Donovan Solano might be grabbing everyday role for Giants this season


With apologies to Yaz, Craw, the Panda, Shark, and all the rest, the best nickname in the Giants clubhouse right now might belong to the quiet infielder who is having an underrated breakthrough.

Around the clubhouse, Donovan Solano is known as Donnie Barrels. It's a nickname he picked up last year and it continues to be a good fit. 

"I don't know if I've ever heard a truer nickname," Mike Yastrzemski said after a walk-off win. 

Craig Stammen found that out the hard way Wednesday. The right-hander threw a 2-1 changeup that rode up and in on Solano's hands, but the 32-year-old pulled them in and yanked a three-run, game-tying shot into the bleachers in left. It was the biggest hit on a night when Yastrzemski homered twice. 

"He's one of the best hitters I've ever seen. He doesn't get his nickname Donnie Barrels for nothing," Yastrzemski said. "He always finds the barrel, always hits the ball hard, and he's super clutch. To be able to hit a ball that was five inches off the plate, in on his hands, for a homer, it's unheard of.

"That was the biggest play of the game to make sure that we could continue playing."

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Solano's resurgence is perhaps even more surprising than Yastrzemski's continued progression into stardom. All Yastrzemski needed was a chance, but Solano already had a few in the big leagues. He came up in 2012 with the Marlins and played 361 games there before nine with the Yankees in 2016. Solano was in Triple-A with the Dodgers in Farhan Zaidi's last year there and Zaidi brought him to San Francisco, where he hit .330 as a part-timer last season. 

The Giants believed in the bat, but they also brought Yolmer Sanchez and Wilmer Flores in over the offseason, making it a crowd at second base. The Evan Longoria injury opened the door early this season, though, and Solano is 6-for-15 and third in the NL with seven RBI. He certainly is making the case for consistent time regardless of who is on the mound. Gabe Kapler put Solano in the No. 3 spot Thursday against nasty right-hander Dinelson Lamet, even with Longoria and Brandon Belt back.

"One of the questions that we had coming into the season was is Donnie going to be a guy who faced mostly lefties -- and that still might turn out to be the case -- or was he just going to be so good that he just put great swings on right-handed pitching as well," Kapler said Wednesday night. "I think so far this season we've seen him hit right-handed pitching and hit velocity like he always has. 

"He has a really slow heartbeat at the plate, really believes in himself and uses the whole field. He's just a real professional hitter. Obviously that nickname, Donnie Barrels, didn't come from me. It's come from his teammates and people who were here before me, but I think it applies."

[RELATED: How Giants eventually added Yaz after 2016 Heston trade]

Last year Solano had an exit velocity of 95 mph-plus on 43 percent of his balls in play, second on the team to Pablo Sandoval. They measure 'barrels' now, and Solano actually only ranked ninth last year on the Giants with barrels in 3.1 percent of his plate appearances, per Baseball Savant, but he's up to 13.3 percent through six games this year.

The most impressive of those swings came Wednesday and helped get the Giants a crucial win. 

"I was looking for a pitch that I could drive and I was able to react to that one pitch," Solano said. "Luckily I have a short swing and I was able to do some damage."

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