SF Giants’ latest call-up is another former top prospect, childhood fan

Peninsula Premier Admin

SAN FRANCISCO — A pattern is developing among the lottery tickets the Giants are adding to their roster this September. They might be former top prospects, like Lewis Brinson, or local products and childhood fans, such as Scott Alexander and (since DFA’d) Andrew Knapp.

Luis Ortiz, a burly, 26-year-old right-hander who became their latest addition before Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against the Dodgers, checks both boxes. Growing up outside Fresno, Ortiz watched up-and-coming Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain pass through San Francisco’s Single-A affiliate before growing into enough of a pitching prospect himself to become a first-round draft pick in 2014.

With a depleted bullpen after using five relievers Tuesday night and facing down a double-header on Thursday, the Giants called up Ortiz, who said it was a “dream come true,” especially being thrust into the Dodgers rivalry.

“Central Valley, so either you’re a Giants fan or a Dodgers fan,” a smiling Ortiz said. “I grew up watching this team, the Giants, and always wanted to play for them as a kid.”

Ortiz, who hasn’t allowed a run at Triple-A Sacramento since June (23 consecutive scoreless innings), got word of his promotion at about 11:30 Tuesday night, he said. About 12 hours later, he was walking into the visitors clubhouse here.

“He’s been an excellent strike thrower recently, actually for most of his career,” said manager Gabe Kapler, adding that Ortiz was here to help lighten the load on the bullpen this week. “Not a guy who’s going to come in and overpower anybody, but we really respect the ability to get in the zone and stay in the zone around here.”

Ortiz’s 1.7 walks per nine innings was the best among all River Cats pitchers, a group that includes more well-regarded prospects such as Sean Hjelle, Tristan Beck, Cole Waites and R.J. Dabovich. However, it was Ortiz who got the first call.

“We were thinking about several non roster options for today,” Kapler said. “I’ll speak for myself, I value strikes over everything else. … I don’t think when we signed Luis Ortiz as a minor-league free agent that he was at the top, top of the list of who was going to make an impact for us this season. He’s just gone to Triple-A and been a good performer for us.”

Ortiz credited his recent success at Triple-A to a change in mindset (“thinking positively, because this game is all negative”) and playing only two hours up I-5 from his family after spending most of his career further east. But he also started throwing more sinkers to complement his slider and curveball.

“The biggest thing for me was just attacking hitters,” Ortiz said.

And because seemingly everyone is within five degrees of separation from Farhan Zaidi, Ortiz was greeted by familiar faces in the Giants clubhouse.

Ortiz, a first-round pick in 2014, was traded from Texas to Milwaukee alongside Lewis Brinson in the 2016 deal for Jonathan Lucroy. When Milwaukee traded Brinson to Miami two years later, Isan Diaz was also included in the package for Christian Yelich.

All three one-time top prospects have entered the Giants organization this season, and the only reason they aren’t all on the major-league roster is an oblique injury Diaz suffered last month.

In the visitors clubhouse Wednesday, Brinson gave a big hug to Ortiz, whose locker was set up next to his.

“The more positive evaluations you have, the more conviction you have in putting the player out there on the mound,” Kapler said of the collection of former top prospects the Giants have amassed via minor trades and waiver wire pickups.

Growing up in the Central Valley, Ortiz only made it to then-AT&T Park once. But he burnished his diehard Giants fan membership card while listing off his favorite players. Ortiz enjoyed watching Lincecum, Cain, the usual suspects.

But also…

“Todd Linden,” Ortiz said, even naming the part-time outfielder before Lincecum or Cain.

And that one game he attended? It was a memorable one.

Ortiz was sitting about 15 rows up down the first base line on Oct. 16, 2014, when Travis Ishikawa hit one of the most famous home runs in franchise history, a three-run walk-off that clinched the NLCS over St. Louis.

“I just remember him hitting the home run,” Ortiz said. “The place went crazy.”

Notable

  • The Giants announced that Jakob Junis will start Game 1 of Thursday’s double-header in Milwaukee, though Kapler said the only guarantee is that Junis takes down “the bulk of the innings” in one of the two games. Corbin Burnes is slated to start the first game for Milwaukee. In an effort to lighten the marathon travel schedule, Junis flew ahead of the team.
  • While the Giants have not yet announced who will be their 29th player for the double-header, Kapler named Sean Hjelle as one of a few options they are considering. Hjelle, who has a 4.92 ERA in 22 starts with Sacramento, would be able to cover multiple innings.

Contributed by local news sources

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