Even Andres Torres had his doubts he could return from an emergency appendectomy in time to help the Giants in the stretch run.
Torres had the procedure Sept. 12 in San Diego and played for San Francisco again Sept. 24 -- missing all of 11 games. He recovered far more quickly than anybody expected thanks to his fitness level and determination. Manager Bruce Bochy had all but ruled out his center fielder and leadoff man for the remainder of the regular season. Bochy said he had no choice but to prepare as if he wouldn't have Torres available.
"After the surgery, I didn't think I'd come back," Torres said. "It was a little bit frustrating to be honest with you. Thank God I'm back and with the team. ... I've been working my whole life to be where I am now."
On Friday, the Giants recognized the ever-positive Torres as this year's "Willie Mac" Award winner. The honor is named for Hall of Famer Willie McCovey and is voted on by the players, coaches and training staff to recognize the team's most inspirational player both on the field and in the clubhouse.
Torres was honored in a pregame ceremony, presented with his award plaque by McCovey. Other past winners also took part in the festivities.
Torres received a rousing ovation when he came to the plate in the bottom of the first, then he drew an 11-pitch walk from Padres starter Clayton Richard.
"It's well deserved," Bochy said. "He's had quite a year, but he's been inspirational with the energy he brings. The guy never has a bad day. Guys love him."
When doctors told Torres he would need two to three weeks of recovery time, he was down. He hadn't expected to be sidelined in the heart of a pennant race. Then he quickly changed his mindset.
"I told myself to switch it to something positive," he said.
The 32-year-old Torres emerged as an everyday player in his second year with San Francisco, taking over as the regular center fielder in June. He toiled through 12 years in the minors -- eight at the Triple-A level -- before finally getting his shot. Many teams passed on him based on his size: 5-foot-10, 175 pounds.
"It's a blessing. It's an honor for me," Torres said. "I'm really happy, what can I say? I thank God for this opportunity. It's not just about one guy. Anybody could have this award."
His impressive play in the field, at the plate and hustle on the basepaths forced Bochy to make room for Torres in the starting lineup and move veteran Aaron Rowand into a backup role. Torres entered Friday night's game against San Diego batting .270 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs to go with 25 stolen bases.
It's been a thrill for him to finally contribute at the highest level, where he long believed he could be despite those who overlooked him.
"I've been through a lot in this game," Torres said. "For me, it's been hard to get here."