Justin Christian wants a big league job. The San Francisco Giants are sorely in need of a capable leadoff hitter and production from an outfielder. Both parties hope that they prove to be a fine match in the final 20 games of the regular season.
Christian, a graduate of Aragon High School and Skyline College, wasted no time in making his presence felt after getting promoted from Triple-A Fresno on Tuesday. Batting leadoff and playing center field, the 31-year-old doubled and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning of a 6-4 victory at San Diego that kept the Giants’ slim playoff hopes alive as they gained a game on Arizona.
San Francisco, which trails the Diamondbacks by six games, may be inclined to give Christian more than a passing glance over the final three weeks, particularly when facing left-handed pitchers. Christian, who bats right-handed, dominated in 64 games at Fresno this summer, batting .338 and slugging .574 while also stealing 36 bases.
Christian, who in his ninth professional season, is making just his second appearance in the majors. He played in 24 games for the New York Yankees in 2008, batting .250.
Beyond getting the chance to play for the team he rooted for as a kid, Christian figures to be in perhaps the best place to show he belongs in the big leagues; that spending parts of six years at the Triple-A level is enough.
Throughout this season, the Giants have received dismal production from the leadoff spot (.231 average and 20 stolen bases entering Tuesday) and from their center fielders (.226).
In addition, the team’s outfield picture for 2012 is extremely murky. Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell are entering free agency this offseason, and Nate Schierholtz and Andres Torres are eligible for arbitration.
So expect Christian, the only player on the field on Tuesday without a name on the back of his jersey thanks to his game-day call-up, to get a number of chances to make a name for himself. He has plenty of minor-league experience at all three outfield spots.
Bruce Bochy may well put the rookie back in the lineup for a couple games against Los Angeles Dodger southpaws later this week. The Giants are scheduled to face NL Cy Young hopeful Clayton Kershaw on Friday and Ted Lilly on Sunday.