Every day is a learning experience for Ronald Guzmán, which tends to be the case when you’re a 28-year-old power-hitting first baseman attempting to transition to strong-armed lefty reliever.
Guzmán noticed one difference right away. Walking back to the dugout after a strikeout is a lot more fun than it used to be.
“I think a lot of the potential is in his confidence,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler, after Guzmán struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh inning of Thursday afternoon’s exhibition against the Milwaukee Brewers. “He came in the dugout and said, ‘That’s me! That’s me!’ We’re like, ‘Well, OK, we hope so.'”
No, the Giants won’t feature a version of Shohei Ohtani on their opening-day roster. Guzman is very much a pitching project following a decade-long pro career as a one-time top hitting prospect with the Texas Rangers that included swatting 31 major-league home runs over 737 at-bats from 2018-21. But he’s here in Scottsdale because the Giants were the only team that promised to let him focus on pitching as part of an invitation to big-league camp.
His primary ambition is to touch a major-league mound. But his goals don’t end there. He wants to establish himself as an honest-to-goodness two-way player — as tough as that might be as a reliever with a less certain pitching workload.
It might seem like an impossible dream. But Thursday’s outing was as grounded in reality as it gets. Guzmán flipped three sliders in the zone that Eddy Alvarez watched into the catcher’s mitt. He pumped three more strikes that Skye Bolt couldn’t touch. Then he alternated offspeed pitches with a 97-mph fastball to blow away Jesse Winker.