Marco Scutaro has finally returned from the disabled list. Per the Giants official Twitter, the club has activated him from the 60-day DL and designated Brandon Hicks for assignment. Scutaro will be in Saturday’s starting lineup for the Giants.
Scutaro, 38, has yet to play in a game this season due to chronic back discomfort. He is earning $6 million this season, the second year of a three-year, $20 million deal signed with the Giants in December 2012. Last season, Scutaro slashed .297/.357/.369 in 547 plate appearances.
Hicks, despite playing above-average defense at shortstop, didn’t hit nearly enough to merit relegation to the bench. In 242 plate appearances, Hicks slashed .162/.280/.319 with eight home runs and 22 RBI. Hicks, 28, joined the Giants as a minor league free agent back in November.
With still no return date for Marco Scutaro in sight and Giants second basemen hitting a repulsive .170/.262/.296 for the season, the decision was made to call up 2011 first-round pick Joe Panik prior to Saturday’s game against the Diamondbacks.
The 23-year-old Panik was having a fine season in Triple-A, hitting .321/.382/.447 with five homers and three steals in 293 at-bats. That’s a big improvement over last year’s .257/.333/.347 line from Double-A Richmond. Drafted as a shortstop, he became a second baseman last year, seeing only spot duty at his old position. This year, he had played 61 games at second and 10 at short in Triple-A.
Brandon Hicks has been the Giants’ primary second baseman with Scutaro sidelined due to back problems, starting 56 of the team’s 74 games at the position. However, he’s hitting just .172/.289/.339 overall. The Giants’ .558 OPS from second base is the fifth worst mark any team is getting from a position this year. The only positions worse are Padres second basemen (.451), Cardinals second basemen (.534), Rays catchers (.536) and Mets catchers (.555).
The Giants sit atop the NL West, in first place at 22-13, one game ahead of the Colorado Rockies. Part of that success can be attributed to the success of second baseman Brandon Hicks at the plate. But… huh? Hicks is only hitting .200. Thanks to six home runs and 13 walks in 101 plate appearances, Hicks has gotten on base at a .313 clip and is slugging .459 for a respectable .772 OPS.
Manager Bruce Bochy sees beyond the batting average. Via CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly:
“You’ve heard me say it. I’m not all that big on average,” Bochy said. “I agree with a lot of baseball people. That’s way overrated. It’s on-base and slugging. Sometimes you give up a little bit to do some damage. That’s his style.”
Bruce Bochy, saberist.