Neal Garners New Nickname

Giants outfielder resembles a tank engine

SAN FRANCISCO—Thomas Neal is active on Twitter and loves responding to friends and fans alike. Shortly after the Giants added the affable, power-hitting outfielder to their 40-man roster in late November, Neal made a reference to "Thomas the Tank Engine" on the social networking site.

He claimed he was referring to the children's television show, not himself. Too late, Thomas. This is how nicknames are born.

There couldn't be a better description than "Thomas the Tank Engine" for Neal, who is built like a diesel hauler and kept plugging away to salvage a respectable season in the tough-hitting environs of the Double-A Eastern League.

Nearly all the Giants' other touted hitting prospects scuffled in their move up to Richmond from last year's juggernaut at high Class A San Jose, or they dealt with season-wrecking injuries.

But Neal shook off his slow start and ended up hitting .291/.359/.440 in a big home ballpark. He smacked just 12 home runs—10 of which came on the road—but also hit 40 doubles and boosted his walk rate from the previous year.

"He had a lot of A-ball left in him early in the season," said Richmond manager Andy Skeels, who skippered Neal and San Jose to a title the previous year. "He started out slow, but I'm proud of the way he began to start figuring things out. The only thing he'll need to improve upon is putting together good at-bats when he's position to drive in runs."

There's a good chance Neal, 23, will start the season at Triple-A Fresno. Now that he's on the 40-man, a hot stretch might warrant a big league debut at some point with the chance to establish himself as an everyday player in 2012.
He's already got the nickname.


• The Giants also added shortstop Ehire Adrianza, righthander Jose Casilla, lefthander Clayton Tanner and righthander Steve Edlefsen to the 40-man roster, protecting them from being taken in the Rule 5 draft.

• John Shafer, who had worked for the Giants as a territorial scout in the Pacific Northwest since 1982, died in Portland, Ore., of natural causes. He was 62. Shafer signed several influential players, including Trevor Wilson (1985), Steve Decker (1988), Marvin Benard (1992) and Keith Foulke (1994).