Over time, it seems there's this urban legend about Gio and the Royals. They never gave him a fair shake. It's a nice story, but didn't really happen. At the end of July in 2011, Dayton Moore said his goal was to get Giavotella 150 to 100 plate appearances in the majors. That was a little disheartening at the time, because that would have meant a September call-up. However, just days after Moore made his comments, he shipped the late and lamented Yamaico Navarro to Omaha and called up Gio.
From August 5 to September 9, Giavotella started 34 out of 35 games. He hit .221/.255/.336. He also showed limited range on the infield. From September 9 to the end of the year, the Royals gave him four off days. So from the time he arrived in KC to the end of the year, Gio started all but five games.
Apparently, he was playing the final month of the season in some pain. It turned out his limited range and probably some issues at the plate were caused by a torn hip labrum. He had surgery to repair the tear in the off season and was on the depth chart as the Royals starting second baseman throughout the winter.
Except Moore acquired Yuniesky Betancourt again. And Chris Getz has a solid spring training. And there were continued rumblings about Giavotella's range up the middle and issues turning the double play. Even then it came as a surprise to Gio when he was sent back to Omaha to open the season.
(For some reason, writing the above paragraph stirs some serious anger inside of me. Betancourt again? Getz again? It's like some horror flick: Don't go into that room!)
When Betancourt hit the DL in early May with an ankle sprain, the Royals chose to call up Irving Falu instead of Gio. Strange. But when Jonathan Sanchez (God, this post just gets more depressing by the minute) was shelved, Gio got the call. But because Dayton Moore has a problem with roster management, Giavotella was brought up to serve as a platoon player versus left-handed pitching.
Just as weird now as it was then.
This is where the "Gio isn't getting a fair shake" movement started. And it's understandable. He was used at second, DH and as a pinch hitter for a month. He started three consecutive games once. Even in late May when Getz went to the DL, Gio couldn't get on Ned Yost's lineup card with any kind of regularity. He hit an abysmal .217/.260/.261 and was returned to Omaha when Getz was healthy.
Giavotella got another call when Getz's season ended with a broken thumb. This time, Yost said he would get an extended look. Gio started 31 of the Royals final 43 games, splitting time with Tony Abreu and Falu. In his second audition, Giavotella hit .250/.276/.330.
Again, Giavotella entered spring training with his eyes on a starting role at second. Again, the Royals favored Getz and another option at second - this time PTBNL Elliot Johnson. Again, Giavotella returned to Omaha and hit.
Finally, the Royals did the right thing and pulled the plug on Getz and admitted to themselves there was a reason Johnson was an afterthought in the Myers/Shields trade.
It now feels like we've arrived at Giavotella's last chance.
We know all about his major league experience. He has a minor league pedigree. Here are his career stats in Triple-A:
|AAA (3 seasons)||AAA||276||1251||1102||174||353||72||4||26||181||23||8||127||144||.320||.391||.464||.855|
We can make all the remarks about Gio being a Quad-A player we want, but when a 25 year old has spent part of three years in Triple-A and owns a career slash line of .320/.391/.464 he deserves another look.
What's been the difference between Omaha Johnny and Kansas City Johnny? At first glance, his plate discipline disappears when he's promoted. He walks around 10 percent of the time in Omaha, but has a walk rate around 3.5 percent in the majors. He was falling behind in the count in 63 percent of his plate appearances and wasn't able to climb back. When seeing a strike on the first pitch, Giavotella hits .209/.229/.299. When his first pitch is a ball, Gio hits .290/.336/.412.
The Royals have been fairly honest about how they have planned to use Giavotella in the past. They played him nearly everyday in 2011. For some strange reason they decided to platoon him early in 2012. At the end of the year, they promised him regular playing time and they somewhat delivered.
Now it's Gio Time.
The Royals finally realized that Getz isn't a major league caliber second baseman. Finally. They also seem to know the same about Johnson. Falu is still around in Triple-A, but has nowhere near the offensive numbers Gio had in Omaha. The second base cupboard is bare. It's Gio's time. He got off to a good start, collecting three hits in four plate appearances (including a double), scoring a run and driving home two. As a Royal fan, I am rooting for Giavotella. Because I have seen the alternatives. And they suck.
And because it's probably his last chance.