success of Wednesday’s experiment leads to more time.
“I’m always looking for an opportunity,” he said. “I know my role on this team. I’m pretty much just a ‘yes’ man. Whatever they say goes.”
There’s more to being a starting catcher than driving balls the other way, of course, and Susac passed his defensive tests, too. He has been behind the plate for Ryan Vogelsong’s past two starts, and the veteran right-hander has pitched 12 2/3 shutout innings over that span.
“He’s the guy handling the pitchers,” Bochy pointed out. “And he called a shutout.”
Vogelsong said he thinks Susac, who normally catches mostly Tim Lincecum, is “doing a great job back there.”
“I’ve always thought, even when he came up here last year, that he handles himself well,” Vogelsong said. “We talk a lot between innings, which is something I don’t like to do all that much, but when we’re talking about hitters I don’t mind.”
The two have talked between starts, too, and Susac said he tries to pick Vogelsong’s brain when they’re both on the dugout rail. Vogelsong is specific in his game-planning and has always found a fantastic rhythm with Posey, and Susac is trying to duplicate it.
“It’s a great teaching tool when you have a guy out there with his game plan,” Bochy said. “They’re going over guys before the game with how they want to pitch. Vogelsong is going to help guide him.”
Bochy is hopeful Susac can help guide this lineup. He has always had faith in Susac’s bat, and on several occasions this season Bochy has used Susac as a pinch-hitter when other managers, hesitant to burn their backup catcher, might have turned to a Justin Maxwell or Gregor Blanco. Now, Bochy is eager to see what Susac can do with increased time.
That, of course, means less time in the squat for Posey, who said he hasn’t talked to Bochy about playing more first base over the next month. He doesn’t have to.
“We have an understanding that it’s about winning games,” Posey said. “Boch has been really good at his job for a long time now and we all have trust in the decisions he makes. Guys are willing to change their roles if it helps the team win.”
--- The Giants haven’t said anything publicly about their exact rotation plans, but Bochy did say Sunday that this will be merit-based to a degree. With that in mind, Vogelsong’s last 10 starts: 6-3, 2.37 ERA. He said he isn’t thinking about his standing.
“Nope,” Vogelsong said. “I’m just worried about throwing.”
If it’s merit-based, Vogelsong will be in the rotation when Matt Cain and Jake Peavy return.
--- Posey has two grand slams in five days and now leads the team with 45 RBI (he passed Brandon Crawford). He’s the first Giant with two grand slams in one season since …. Madison Bumgarner!
“I kid around about, ‘I love three-run homers,’” Bochy said. “But grand slams are even better.”