San Francisco Chronicle

Minor leaguer homers while in mourning

- By Susan Slusser Reach Susan Slusser: sslusser@sfchronicl­; Twitter: @susansluss­er

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The biggest moment of the San Francisco Giants’ spring training so far, at least for many of the team’s minor leaguers and player developmen­t folks, was Ismael Munguia’s wallop of a homer Friday at Scottsdale Stadium.

Most of the players knew that Munguia, 24, hadn’t played for nearly a year and a half because of a wrist injury. But not everyone was aware that the moment was even more emotional for Munguia, because his younger brother, Francisco Antonio, was killed in an accident in Nicaragua last week.

“He was coming out of work and he was on a motorcycle, and the rear tire slid,” Munguia said, with Erwin Higueros interpreti­ng. “He tried to control the motorcycle and he couldn’t; there was a pole in front of him, and it hit him in the head.”

Francisco Antonio, known as Tonõ, was 18.

Munguia planned to return to Nicaragua, but his father, also named Ismael, told him not to because he’s worked too hard to get back to baseball after surgery to anchor a tendon in his right wrist.

“It was the hardest decision that I have ever made in my life to stay back,” Munguia said. “But my dad told me my brother was already gone, he was resting, that there was nothing I could do. The best thing that I could do was just stay here in the states and play baseball.”

With all this weighing on him, Munguia came to the plate to face Colorado’s Case Williams in the sixth inning Friday, his first at-bat in a game since Sept. 18, 2021. He fought through a 14-pitch at-bat that included nine foul balls before lining a homer out to right as the dugout erupted.

“It was a very emotional moment for me,” Munguia said. “When I hit the home run, I looked up in the sky and I said, ‘This is for you, Tonõ.’ Every time I touched a base, I said, ‘This is for you, Tonõ.’

“This is what we are striving for, to make a name for ourselves, to do something in life. It’s hard, but that’s what I want to do now, because of my brother.”

Kyle Haines, the Giants’ farm director, was watching the proceeding­s online.

“When Ismael hit the homer, I was really thinking about his family after what they’ve been through,” Haines said. “I’m sure they’re really proud of him.”

Munguia, a left-handed hitting outfielder who was borrowed from minor league camp for the split-squad games Friday and Saturday, impressed the big league manager.

“That at-bat was superb,” Gabe Kapler said. “The whole dugout was fired up to see him come back like that.”

Munguia flashed bunt his next time up before connecting on a single, and, Kapler said, “Shows bunt, major initiative for us, line-drive base hit, good baserunnin­g. I was like, ‘How do you design a ballplayer like that?’ It’s perfect.”

Haines said that Munguia, who is listed at a generous 5foot-10, 158 pounds, has a boxing background and came into camp leaner this year.

“I told him he’s more of a lightweigh­t now,” Haines said. “He’s short, but when you watch him, he plays like he’s 6-4, 230.

“There are always organizati­onal favorites, and we all love this kid. Everyone knows how hard he plays, and he’s just special. He does everything and he’s really the one who really made the team go at (Class-A) Eugene when they won the championsh­ip.”

Learning first: Joc Pederson said his Giants debut at first base Friday was something of a whirlwind initially. He saw no action the first two innings with Anthony DeSclafani plowing past hitters, but even so, “it was moving fast,” he said, adding of his brief fill-in at first in Los Angeles, “I’ve had some bad experience­s over there, but I’ve put in a lot of work and I got a couple of situations that were things we’ve been through, and that helped slow things down. By the third, fourth inning, I definitely started to feel a lot better.”

Pederson is usually talky when he’s on base, but he was so focused Friday, he stayed quiet. “I’m kind of on the chattier side and the first three innings, I don’t even think I said anything to the umpire because it was moving fast,” he said.

Pederson said he anticipate­s playing first two or three more times before leaving for the World Baseball Classic on Saturday.

Wood’s spring debut: Lefty Alex Wood made his first start of the Cactus League on Saturday and worked two scoreless innings with five strikeouts in the Giants’ 9-5 loss to the Diamondbac­ks at Scottsdale Stadium. Wood is always among the starters with the quickest pace, and he felt that with the pitch clock, he was almost going too fast Saturday against Arizona.

Outfielder Michael Conforto hit his first homer of the spring leading off for San Francisco, and two-way player Ronald Guzman, in camp as a left-handed reliever, allowed a hit, hit a batter and gave up two runs. Minor league outfielder Wade Meckler had to leave the game after making a diving catch in the eighth. “Great effort,” said Kapler, who did not have a medical update.

In the Giants’ 14-2 loss to the Brewers at Maryvale, Logan Webb didn’t allow a ball out of the infield after a leadoff lineout, walked two and struck out two in three innings.

 ?? Ash Ponders/Special to The Chronicle ?? Giants minor leaguer Ismael Munguia provided one of the biggest moments of spring training when he homered Friday, coming after his younger brother was killed last week in an accident.
Ash Ponders/Special to The Chronicle Giants minor leaguer Ismael Munguia provided one of the biggest moments of spring training when he homered Friday, coming after his younger brother was killed last week in an accident.

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