SAN FRANCISCO - In his first spring with the Giants, long before he was vying for an opening day job, Steven Duggar caught eyes with the way he moved. Giants coaches marveled not just at how he played center field, but also at how swiftly he got down the line on routine grounders. Now, Duggar is trying to slow down a bit.
In the midst of a slump that dropped his Triple-A average around .250 for much of May, Duggar made swing changes designed to calm him down at the plate and slow some of the moving parts in his swing. He felt he was rushing through things, leading to unfamiliar results.
"That's always going to be a battle for me because I'm kind of a fast-twitch guy, so everything I want to do wants to be fast," Duggar said before a recent River Cats game. "I've been missing pitches because I'm really fast (at the plate) and my head is moving all over the place. I want more of a controlled violence instead of just being up there whacking. I was missing pitches I should be hammering."
Duggar found himself dipping into a familiar routine at the plate. Instead of driving the ball early in counts or putting it in play and using his speed, he was fouling everything off. Every at-bat felt like it was 0-2 right away, and then he would be faced with an opposing pitcher's best breaking ball. The strikeouts piled up.
"I wasn't necessarily lost, but things weren't going my way and it just kind of snowballed and I found myself in a hole," Duggar said.
He is confident that he has dug himself out of it, and on Thursday he had his best night of the season. With three doubles and a triple on the final day of May, he raised his average back to .273. He has three multi-hit games in his last four starts.
Two months ago, it seemed that Duggar's stay in Sacramento would be a short one. A promising spring had him fighting for a big league job and he posted a .296/.394/.432 slash line for the River Cats in April while the Giants struggled to get any production in center field at the big league level.
Things have changed, and not just because of Duggar's rough May. Gorkys Hernandez has taken hold of the starting job in center and Mac Williamson's emergence further crowded the outfield picture. Asked about Duggar on this past road trip, manager Bruce Bochy said the plan was just to let him get necessary at-bats in Triple-A. Team officials anticipate Duggar spending most of this season in the minors.
"We don't know what's going to happen, but let's just leave him alone at this point, and it doesn't mean that something can't happen at some point in the season," Bochy said. "But he's where he should be and that's playing every day."
That's not to say Duggar is far out of the picture. Center field defense remains a glaring hole at the big league level. One veteran pitcher recently asked a reporter how Duggar was doing in Triple-A, noting that his defense alone would help the roster down the stretch. It's up to Duggar to hit his way back into the conversation, and he's confident the adjustments will help. At the very least, he's happy that the focus is now on swing adjustments rather than his health.
"There's never this sense of arrival, right?" he said. "There's always this journey that you're on, whether it's defensively or offensively. There's always room to improve, whether things are going good or bad.
"I'm really confident about where we're headed. I feel really good right now. I feel really good about where we're going."