Panik shows poise in first Major League start
Rookie second baseman notches two hits, first RBI, makes nice play
PHOENIX -- With his mother, father, brother, girlfriend and a pair of other friends sitting in the Chase Field stands Sunday, Giants rookie second baseman Joe Panik had a first Major League start for the ages.
He collected his first Major League hit and his first RBI and made a scoop throw with his glove fielding an Ender Inciarte grounder that had everyone on San Francisco's bench smiling. The single and RBI double in four at-bats was a big reason why the Giants defeated the D-backs, 4-1.
"What a nice job he did," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said about the 23-year old who was called up from Triple-A Fresno on Saturday. "He looked comfortable. He played good defense. He had good at-bats. He did a real nice job in his first game. He should be proud of this game. He looked good out there."
Panik was with the Minor League club in New Orleans where he received the news at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday that he was on his way up to the Major Leagues. He quickly called his mother, Natalie, and father, Paul, and the group of six in upstate New York scattered quickly to arrange plane tickets to meet their son in Arizona.
Panik arrived in time to take a pinch-hit walk in Saturday night's 6-4 Giants victory and then was told by Bochy he would start Sunday. Ehire Adrianza has a sore hamstring.
"The last 36 hours were kind of a whirlwind," said Panik, the Giants' first-round pick and 29th overall in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. "I'm glad that my parents flew out. It was great to share it with them. I probably woke them up about 3:30 a.m. East Coast time. They booked flights right then and there. Some of them got out here before I did."
What they saw was a young man, a left-handed hitter, with a lot of poise. His first hit was a solid single up the middle during the fifth inning off D-backs right-handed starter Mike Bolsinger, but even better, the run-scoring double came off left-handed relief specialist Joe Thatcher as the Giants mounted a three-run rally in the ninth.
Panik had faced Bolsinger before in the Minors. Bolsinger has bounced back and forth this season from the D-backs to their Triple-A Reno affiliate. But Panik had never faced the veteran Thatcher.
"That was a tough at-bat," Panik said about facing Thatcher. "He was throwing from behind me, sidearmed. I was just trying to hang in there, not to bail out. I was just trying to stay in there and spoil one of his pitches. Fortunately I was able to get a good swing off."
As far as the play on Inciarte to end the sixth inning, it wasn't as impromptu as one might have thought.
"When we take infield practice, there's always a slow roller, so I've been working on that," he said. "I do. When you have a speedy guy like Inciarte -- I've played against him -- that's the quickest way to get the ball to first base. I can't even underhand it."
To the victor belongs the spoils and all that stuff, and with the Giants opening a 10-game homestand Monday night against the Padres at AT&T Park, Bochy said he expects to have Panik back in the starting lineup.
It'll be another moment of recognition for the youngster.
"When you go out on the field and you look up and you're used to playing in a place with one deck, it's something," Panik said. "Now there are multiple decks and here there's a roof. It was totally different and I was trying to stay in the moment. There's always going to be a little bit of butterflies, but I was able to settle down.
"San Francisco has a beautiful ballpark. They pack the house out there. It's going to be a lot of fun to play in front of those fans. I'm pretty excited."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.