The Ukiah Daily Journal

Joc Pederson is SF Giants' next man up at first base

- By Evan Webeck

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. >> Throughout the second half of last season, Joc Pederson routinely took pregame ground balls at first. But Giants manager Gabe Kapler downplayed Pederson's entreaty to the infield, and nothing ever came of it. Until now?

This spring, Pederson is back doing fielding drills at first base — and ramping up the intensity with the intent of being the Giants' primary left-handed hitting option at the position behind Lamonte Wade Jr., who will get most of the starts there against righthande­d pitchers.

“It would be great if Joc was capable enough if (an injury) came up that he could be serviceabl­e over there,” Kapler said Thursday. “Obviously he can really bang. If he can get comfortabl­e enough over there, this guy's a wide receiver. He's a hand-eye coordinati­on beast. So he can do it, but we have to put the work in.”

The Giants have no shortage of capable corner infielders — David Villar, Wilmer Flores, J.D. Davis — but after the departure of Brandon Belt, all of them except Wade hit righthande­d.

While Pederson is still expected to primarily DH, with a few cameos in the outfield, he could give the Giants insurance and flexibilit­y if he's able to get comfortabl­e at first.

“I think I'm going to be taking most of spring training defensive practice over there,” Pederson said. “I think first base will take priority now just because I'm unfamiliar with first base. … I think it's something I was going to have to learn at some point in my career.”

The Dodgers tried out Pederson at first in 2019, but it didn't go well. He lasted 20 games and made six errors.

Pederson and Kapler are confident that with a full spring of practice, it will go better this time around.

“It was unfortunat­e that I had to get thrown out there without ever playing an inning on the spring training field,” Pederson said of his experience with the Dodgers. “But I don't think that's how they intended it to happen.”

“I think in some sense, this has nothing to do with how they did it, one thing we want to be doing is making sure he feels like he's repped things out,” Kapler said. “He knows where to

be, he knows that he's athletic enough to handle this. He spent some time in the offseason thinking about it and working on it and we've now emphasized how we want to ramp him up and not just throw him into the fire.”

Over the offseason, while Pederson worked out at his Cabo, Mexico, offseason home, Kapler sent a video to president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. It was of Pederson at first base, which Zaidi said he sent right back to Pederson and asked him, “Is this CGI or is this real?”

“He looked really good,” Zaidi said. “He's pretty confident over there. That's something to watch for.”

Pederson will appear at first in spring games — he said he's even sticking around a few extra days to get in extra work at the position before departing for the World Baseball Classic, where he expects to play the outfield for Team Israel — but it's the extensive work on the backfields that will determine his fitness for the position. (His physical fitness, by the way, is looking improved from last season, and Pederson said he's “leaned down.”)

“When I think about Joc and getting him ready to play first base, it's probably not March 18, 19, 20 that are going to be as important as these hours when it's just him and Kai and Nak out on the field getting after it,” Kapler said. “… Obviously he's going to have to work hard at it, but he put in the time and effort over the offseason to be explosive and athletic. We've seen the results of that.”

 ?? NHAT V. MEYER — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP ?? San Francisco Giants' Joc Pederson (23) hits a two-run home run against the San Diego Padres in the ninth inning at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Aug. 30, 2022.
NHAT V. MEYER — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP San Francisco Giants' Joc Pederson (23) hits a two-run home run against the San Diego Padres in the ninth inning at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Aug. 30, 2022.

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