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.”