Mancuso: Pagan Making A Giant Statement

(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Angel Pagan missed a significant amount of playing time for the San Francisco Giants last season with a bulging disc in his back, and with six games remaining in the Giants championship season of last year surgery was required. There was a concern that without surgery, Pagan would see his career curtailed.

The Giants, without Pagan in their lineup were missing offense, speed and an experienced player who could patrol center field. Of course his health was a concern and a road to recovery was a priority, so an intense off-season rehab program would be the only way to get back in the lineup.

 “As long as I am healthy I will be fine,” Pagan said Wednesday night prior to the Giants 8-5 win over the New York Mets. He reached base twice on walks, scored a run and struck out swinging on a 97-mile fastball thrown by the Mets’ struggling right-hander Matt Harvey,

Pagan said he saw no difference in the way Harvey approached his pitches, that the difference was the Giants were able to get good at bats and were consistent. The difference was Harvey not being “Harvey” as he gave up three more home run balls, For Harvey that is an issue, allowing  eight home runs in his last four starts.

The second place Giants trail Los Angeles by a half game in the NL west standings and have won four of their last five games after losing five straight. Pagan has been consistent being in the lineup, though the extra base hits have not been coming and he holds the second longest home run drought in baseball  in his last 506 bats.

But as he becomes more consistent, playing everyday, he says the extra base hits will come.  Over the  course of a eight-year playing career, the 33-year old native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico has never had an issue with being consistent.

Pagan just has to stay injury free and he feels the best days are ahead.

“Healthy, just going out there to compete everyday and help this team to win,” he says, is the most important part of what he wants to see after coming off the injury season of 2014.  He is signed though the 2016 season and the season of 2012, he led the NL in triples (12), and in 28 games had the longest home hitting streak in Giants’ franchise history.

So there is a track record of success, and there is every reason to believe that the numbers will get better with consistent at bats and staying in the lineup.

“Last  year it was an injury,” he described and a procedure known as a .discectomy to shave the herniated portion of the disc that was pinching a nerve and causing pain, “a majority of players get that pain.” But Pagan could no longer tolerate the pain and required the procedure in order to resume a career playing for two Giants championship teams.

“It’s a very tough injury. In  spring training I battled with it… you have to think of your future, your career. The doctor told me to stop or it could affect my performance in the future. “ There was no hesitation, and Pagan was confident about returning strong as he watched his team win their second World Series in three years.

Besides the championships, Pagan has also been in the lineup and on the field participating in three of the four Giants no-hit or perfect pitched games since 2012. The latest came Tuesday night at Citi Field when rookie Chris Heston threw the first no-hitter this season against the Mets. He said, and it was not meant to disrespect his former team that traded him away at the end of 2011, that the no-hitter was one of the easiest he has seen.

“No one hit the ball hard,” he said about the Mets at bats, and Heston not known for overpowering stuff, struck out a career high 11 Regardless it was no-hit baseball and another one for the record books.

“I don’t know what pitching is like,” Pagan said as he prepared to take the field for pregame stretching and batting practice.  “It’s very unique for a pitcher especially for a rookie like him,” commenting about the no-hitter. “I was just trying to not mess it up, if they hit it to me and just get the win.”

As it was, Pagan did not have to handle a ball in that ninth and final inning. Heston struck out the side, and Pagan ran from center field to the mound  joining Heston and his teammates to celebrate.

And there is that optimism that Pagan will improve with more at bats, and that the Giants will continue to depend on him. The NL west race could come to the wire and the Giants are expected to be there in the end because they have that experience core of starters and, in the lineup.

To get there, Angel Pagan has to be an important part of that experience and he is well aware what is ahead, Most of all he has to remain injury free.

He says, “I feel like I am still getting better. My body has been feeling better, where I want it to be. My pitch selection and approaches come from my experience.”

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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