Fontenot steps in, delivers for Giants
Replacing Sandoval no problem despite inexperience at third
ATLANTA -- From the time he walked from the visiting clubhouse to the home clubhouse Aug. 11 at AT&T Park to leave the Cubs and join the Giants, Mike Fontenot has been ready.
Ready to start in the infield. Ready to contribute off the bench. Ready to do anything.
On Sunday, Fontenot proved he's ready to be the Giants' third baseman for as long as they need him, taking over for struggling Pablo Sandoval in Game 3 of the National League Division Series and delivering an all-around performance that makes a Game 4 start more than just likely.
"He's a professional," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's why he was in there today. He does a good job on defense. Gives you quality at-bats and he got us on the board early, which is what we're hoping for."
Asked whether Fontenot wouldd be in the lineup for Monday's potential clincher in Game 4, Bochy said, "Yeah."
Fontenot has a simple answer for how he stayed sharp while getting sporadic but ample playing time since his arrival.
"Just go out there and play baseball every day, you know?" said Fontenot, a 5-foot-8 LSU product. "Just try to stay ready every day, taking grounders. A lot of it's mental and just making sure you're ready."
Done. This guy was ready.
That was evident when Fontenot stroked a 90 mph sinker from Braves starter Tim Hudson to the right-center gap, a ball that might have gone over the fence, might have been caught and wound up being a crucial hit to get the Giants started.
"I was just running, saying, 'Don't catch it,'" Fontenot said. "I ended up seeing the ball hit his glove and the ball go up in the air and I just kept running."
After scoring the run, Fontenot delivered two of the Giants' better defensive plays of the game. He cut across shortstop Juan Uribe to snag a grounder off the bat of Braves leadoff hitter Omar Infante, pegging a strong throw to first to get the third out of the third inning. He also grabbed Brooks Conrad's popped bunt out of the air in the eighth, avoiding the type of collision with catcher Buster Posey that Sandoval endured in Game 1.
"I was charging, and I was playing in just thinking he may sac bunt it, so I made sure I called Buster off, especially after that play the other day," Fontenot said. "I was yelling at him pretty good."
Third base is not his first position of expertise, having come up as a second baseman through the Orioles' system before being dealt to Chicago in the 2005 trade involving Sammy Sosa. His first Major League appearances at third came in 2009 with the Cubs, and he made three starts there for the Giants this season after being acquired for Minor League outfielder Evan Crawford. Fontenot got most of his time down the stretch at second base, making nine starts and making 16 total appearances there while starting three times at short.
"I take ground balls everywhere when I'm not playing just to stay fresh because you never know what might happen during the game," Fontenot said.
Or before it. Fontenot had been told he'd make the Game 3 start at third base as he left Saturday's workout, so he was prepared for what would be his second Division Series start, the first coming with the Cubs in 2008.
After Mr. Eveready delivered in a big way Sunday, his brief journey in San Francisco continued to be fulfilling -- especially now.
"It's been good," Fontenot said. "I played a pretty good bit down the stretch there, the last few weeks. In the total of the season, I probably didn't play as much as I did last year or the year before. But it's been good to get out there every chance I've had, especially with the injuries we've had.
"That's what it takes. You've got to have some depth on the team to be able to get to this point."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.