It seems impossible now, but Joe Panik was hitting just .200 through his first 75 big league at-bats.
Adjusting to big league pitching is hard, and Panik didn’t lock in until an August trip to New York that took him home and brought his swing back. That’s what made Kelby Tomlinson’s first start so impressive.
Tomlinson was still looking at a 1.000 average through his third career at-bat and he ended up with three RBI and two hits while helping lead the Giants to a 6-1 win in Atlanta. It took about three innings for Tomlinson and his Clark Kent glasses to reach cult hero status with Giants fans, and afterward he still had a big smile on his face as he did his first TV interview.
“I’m just trying to enjoy it and do the best I can while given the opportunity,” he said.
Tomlinson twice drove in Ehire Adrianza, who fits right in with that Panik stat above. The hardest thing for young players to do is to sit six days a week and try to contribute in a random start or pinch-hit appearance. Giants coaches marvel at how Matt Duffy handled that role last year, but Adrianza has struggled as a part-timer.
Panik’s back injury has thrust Adrianza into a full-time gig and he finally looks ready to contribute. With back-to-back two-hit games, Adrianza has raised his average from .143 to .229.
“A.D. looks like he’s getting comfortable,” Bruce Bochy said.
The manager will be a lot more at ease on the flight to Chicago thanks to his two 25-year-old infielders. Panik will miss at least two weeks, but Bochy appears to have a duo capable of at least making sure second base isn’t a total black hole.
“I couldn’t be prouder of those two guys,” he said.
Adrianza likely will get the majority of the time for now, but Tomlinson stated his case Wednesday. He has an easy, find-a-hole swing, and said he’s just trying to “put good at-bats together.”
“I’m just going to try to do the best I can, especially with guys in scoring position,” Tomlinson said. “If I can put it in play and maybe find a hole — I got fortunate tonight with a couple balls finding holes. If I can put it in play and find a hole, that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Bochy liked what he saw Wednesday.
“He’s got a knack for putting the ball in play,” Bochy said. “He doesn’t try to do too much. It’s impressive. The kid didn’t panic.”
Bochy would never call Madison Bumgarner “the kid,” but the ace remains just 26 years old. He is in physical prime and Bochy took advantage Wednesday, riding Bumgarner into the eighth. He gave up one run in 7 1/3 and threw a season-high 116 pitches. Remember all those questions about Bumgarner’s arm this spring? Well, he’s on pace for a career-high 220 innings.
“It’s hot and humid out there and he got us in the eighth,” Bochy said appreciatively. “I thought he had really good focus. He did a great job to get us where we needed.”