Gio confident he can aid Royals' ailing attack
Second baseman brought up for hitting, hopes to improve defense, versatility
KANSAS CITY -- So the thing was, Royals manager Ned Yost needed more offense, another bat to add life to a lineup that was just finally starting to stir.
So second baseman Johnny Giavotella, stirring things up himself at Triple-A Omaha, got a call. Second base had become a silent zone in the hitting department. Giavotella, with an impressive undergraduate GPA, would get another shot at the top.
"I want to give him a real look but, in order to have a real look, you've got to hit," Yost said before sending Giavotella onto the field Sunday at Minnesota.
Giavotella passed the first test with an A-plus -- three hits in a victorious 9-8 shootout with the Twins. OK, they weren't exactly rockets, but they were hits. The little guy made contact when it counted and got two RBIs and scored a run and made things happen.
"I just had confidence in my abilities and put some good swings on the ball and found some holes," he said.
That's the whole idea.
"He's always hit in the Minor Leagues, so that always gives you a reason to believe," Yost said.
Giavotella seems to always believe, even if his big seasons in the Minors didn't carry over into his two previous lengthy looks at the big league level. It's a big jump from Triple-A to the Majors and some guys fall into the gap. The guy everybody calls "Gio" is determined not to do that.
"I think it's more of an adjustment period. I don't think it has anything to do with my swing and anything in particular like that mechanics-wise," Giavotella said. "I just think it has a lot to do with just becoming accustomed and being comfortable up here around the guys and in this different environment. And just getting used to the pitching. I think once that adjustment period takes hold, I'll have my feet under me and be rolling again."
Outfielder David Lough, who has spent time with Giavotella in the Minors, was his co-conspirator in Sunday's batfest, going 4-for-4 that included a homer, three doubles, four runs and three RBIs. They put their "D-Lo and Gio" stamp on the bottom of the lineup with gusto.
They're similar gung-ho, hard-nosed, hustling types.
"I think we both have a little relationship together. I think we both play hard and I like his approach to the game," Lough said.
"He's a high-intensity player. That's what you need on this team, you need guys that bring energy to the table."
The concern about Giavotella always has been his vulnerability on defense. Chris Getz and Elliot Johnson, who played second base previously this year, were exceptional fielders, but they lacked consistency at bat. That's where Giavotella should have an edge, if he can exploit it.
Of course, he can't be a butcher in the field either and he's been working diligently to make polish his game the last few seasons. That continued this year at Omaha under manager Mike Jirschele, at second base and other positions as the Royals sought to expand his versatility.
"I'm constantly working with Jirsch on defense, playing a lot of third base and left field. Just fine-tuning my skills over there at different positions, just getting accustomed to that," Giavotella said. "And just working with [Omaha coach] Tommy Gregg on hitting and just having confidence in my abilities and getting back to what I do best."
After losing the Kansas City second-base job to Getz in a Spring Training battle, Giavotella got off to a rather slow start at bat for Omaha. But that picked up, most notably with a 10-game, .472 burst which he rode back to the Majors.
"I think anytime a player gets sent down out of Spring Training, it's disappointing. Every player's goal is to break with the team and be an everyday Major League player," he said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't my time and I was definitely frustrated. But I've got to take it with a grain of salt and try to get better every day and get back up here."
Giavotella is from New Orleans and when the Omaha club played there against the Zephyrs, he liked to take his teammates and staff to dine at Gio's Pizza, operated by his aunt, Gail Posey.
"There are definitely some regulars that go there every time. It goes anywhere from five to 15 people. I think we had 15 or 20 people in there last time," he said. "Everybody loves it -- the coaches go, the trainers go. My aunt takes care of all of us. It's great."
Lough was one of the regulars.
"She serves pizza, pasta, the whole thing, the works. It's awesome, it's good. Even cannoli for dessert," Lough said.
But, hey, these guys are happy chowing down on Kansas City barbecue these days.
Giavotella just needs to show he can feast on pitching in the big leagues the way he has done for Omaha.
"When I was down there, he was hitting the ball well, hitting a lot of balls hard even though his average wasn't showing it," said Lough, who got called up May 17. "I think everybody knows what kind of hitter he is so I'm glad to see him back up here and getting a shot to play."
Giavotella believes in himself.
"Once you lack confidence, you're done at the plate," he said.
Now there's another big chance for Gio.
"The opportunity is there for him to seize," Yost said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.