SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants threw Christian Arroyo right into the fire. He’ll bat sixth on Monday in the season’s first meeting with the rival Dodgers, and while it’s grossly unfair, Arroyo will shoulder massive expectations given the way this season has started.
All of that should be a piece of cake given what Arroyo did early Monday afternoon. The 21-year-old convinced a skeptical mother that he was telling her the truth.
Arroyo found out around 1:30 p.m. that his dream of reaching the big leagues had been accomplished. After shedding a few tears in Triple-A manager Dave Brundage’s office and getting congratulated by teammates, he called his mom, Kimberly.
“She didn’t believe me,” he said, smiling. “I took a solid five minutes for her to believe me. She kept going, ‘You’re lying.’”
Arroyo’s mother is headed over from Florida, and she’ll be in the stands with other family members for Tuesday night’s game. The plan is for Arroyo to be at third base against Clayton Kershaw. The plan is for him to be at third base for years to come.
The Giants hoped Arroyo, who doesn’t turn 22 until next month, would spend a whole season in Triple-A, dealing with the occasional failures and conditioning his body for the grind of the Major Leagues. But two things happened when Arroyo reached Triple-A after another solid spring: He hit the cover off the ball, picking up 29 hits in 65 at-bats (including four on Sunday) and the team slumped to a 6-13 record.
Was this a case of the Giants needing a spark or Arroyo forcing his way into the lineup?
“Both,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Certainly with what he was doing down in Sacramento, he opened up a lot of eyes and we have a need right now. We’re challenged offensively. We need another guy to help out and the way he was swinging the bat made us push him more quickly than we were thinking about.”
Bochy said Arroyo will mostly play third, although he can also handle short and second. Eduardo Nuñez, the incumbent, will play primarily left field and hopefully fill the gaping hole there. Nuñez will also move around, and he is likely to play shortstop this week when Brandon Crawford goes on bereavement leave.
The Giants are coming off a 1-4 road trip where they scored just 10 runs. There will be pressure on the top prospect to help turn this around, but Bochy doesn’t think he’ll feel it.
“He’s a tough kid,” he said. “I had fun with him today, told him don’t be scared. He said, ‘I’m pumped.’ He’s excited to be here. He just needs to be himself.”
If Arroyo can keep doing that, he’ll be fine. The Giants have always viewed him as a huge cornerstone of their future, and that was again made clear on Monday. Arroyo was given No. 22 and tucked into a locker between Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Joe Panik is two lockers away. The hope is that the four lined up that way for years.
“It’s surreal at this moment,” Arroyo said. “I’m trying to take it all in.”