The Giants announced a flurry of moves Sunday, including the elevation of a pair of Triple-A players many have been waiting for with bated breath to see on a big league field.
Outfielder Austin Jackson, right-handed reliever Cory Gearrin, and minor-league right-hander Jason Bahr were traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for either a player to be named later or cash considerations. The Giants then activated outfielder Steven Duggar and flame-throwing reliever Ray Black.
Black has been beset by repeated injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2008 during his senior year of high school, knee and hand surgery during his time at the University of Pittsburgh, and labrum and hand surgery that cost him the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Last year, Black’s most recent arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs drove him to consider hanging up his spikes this past offseason.
But he gave it another go, and discovered his velocity — he hits 102 on the radar gun — was back. And, with a change to his mechanics, he’s found success with secondary pitches, too.
At 28, Sunday’s call-up represents his first whiff of the Bigs. Black said:
“It’s been a crazy road. There have been a lot of ups and downs, [it’s been] a roller coaster of emotions. You know a few months ago I didn’t know if I was gonna be playing anymore, so to get to this point it’s incredible. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here.”
Three people who have offered support through his long fight to succeed are his wife, and his parents Diane and Ray Sr. Black’s wife attended the River Cats 8-1 loss in Reno Saturday night, so she was the first to receive the good news. But he said he called his parents right away:
“When I found out I called my parents. I called my father. God bless ‘em both. Obviously the roller coaster I’ve been on with baseball — they’ve been there for the highs and they’ve been there or the lows, so it was nice to be able to share that with them.”
Duggar’s ascent was much quicker, with fewer roadblocks. He was drafted in 2015 and blazed his way to Triple-A by the end of the 2017 season. He was seriously considered to make the big league roster out of Spring Training, but the Giants hoped to get him some more experience in Sacramento.
Like the Giants, Duggar agreed that was experience he needed:
“Sacramento was where I needed to be to begin the year, and that’s where I was. I showed up to the field every day down there and just tried to help my team win. [I was] disappointed [not to have made the team], in a way, but there were things that obviously I needed to work on and still do continue to work on. I was fortunate enough to go to Sacramento because there was definitely some failure there that made me a little bit better.”
The gap between Double-A and Triple-A pitching can be jarring, and Duggar had only 13 games from last season in Triple-A, so getting used to the skill-level adjustment was a major factor in Duggar needing a couple more months to develop:
“I made some adjustments and once I got out of my own way and just went and played I think that was the biggest thing. I’m gonna fail here, too, that’s part of the game. Just making adjustments and doing the best I can along the way, that’s what I’m looking for.”
Duggar received the news he was being called up from his Triple-A manager, Dave Brundage. He told Duggar he had the option of going to Columbus for the PCL All-Star Game, or heading to San Francisco. Duggar said he was pretty sure it was a joke, but he didn’t spend a lot of time weighing the options.
On spending his first game in The Show as a starting center fielder behind Madison Bumgarner in the number one hole in the lineup, Duggar said:
“It’s exciting, to say the least. [I’m going to] get out there and just go have some fun, make some plays, and run around and just enjoy it all.”
The Giants signed Jackson in the offseason with the notion that he would be the team’s starting center fielder. But he has been disappointing, batting .242 with sub-par performance in the outfield. In 41 games he has been minus-1.3 wins against replacement.
Gearrin has likewise struggled, but has been a decent contributor the San Francisco’s bullpen (1-1, 4.20 ERA) with one save and 30 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched.
The trade may also help the Giants play limbo with the comparative balance tax by sloughing Jackson’s $6 million (two years) and Gearrin’s $1.68 million(one year) salaries, while potentially allowing them wiggle room to make some trade deadline moves in the coming weeks.