Giants camp report: Scutaro finds a home as October still echoes
Storming into town and blasting seven RBI in an August game against the Cardinals, seizing the NL Championship Series MVP award, knocking in the winning run in Game 4 of the World Series, latching on to a three-year, $20 million deal this winter like an English teacher pouncing on a double negative -- all that was the easy part for Marco Scutaro.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Storming into town and blasting seven RBI in an August game against the Cardinals, seizing the NL Championship Series MVP award, knocking in the winning run in Game 4 of the World Series, latching on to a three-year, $20 million deal this winter like an English teacher pouncing on a double negative … all that was the easy part for Marco Scutaro.
“A dream,” is what Scutaro says now, on a bustling spring morning as camp winds down and expectations for 2013 wind up. “Pretty much, it was a blessing from above.
“It’s something that was pretty special. Especially the way we did it.”
Especially the way he did it.
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How do you become an October hero in San Francisco?
You persevere when you are waived early in your career. Twice.
You don’t blink when you are traded throughout your career. Four times.
You don’t flinch when you first splash down in the majors and your manager, upon first laying eyes on you, wonders whether you’re a student here in Cincinnati. True story. Great story. More on that in a second.
Marco Scutaro has rattled around over these past two decades more than the axles on a minor-league bus from Tulsa to El Paso.
But you know what he hears now at 37?
Not all of those minor-league bus gears grinding. Not the sound of his landlord’s voice after the Brewers waived him in 2002 just two days before the start of the season after they already had dispatched him to Triple-A Indianapolis and Scutaro and his pregnant wife already had an apartment, furniture and had paid the deposit.
No. What he hears now, at 37, are autumn echoes from the roar of the crowd on all of those nights leading Scutaro and the Giants down the World Series trail.
“You know how good Giants fans are,” Scutaro says. “They support their team. They’re just unbelievable.
“Every single night you go into the place, the stands are packed and the atmosphere is great. It is a very nice place to be.”
How do you land in a place like this nearly two decades after the Indians sign you out of Venezuela as an amateur free agent?
How do you become the final key piece of an elite franchise’s second World Series title in three seasons?
You plow forward after going from Cleveland to Milwaukee as the player to be named later in the Richie Sexson deal (August 2000).
You survive being traded for pitchers Kristian Bell and Graham Godfrey (Oakland to Toronto, 2007).
You don’t look back after being dealt for pitcher Clayton Mortensen (Boston to Colorado, 2012).
You thrive after being dealt for infielder Charlie Culbertson (Colorado to San Francisco, 2012).
“Sometimes,” Scutaro says, “you never get the opportunity.
“When you get it, you better be ready.”
Even then, opportunity might not be ready recognize you.
“That was a funny story,” Scutaro says.
The Mets rescued him in April 2002, from the apartment in Indianapolis after the Brewers waived him. He reported straight to Triple-A Norfolk and was summoned to the big club when Roberto Alomar was injured.
Scutaro joined the Mets in Cincinnati. Arrived late, awoke the next day and went downstairs to the restaurant for lunch. Ordered his food, looked over and three or four chairs down was his new manager. Bobby Valentine.
“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s the manager,’ ” Scutaro says. “It’s my first time in the big leagues. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Should I say hi to him?'
“I figured I’d better say hi because if I didn’t and he sees me at the ballpark, he would say, ‘Why didn’t you say hi to me?’”
So he got up, walked over and said hi.
“Hello Bobby, I’m Marco Scutaro.”
“Hey, kid. How are you?”
“I stand there for awhile, and he didn’t say anything,” Scutaro says. “So I’m thinking, ‘I guess he doesn’t say too much.’”
That alone is priceless. Bobby Valentine? Doesn’t say too much?
But then, when Valentine noticed Scutaro wasn’t going away, the manager broke the awkward silence.
“What do you do here, kid?” he asked. “Work? Go to school?”
When he sees Valentine today, the two still have a good laugh over that one.
Parts of two seasons with the Mets, then waived. Oakland picked him up. His first big break came when second baseman Mark Ellis suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during spring training.
“They didn’t have any more choices,” Scutaro says.
But after hitting .273 with a .297 on-base percentage in ’04, he was about to get shipped back to the minors in ’05.
It was the end of the spring, there were a couple of injury issues and the A’s were keeping Scutaro around as insurance as opening day approached. But he wasn’t on the roster.
With a wife and a 2-year-old daughter back at the hotel that was serving as a holding bin, he talked with his manager.
“What’s going to happen to me?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Ken Macha said.
The A’s opened in Baltimore and shortstop Bobby Crosby broke his hand. Scutaro stuck.
And he’s been in the majors every day since. Oakland. Toronto. Boston. And, briefly, Colorado.
“This business is hard,” he says. “You have to convince other people. Each year, you have to convince them.
“I was playing good. It seemed like nobody wanted to give me an opportunity. I was concerned about that.
“On the other hand, I had no control over the decisions. I had to just keep playing hard.”
“Look at his numbers,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy says. “He’s one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. Last year was not a fluke.”
Scutaro, with a .340 lifetime on-base percentage, is a very quiet man. Extremely serious. His father, Donato, was from Italy. His mother, Nelida, was from Spain. His mother died, unexpectedly, when he was 18.
His faith runs deep.
“God timed this perfectly,” Scutaro says of the trade last July 27 that landed him hard on the shores of McCovey Cove. “He made me go through all of the stuff, all of the experiences, so when I got the opportunity, I’d take care of it.”
Giants general manager Brian Sabean, as sharp as there is in the game, has an knack for in-season acquisitions. Cody Ross helped propel the Giants to the World Series title in 2010. And Scutaro in 2012.
“Oh, man,” Bochy says. “He’s a pro. He’s a popular guy on our club.”
How do you become an October hero in San Francisco?
Among players who saw a minimum of 1,000 pitches last season, Scutaro had the highest contact rate of anybody in the majors. He was the hardest batter to fan in the NL.
The guy packed into three months last year what many cannot cram into an entire career.
Now, nearly two decades in, World Series ring on order, three-year deal in hand, second base on a contender, you bet Scutaro finally feels at home.
“No doubt,” he says. “It’s always nice to know where you’re going to be next.”