Warszawski: With the Giants not wanting, Grizzlies' Adam Duvall still waiting

The Fresno BeeJune 12, 2014 

No matter how far Adam Duvall crushes each home run, the ultimate goal must seem just beyond his reach.

The Grizzlies third baseman has hit 20 of them this season, more than any Triple-A ballplayer. Same goes for his 58 RBIs.

If Duvall were property of any other team, there's a good chance he'd already have experienced his first taste of the majors.

Because he's property of the Giants, who are cruising along with baseball's best record despite being brought back to earth this week by the Nationals, it's not that simple.

"He could hit 100 home runs," Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano said. "Right now we're the best team in baseball. Where's he going to fit in?

"Not that he can't play up there, but there has to be a need. Right now, there just isn't."

The Grizzlies have several first-half standouts whose upward mobility keeps slamming into that same lack of necessity.

Joe Panik is hitting .322 --140 percentage points higher than the second baseman starting every day for the Giants (Brandon Hicks). Yet there's no panic to call up Panik.

Mark Minicozzi boasts a .370 average to go with 26 RBIs in his first 22 games since returning from injury. Left-hander Dan Runzler sports a 0.95 ERA having allowed 17 hits over 28⅓ innings.

Sorry, gentlemen. No room at the inn.

The Grizzlies are constantly reminded of their parent club's success. Players watch Giants games on clubhouse TVs, and each time they walk through the cement tunnel leading to the dugout they pass large posters of Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain -- cornerstones of two World Series titles.

Printed on every poster, in large type, is the date each made his major-league debuts. Posey: Sept. 2, 2009. Bumgarner: Sept. 8, 2009. Lincecum: May 6, 2007. Cain: Aug. 26, 2005.

When will Duvall's day get here?

At that, the 25-year-old Kentuckian just smiles and shakes his head.

"All I can do is try to stay hot," Duvall said. "Everything else is out of my control."

"The Giants are winning, and that's a good thing," he added. "But if there's a ever need, you definitely want to be the one they call and you want to be ready to fill the hole so they don't skip a beat."

A chiseled 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Duvall has always possessed what hitting instructors like to call "easy power." He hit 22 homers for Class-A Augusta in 2011, led the California League with 30 bombs for Advanced Class-A San Jose in 2012 and hit 17 last season at Double-A Richmond despite missing six weeks with a thumb injury.

The difference now is he's become more of a complete hitter with a batting average at or near .300 instead of hovering in the .250s.

Grizzlies hitting coach Andy Skeels pointed to Duvall's improved strike-zone awareness and pitch recognition.

"He's done a better job of not going outside his zone and working himself into better leverage counts where he can do a lot of damage," Skeels said. "And with two strikes he's gotten better going the other way."

You'd never imagine it by looking at him, but Duvall is doing these things while managing Type I diabetes.

Type I diabetics cannot produce insulin, the hormone that converts sugars and starches into energy for the body. To combat this, Duvall wears an insulin pump 24 hours a day (except in the shower) that monitors his blood-sugar levels.

Duvall keeps the pump in his back pocket and checks it several times per game. Sometimes even between outs while standing at third base.

"When I look down at it, it gives me a number," said Duvall, who was diagnosed two years ago during spring training. "If I need to take insulin, I take insulin. If I need to eat sugar, I eat sugar."

Maintaining a constant blood-sugar level is essential. If it drops too low, Duvall will start to feel jittery and weak in the knees. Too high, and he'll feel kind of sluggish.

"If your blood sugar moves up or down too fast, it can also mess with your vision," he said. "Fortunately, when I'm out there running around it tends to stay around the same. Unless I crush Gatorade."

Last week in Las Vegas, Duvall came to the plate for his first at-bat feeling not quite right. He checked his blood sugar while on deck and it came back 54: pretty low.

Duvall felt the jitters stepping into the batter's box -- and still hit a slider for a home run.

"When he hits 'em," Mariano said, "the ball just keeps going and going."

The balls Duvall hits may keep going and going. But barring injury or trade, he's likely staying with the Grizzlies.

"I feel like if I keep hitting and driving in runs, the rest will take care of itself," Duvall said.

September call-ups are 2½ months away.

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6218, marekw@fresnobee.com or @MarekTheBee on Twitter.

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