SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Matt Duffy spent most of spring training last year trying to get a read on where in the infield he would best fit in with the San Francisco Giants.
There is no worrying about that now.
The 25-year-old is firmly entrenched at third base, and barring a significant injury, likely will be there for quite some time.
When Pablo Sandoval left the Giants and signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent before the 2015 season, the Giants put veteran Casey McGehee at third, but he struggled.
Duffy, who bypassed Triple-A ball to go directly to the major leagues in 2014, was plugged in at third, even though he had played mainly at second and a little bit at shortstop.
Duffy became the starter in May and went on to play 134 games at third (149 overall) and hit .295 with 12 home runs and 77 RBIs. He has an active streak of 118 straight games.
“I was a little familiar with third, having played it in college, so I knew I could do it,” said Duffy, drafted by the Giants in the 18th round from Long Beach State in 2012. “I knew it was going to be a challenge, but it was not like I was going to shy away from anything.”
It didn’t take long for Giants bench coach and infield defense coordinator Ron Wotus to realize that Duffy was going to work out.
“I was very impressed by the way he was able to adapt and adjust,” Wotus said. “You have to realize that the ball is going to come at you a little differently over there.”
“I think it really helped him that he was able to stay at third every day instead of bouncing around as a utility guy.
“But it was his bat that kept him in there as much as his defense,” he said.
Duffy was so productive that he finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting behind Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.
When summoned from Double-A in 2014, he first thought the call from the Giants was a prank.
“I thought, “No way. Are you serious?’ It shocked me,” he said.
Now his time is spent refining his game.
“I have to get a quicker first step to my left,” he said.
At the plate, he has a better idea about what works with his swing and what needs improvement.
“Some days the hands don’t move as quickly and they don’t feel right and you have to play through it,” he said. “I’d say my mental game is my strength.”
He acknowledged a bit of fatigue on his 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame late in the season.
“But I didn’t see proof of that,” Wotus said. “It’s all part of the game, and he was there bringing it every day.”
NOTES: RHP Matt Cain still believes he can be ready for his first start in April despite having a cyst removed from his pitching arm on Thursday. “It was not the easiest thing to go through because I was excited to see hitters again,” said Cain, slowed by injuries the last two seasons. The cyst was a few inches above the elbow and had ruptured below the skin. ... Manager Bruce Bochy said RF Hunter Pence likely will be held back for three or four days after developing tendinitis in his right Achilles. ... OF Gregor Blanco was sent home due to flu-like symptoms. Bochy’s starting rotation for the first four spring games is RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP Jake Peavy, LHP Madison Bumgarner and RHP Johnny Cueto.