Nick Noonan is feeling good in his 10th professional season.
The former Fresno Grizzly, who signed a minor-league contract with San Diego before the season that included an invitation to spring training, is enjoying a nice run with Triple-A El Paso, which is in town for a four-game series.
Since signing with the San Diego Padres as a minor-league free agent in February, Noonan, a 27-year-old infielder, is swinging better than ever.
His .353 batting average is second-best on the Chihuahuas. Noonan extended his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest active streak for El Paso, by going 4 for 5 with two doubles and two runs in Sunday’s 10-6 win over the Grizzlies. He also homered in Saturday’s series opener.
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Noonan’s 14 doubles are tied for second on the team with Ryan Schimpf, and his on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) is a career-best .893.
Noonan played all or part of four seasons with Fresno from 2011 to 2014 when the Grizzlies were the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. He attributes his success to a comfortable approach at the plate.
“I found my timing in the end of spring training, and it really started clicking for me,” Noonan said. “I settled down my swing a little bit, but I think my timing is down – timing up the pitcher and the pitches. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I think I kind of found it.”
It’s not just on offense where Noonan is excelling.
I’m finding myself in good hitters counts and good spots to hit in and come through for my team.
Nick Noonan, on his resurgence in 2016
Defensively, he’s made just seven errors in 316 innings for a .963 fielding percentage and helped the Chihuahuas turn 30 double plays. He’s started 39 games for El Paso, all at shortstop, and he also can play at third and second base.
“I think I’ve been kind of stable,” Noonan added. “In my career, I’ve been consistent, maybe not this hot, but right now I feel super consistent, really on time, and just ready to go.”
Noonan, who made his major-league debut on April 3, 2013, in a pinch-hit appearance for the Giants, is working to return to the big leagues.
It’s been an interesting ride. In 2015, Noonan spent a few months playing Triple-A ball in the New York Yankees’ organization before returning to his old club, splitting the last half of the season between the Giants and Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. He became a free agent at the end of the season.
However, Noonan is trying to rejuvenate a career in the same ballpark that helped him reach the big leagues the first time.
“It’s funny, just kind of coming in the back door when you’re walking through the tunnel and you take a little turn before the home clubhouse – it’s a little different,” Noonan said. “I like playing here ... and always coming back to places you’ve played before is always a little special, so it’s nice.”