Reed in need of a second chance

Save your breath with Michael Reed. No one needs to tell the 26-year-old outfielder that he squandered a golden opportunity with the San Francisco Giants. Reed may well be the first player in major-league history to start the first two games of a season and then be told to get lost four days later.

The Giants thought enough of Reed to start him on opening day in San Diego five days after acquiring him in a trade with the Minnesota Twins. Reed was hitting .278 with a home run and four RBI in eight Grapefruit League games when the Twins sent him on his way to the city by the bay.

Reed actually joined the Giants in Arizona. After going 0-for-4 in three Cactus League games, he was just informed just hours before the opener on March 28 that he would start. The news was as much a surprise to Reed as it was to any Giants fan trying to figure out who he was and why he was in right field.

His position was about all that went right for Reed, who went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before being replaced by Yangervis Solarte, Manager Bruce Bochy juggled his batting order for the second game and elevated Reed from seventh to leadoff. Reed responded with three strikeouts in as many at-bats – baseball’s version of a hat trick.

That was the beginning of the end. Reed did not start again and struck out twice in his last four at-bats as a Giant. In urgent need of an outfielder who can do more than whiff, the Giants acquired Kevin Pillar from the Blue Jays on April 2 and told Reed to clean out his locker.

Being designated for assignment at least allowed Reed to catch his breath. Being traded five days before the start of the regular season and trying to become acquainted with new teammates had left him gasping.

And that was before he learned he would start on opening day. With all of 35 at-bats in the major leagues entering the season, Reed does not believe he was over his head as much as he was in it too often. He turned into Crash Davis in the movie “Bull Durham” when Davis talked to himself at the plate. “You’re thinking too much, Crash. You’re thinking too much. Get out of your (expletive) head.”

Reed can relate. His new teammates did all they could to make me feel welcome, Reed said, but he might as well have been on a deserted island when he returned to the dugout after striking out again and again.

“There were quite a few guys who came to me and said, ‘We’ve got you. Just relax,’” Reed said. “At the same time, I’m thinking in my head that I’ve got to impress. Maybe I was pressing too much. I was looking at video (of his at-bats) every day. Maybe I should have gotten out of my head and just been an athlete.”

His confidence has remained intact through each trial and tribulation. Reed knows he can play in the major leagues. He expects a second chance will come his way and plans to take advantage of it when it arrives.

“At the end of the day, I don’t have to impress anybody,” Reed said. “I just need to be who I am and let everything else take care of itself. I know I can this game at the highest level. This game is a very tough game. You live and learn in this game. This is my ninth season and I’m still learning.”

An RBI double in his first at-bat with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats on April 5 was a step in the right direction. Strikeouts continue to be a problem for Reed, who has 10 in 31 at-bats. He is not making or taking time to think about statistics. His goal is build consistency to go along with his tenacity.

“I don’t think I’ve doubted myself, but there are times when you get down on yourself,” Reed said. “That was such a great opportunity (with the Giants) and I missed it. It is what it is. Hopefully I’ll get that chance again. As long as I have a jersey on my back, I have an opportunity.”

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Opportunity to play if just for one day

Ryder Jones did not expect to get much sleep July 19 after the Sacramento River Cats’ 8-7 loss in Fresno. Not only was an 0-for-5 night weighing heavily on the third baseman’s mind, but he also had just three hours for a few winks before the River Cats would board a bus to the airport at 3:30 a..m. and then jump on a flight to El Paso.

Fortunately for Jones, Brandon Belt’s pregnant wife came to his rescue without knowing it. Belt left the San Francisco Giants and went on paternity leave July 20 for the impending arrival of his second son. Jones was too busy reflecting on his futile night at the plate to give any thought to the possibility of being promoted to fill in for Belt.

Third baseman Ryder Jones went from playing with the River Cats in Fresno on July 19 to joining the Giants on July 20 in Oakland and rejoining the River Cats on July 21 in El Paso.

Jones was sitting in front of his locker as 11 p.m. approached when he received the news that he would join the Giants in Oakland. Instead of rising at an ungodly hour to catch a bus, Jones got a good night’s sleep in Fresno. The Giants dispatched a car to Fresno for Jones so he would arrive in plenty of the time for the game  at 6:35 p.m.

“It was definitely easier to sleep,” Jones said in an interview July 24. “It was kind of weird with the timing. I was a little frustrated after the game. I haven’t gone 0-for-5 in a while. I’ve been swinging it well. I just had a tough game.”

Giants manager Bruce Bochy made the trip worthwhile for Jones by starting the 24-year-old at third base against the A’s. Jones repaid Bochy by belting a home run in the fifth inning to put the Giants ahead to stay in a 5-1 victory.

Belt could have missed as many as three games, and Jones would have remained with the Giants for the weekend. After learning he would start July 20, however, Jones figured the only reason he was in the lineup was because Bochy knew Belt would most likely return in time to play July 21 and did not want Jones’ trip to be for nothing.

“I though it would be the normal two or three days of paternity leave. That’s what I was expecting. No one ever told me,” Jones said. “I was just going to go in there and try to make a quick impact, just do something to contribute.”

His home run apparently was not enough to sway the Giants to consider keeping Jones when Belt returned and assigning another player to Sacramento. At this point in his career, Jones realizes he will have to take what he can get.

“I was happy to do it,” Jones said. “I don’t care if it was just for one day. That was kind of the plan. I think the coaching staff knew what the plan was. There’s a lot of people that would give up a lot just to play in the big leagues for one day. Even if I had hit four home runs, I think it would have been the same.”

Jones has time on his side. He turned 24 in June and already had 53 major-league games under his belt. He made his major-league debut on June 24, 2017. Just like last week, the River Cats were playing in Fresno at the time. Jones chuckled when asked if the River Cats would have another series this season in Fresno. They do not.

The Giants have Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval at third base, so they did not need Jones for the time being. Jones realizes the importance of playing regularly for the River Cats instead of going to waste on the Giants bench. And after hitting .173 in 150 at-bats with the Giants in 2017, it could be that he is right where he belongs.

“I think they want me to get a full season in Triple A. They want to give me that confidence of playing a full season down here. They want me to continue to develop,” Jones said. “They gave me a good look last year. I had a decent August (.240 average) and then just really struggled in September (.135). I got tired and got out of my ways a little bit. It humbled me a lot. When you start to struggle at a level like that, there’s a lot to deal with.”

Learning to cope with failure was not easy for Jones because “I felt like I was ready. I felt prepared.” Every rookie would love to announce his presence with authority. But for every Cody Bellinger, the National League Rookie of the Year in 2017 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, there are thousands of young players who crash and burn.

“I’m a guy that can get very disappointed in myself. That’s how I was last year,” Jones offered. “Everyone dreams of coming up and doing what Bellinger did last year. Every rookie wants to do that. And every fan wants every rookie to do that. It’s hard to deal with that pressure. Now when I take an 0-for-5, it’s not the end of the world.”

The world was still spinning July 20.

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As one Giant heals, another goes down

Evan Longoria signs autographs  before the Sacramento River Cats played the Omaha Storm Chasers at Raley Field on July 24. Longoria’s rehab stint ended June 26 when the third baseman rejoined the Giants after first baseman Brandon Belt was placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. Longoria had been out since June 14.

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Left to wonder where it all went wrong

Vacaville American’s Angelo Crosby cannot conceal his disappointment after realizing his Little League season would end with Sunday’s 11-1 loss to Vacaville Central in the District 64 All-Star Tournament at Keating Park. 

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