Travis Ishikawa went 3-for-5, drove in three and scored a run and Jake Peavy 2-3 struck out eight, allowing two runs on 10 hits over seven innings for the Giants.
Travis Ishikawa came to spring camp with no guarantees.
He was a nonroster invite with scratch-off lottery ticket odds of making the 25-man roster. The only reason he was invited at all was the Pirates failed to find a left-handed platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez via trade or free agency.
What he did have was a new swing.
The altered approach helped Ishikawa make a Cinderella run to a roster spot in March, beating out Andrew Lambo to become an unlikely platoon fit for Sanchez. Ishikawa is off to a strong start, batting .308 with a home run in the first week of the season. He has started five of the first six games at first base as the Pirates have faced all right-handed starters to begin the season. The Pirates return to play against another right-hander in the Cubs’ Edwin Jackson at 8:05 p.m. Tuesday at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Ishikawa’s swing adjustment was born in a nondescript warehouse-type structure near Ishikawa’s offseason home in Southern California. It is there that private hitting instructor Craig Wallenbrock has studied the swings of nearly every successful major league hitter over the last 25 years. Ishikawa was introduced to Wallenbrock by his agent when Ishikawa was drafted by the Giants the 21st round in 2002 out of a Seattle-area high school.
“He’s watched so…
BRADENTON, Fla. — If they are being objective and honest, most followers of the Pirates’ Spring Training will concede having considered Travis Ishikawa out of the picture even before he entered the batter’s box. Before Ishikawa got his first at-bat, he spotted Andrew Lambo 20 and Chris McGuiness 15, giving the competition quite a head start.
A strained right hamstring kept the veteran first baseman out of sight, definitely out of mind, for the first two weeks of exhibition play.
Since finally swinging into action, however, Ishikawa has made it hard to not be noticed. After going hitless in his first seven at-bats, he has gone 6-for-9, with a pair of tape-measure home runs, complicating things for the Bucs.
Not so much because he is tempting the club to move away from a commitment to either Lambo or McGuiness as Gaby Sanchez‘s lefty-hitting wingman. Lambo (3-for-34) has been cold all spring and McGuiness (0-for-10) has gone cold.
But if general manager Neal Huntington was of a mind to go after one of the outside options who have been on the back-burner for months, Ishikawa may be prompting him to hold off. With only 10 days to go to the March 31 Opening Day, only so much vacillating time remains.
“I think, most often, the organization usually has a pretty good idea of who they want to be their guy,” said Ishikawa, who is in his fourth different Major League camp in as many years. “But a lot of decisions can be made based on Spring Training. From first-hand experience, I don’t really know about that … but what I do know is you can’t really focus on what everybody else is doing, only on what you can do.
“So I just try to have good at-bats, so I can get going when the regular season starts, whether it is in Pittsburgh or Indianapolis.”
Not many 30-year-olds who have logged big league time in six of the last eight seasons would be so accepting of the possibility — perhaps even likelihood — of being sent to Triple-A.
But Ishikawa appears aware of the need to rehabilitate his reputation after three seasons in which he totaled 171 Major League at-bats with three teams (Brewers, Orioles, Yankees). He had been the primary first baseman in 2009-10 for the San Francisco Giants, who consigned him in ’11 to Triple-A, where he suffered a June shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery. The Giants non-tendered him after that season.
So Ishikawa has been to a few of these rodeos. In 2011, he was the Giants’ last cut of the spring. He knows these opportunities can go down to the wire — and also that hopes can be clotheslined by that wire.
“So I’ve been in enough of these to know that the more you worry about stuff like that, the more it affects your play on the field,” said Ishikawa, who was invited to camp on a Minor League contract. “The biggest thing for me is to get myself ready for the season. Regardless of what happens here, I need to be ready to play. So I’m just preparing for that.”
The Bucs may not be able to afford carrying a part-time first baseman who can’t also assist in right field. It’s the Garrett Jones model. Ishikawa has very limited outfield experience, making it ironic that he incurred this spring’s hamstring injury playing the outfield, in the Feb. 25 Black vs. Gold squad game.
He has not set foot in the outfield since.
“I go where they tell me to go,” Ishikawa said. “I’m sure they’re trying to ease me back in. Knowing that hamstrings can be tricky sometimes, the last thing you want to do is re-aggravate it, so they’re helping me out with a lot of DH-ing and first base.”
Wherever his Spring Training leads, Ishikawa is pleased he resisted the urge to join the battle before he was fully healed.
“Absolutely … if this was five or six years ago when I was younger, I would’ve tried to play through it, and probably would’ve compensated in my swing so it wouldn’t hurt so bad, and it would’ve affected me.
“I’ve been around long enough to know what I need to do to get ready. The trainers did a phenomenal job of treating to get me healthy and back on the field. It was my best decision to hold off.”
Now Ishikawa is doing his best to make the Pirates staff’s decision difficult.
The Chicago White Sox made a move today that bolstered their 3B depth in their system by adding corner infielder/first baseman Travis Ishikawa to their Triple-A Charlotte team.
Recently released by the New York Yankees, Ishikawa will try to earn his way back to the big league level at some point this season.
He got the news Sunday, while headed to church near his home in the Bay Area, with Yankee GM Brian Cashman telling the former Brewer and Giant that he was headed to the Bronx – with a polite nudge to get to Yankee Stadium as soon as possible.
“I’ve been an anxious wreck since then,” new first baseman Travis Ishikawa said Monday at his new Stadium locker before batting in the No. 6 spot against the Royals. “I’m ready to hurry up and get out there. Caught a red-eye flight (Sunday) night, and got in (Monday) morning. Took a little nap and shaved my goatee and here I am.”
But Ishikawa was not Mark Teixeira or Jason Giambi or even Lyle Overbay. Ishikawa struck out twice against Jeremy Guthrie and looked a little tepid on defense, not even ranging to try to snag an Eric Hosmer grounder in the third. Cashman claimed Ishikawa off waivers from Baltimore, who just finished a series at the Stadium over the weekend. Ishikawa said he had been looking forward to playing at the Stadium (he had never played in the Bronx before) when he saw Baltimore’s schedule, but then got designated for assignment June 29.
“I’d lie to you if I said it didn’t bother me a little bit,” said Ishikawa. “When I first found out I was designated, a little part of you feels that little bit of failure, ‘Aw, man, I’m not good enough to be here.’ The more I prayed about it, it helped me to relax.”
Ishikawa, 29, played in six games for Baltimore this season, batting .118 with an RBI. He won a World Series with the Giants in 2010.
“When I heard it was this great organization, I didn’t believe it at first,” he said. “I had a missed call from the Orioles, and then my agent texted me – ‘I just heard you got claimed by the Yankees.’ I didn’t believe him at first. I had to call him up, ‘Are you serious?’ ”
Ishikawa added that he knew it wasn’t a crank call when Cashman was on the other end of the phone.
“I had the area code and I don’t have too many friends in New York,” he said.
Travis Ishikawa is back in Major League Baseball. The Federal Way High School graduate was called up by the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. The first baseman was having an impressive season for the Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Orioles.
The promotion came after Ishikawa filed paperwork to exercise an opt-out clause in his minor league contract Sunday, according to his agent. The moved forced the Orioles to either add him to their 25-man big league roster within 48 hours or releasing him.
The 29-year-old Ishikawa was batting .316 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 49 games for Norfolk this year.
It’s still up in the air whether Ishikawa will stick around all season with the Orioles. Baltimore’s starting first baseman, Chris Davis, is leading Major League Baseball with 26 home runs and is hitting .337 with 66 RBIs. Manager Buck Showalter has also been using several different players at designated hitter.
But, since his call-up, Ishikawa has started two games for the Orioles this week and is just 1 for 9 with five strikeouts.
Ishikawa signed the minor-league deal with Baltimore in the offseason after a solid year for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder didn’t play a single Major League game in 2011 after a shoulder injury.
Ishikawa mostly served as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement at first base for the Brewers last season after spending nine seasons with the San Francisco Giants’ organization. On the season, Ishikawa hit .257 with four home runs, 30 RBIs and 19 runs in 152 at bats.
Ishikawa was a San Francisco draft pick out of Federal Way in 2002 and played 281 games for the team since 2006. He has a lifetime batting average of .264 with 19 home runs, 110 RBIs, 40 doubles in 740 at-bats for San Francisco and Milwaukee.
Ishikawa spent a bulk of the 2009 season as the Giants’ everyday first baseman after an impressive spring training. During that season, Ishikawa hit .261 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 120 regular season games.
Faced with a decision to either promote or lose Travis Ishikawa, the Orioles added the veteran first baseman to their major league roster June 18.
Ishikawa, 29, had an opt-out clause in his contract, which he exercised June 16. That gave the O’s a 48-hour window to either bring him to the majors, trade him or have him leave the organization as a free agent.
Ishikawa has spent the entire 2013 season at Triple-A Norfolk, where his bat has been red hot. He’s batting .316/.413/.525/.939 during 49 games with seven home runs and 31 RBIs.
During his major league career, Ishikawa has spent parts of four seasons with the Giants and one with the Brewers, amassing a career line of .264/.328/.405/.733. He is considered an excellent defensive first baseman.
Ishikawa’s stint with the Orioles might not last long, but he’s in the starting lineup June 18 in Detroit, batting eighth and serving as the designated hitter. He will face a tough task during his O’s debut, as he’ll be batting against Cy Young winner Justin Verlander for the first time during his career.