LOS ANGELES -- Steven Duggar took off towards the gap and quickly realized that Justin Turner's sinking liner would require a dive. He didn't have time to think about anything else, the surgery he underwent on his left shoulder last September, the restrictions he played under all spring, or the potential consequence of hitting the ground.
"That's just such an instinct play," Duggar said.
Duggar made it, diving headfirst for the catch and then rolling over that shoulder.
After the Giants center fielder tossed the ball back in to Brandon Crawford, he started taking inventory. The shoulder was a little "cranky," he said, but nothing to be concerned about.
"Mentally, more than anything, I needed that for sure," Duggar said. "I was walking back to center field and thinking, 'It feels good.'"
It had been more than seven months since Duggar had hit the ground like that. He loves to dive for balls, but after season-ending shoulder surgery, the Giants wouldn't allow it this spring. They wanted him to get to Opening Day healthy, and it wasn't until the day before the Bay Bridge series that trainers told Duggar he could leave his feet and dive.
Those trainers must have been grimacing in the dugout as Duggar walked back to his position. He rolled his shoulders a few times and then stretched the left one out after singling in the top of the next inning. When Duggar returned to center for the bottom of the eighth, he looked uncomfortable. But he said after the game that the soreness was something he expected.
"That's part of it," he said. "I had a feeling it would be a little sore and cranky. It was cranky for a few minutes but then it felt good and started to loosen back up. In the training room (after the game) it really loosened up. I feel great."
The Giants will continue to watch Duggar closely. Manager Bruce Bochy planned to give all the regulars a day off in San Diego but Duggar has started every game. "He's young," Bochy has cracked a couple of times. So far, so good.
Duggar is batting .292 early on and continues to show why he'll stay in center field despite the addition of Kevin Pillar. An inning before he robbed Turner, the 25-year-old made a more impressive play.
Cody Bellinger smoked a Madison Bumgarner pitch into the left-center gap and Duggar ran it down easily. There was nothing flashy about it, but that's a play a Giants center fielder hasn't made in half a decade. The first step was incredible, and it kept Duggar from having to leave his feet, at least temporarily.