Ryan Cavan is back with the San Jose Giants after spending the entire 2012 season with Double-A Richmond. And though going back a level might discourage many Minor Leaguers, the 25-year-old second baseman has reasons for a positive outlook.
For one, Cavan earned a 2012 Gold Glove as the best second baseman in all of Minor League Baseball. Though he hit just .228, he made only four errors in 685 chances with the Flying Squirrels after making five miscues in 2011 with San Jose. He's also off to a hot start at the plate this season with a .329 average and 13 RBIs in 18 games. What's more, he's doing it all for the franchise he grew up rooting for.
A native of Belmont, Calif., situated between San Jose and San Francisco, Cavan recalls going to Candlestick Park and AT&T Park as a kid with his father, David, who raised him a Giants fan.
"To be part of this organization means a lot to me," said Cavan, who went to five of the club's postseason games last year and rode in the parade with some of his San Jose teammates. "2010 was special because they hadn't won it for so long, but the way they did it in 2012 was miraculous with winning so many elimination games."
A 16th-round selection from UC Santa Barbara in the 2009 Draft, Cavan made 44 errors in his first two professional seasons. He went to the instructional league and learned how to be better with the glove.
"I worked one-on-one with Mike Goff, who taught me a lot about angles in getting to the ball," said Cavan. "Fred Stanley [the Giants' roving infield instructor] also taught me some tricks, like keeping a softball in the mitt."
Motivated by last season's offensive struggles, Cavan worked out hard during the winter, adding 10 pounds of muscle to raise his weight to 190.
"I'm a gap hitter, and the ball didn't carry in the power alleys," Cavan said. "At Double-A, you see quality arms every night because a lot of the best prospects are there. I learned what it takes to be in the big leagues -- you have to be focused on every pitch, and you can't give up opportunities to hit the ball hard."
San Jose leads the North Division with a 13-5 record, and skipper Andy Skeels said Cavan has been a keystone of the team's success.
"He's the type of guy every manager wants, guys who help you win," said Skeels, now in his fourth season as San Jose's manager. "He's a great competitor at the plate and gives us a veteran presence."
Cavan played the first 13 games of the season at third base, adding to his skill set and making him more valuable to the origanization.
"Any time you add a tool to your tool box, it creates value," said Skeels. Cavan is all for being more versatile, hoping he can play for the team he rooted for throughout his youth.
Beyond spending time in the World Series parade, Cavan was able to enjoy another Major League moment during Spring Training.
"I was told to show up at the field at 5:30, and a reporter said to me, 'Do you know you're starting?' It was a full squad game against the Rockies in Scottsdale. In my first at-bat, I hit a line single to right-center. In the eighth inning, on a 1-2 count, I got the barrel of the bat to the ball and sprinted around the bases. It didn't really hit me what I had done until I got to the dugout. [George] Kontos asked a fan for the [home run] ball and got it for me."
Texas-sized boost: Ross Stripling, Duke von Schamann and Matt Shelton all played college baseball in the Lone Star State, and they've combined for five of Rancho Cucamonga's nine victories. Stripling (Texas A&M) has struck out 16 batters in 15 2/3 innings, winning his only decision and posting a 2.87 ERA. Duke von Schamann (Texas Tech), whose father was a kicker in the NFL, has a 1-1 mark and has pitched well other than a rough outing in high-altitude, hitter-friendly High Desert. Shelton (Sam Houston State) has pitched only 5 1/3 innings, but has three wins in relief.
Talent show: Delino DeShields, the Houston Astros' top selection (eighth overall) in the 2010 Draft, is picking up where he left off for Lancaster. He batted .318 in the postseason and was the Most Valuable Player as the JetHawks won the 2012 California League title. DeShields, who stole 101 bases last year, has a batting average of .349 and an on-base percentage of .417. The second baseman is the son of Delino DeShields, who played in the Majors for 13 years and batted over .289 five times though never reaching .300.
Blaze show spark: After losing 10 of their first 11 games, Bakersfield won a series against Inland Empire and split a series in Lancaster. Carlos Contreras, a right-hander from the Dominican Republic, is making a successful transition from relief pitcher to starter. He had 20 saves in 2012 with Dayton (Midwest League) and Bakersfield. Contreras has a 1-1 record with a 2.18 ERA. In 20 2/3 innings, he has struck out 27 while walking only six batters.
Here and there: Stockton's Maxwell Muncy has shown no mercy to pitchers, belting three homers in the last three games to bring his league-leading total to eight. ... Chad Cordero, a former Washington Nationals closer who signed a Minor League contract with the Los Angeles Angels, moved from Inland Empire to Salt Lake City in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League on April 18. ... Lake Elsinore's Lee Orr leads the league with a .436 batting average and an .873 slugging percentage. Orr, who batted under .219 in his first two pro seasons, has hit five homers for the Storm.