Giants' Heston Builds Momentum
From the batter's box to first base, Gary Brown
is one of the fastest righthanded hitters in the minors. It's no surprise that many in San Francisco had him on a fast track to the big leagues, perhaps starting in center field by the all-star break. But it became apparent early in the spring that timeline wouldn't be realistic.
Brown, perhaps still worn down from his first pro season and an abbreviated stint in the Arizona Fall League, hardly got any playing time in big league camp and he got off to a slow start for Double-A Richmond. But the 2010 first-round pick out of Cal State Fullerton encouraged club officials by making steady progress and was batting .276/.346/.368 in 337 at-bats. Brown still doesn't walk enough and he was caught stealing in 13-of-35 attempts, but he has all the gifts to be an everyday center fielder.
Biggest Leap Forward:
Righthander Chris Heston
harnessed an effective two-seamer while leading the Cal League with a 3.16 ERA last year, so it's a bit disingenuous to call his 2012 season a total breakout. But few saw the 2009 12th-rounder from East Carolina dominating the Eastern League to the tune of a 0.70 ERA—the lowest in the minors—through his first 10 starts for Richmond. Although Heston slipped to a 4.40 ERA in six June starts, the 24-year-old had an impressive 88/21 strikeout to walk ratio through 95 innings in 16 starts.
A year ago, lefthander Eric Surkamp
was leading the Eastern League in all three Triple Crown categories when the Giants called him up to fill a rotation spot during the pennant race. This year, Surkam was supposed to be the first line of defense and perhaps even push Barry Zito for a starting job. Instead, the 25-year-old still hasn't thrown a pitch because of recurring flexor tendonitis in his left elbow that cropped up toward the end of camp. Although the Giants claim that surgery still can be avoided, a procedure seems more and more likely. Surkamp, who turns 25 on July 16, throws an average fastball that touches 91 mph but has command to both sides of the plate and has a plus-plus curveball when healthy. He also missed time in 2010 when he required surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip.
• Giants manager Bruce Bochy was ecstatic when his son, Brett, was named to the Eastern League all-star team. Joining the righthanded reliever from Richmond were Heston, catcher Tommy Joseph and third baseman Daniel Mayora.
• Infielder Charlie Culberson became the first player to hit two grand slams in a season for Triple-A Fresno since Justin Leone in 2008.