Giants' Brandon Crawford recalls best parts about playing with Joe Panik


SAN FRANCISCO -- The locker to the right of Brandon Crawford's has long been empty, a resting spot for Crawford's many spare pairs of cleats and other random items that spilled over from Crawford and Brandon Belt's lockers. On Tuesday, the locker to the left was empty, too. 

The Giants designated Joe Panik for assignment a night earlier and it didn't take long for the second baseman's gear to get packed up and sent off to a home that is still to be determined. It will take much longer for the clubhouse to get used to life without a core member.

"It's tough because you're losing a guy I played up the middle with for five years and was a big part of our team these past five years," Crawford said. "On top of that, he became a good friend and a great teammate. That part is obviously tough, probably one of the tougher parts of this business."

Panik handled it well, according to everyone who crossed paths with him, and his longtime teammates did their best to ease the pain after a meeting with Bruce Bochy and Farhan Zaidi on Monday night. Crawford and others stuck around the clubhouse and hung out with Panik before they all finally headed home. 

The adjustment will be biggest for Crawford, who has been Panik's double-play partner since he broke in as a level-headed rookie in 2014. For years they were as dependable as any duo in the National League, and they both have Gold Gloves to prove it. In Panik's first year, they teamed up for a double play that was a highlight of Game 7 of the World Series and will go down as one of the most important plays in franchise history.

"I've watched it a lot over the years," Crawford said, smiling. 

Asked what stood out about Panik, Crawford noted that he would drive up an opposing starter's pitch count constantly, something that often got overlooked. From a defensive standpoint, it was simply their chemistry. 

"We got to know each other so well and we played so many games together," Crawford said. "We created the relationship up the middle where nothing even needed to be said a lot of times. We had our hand signals or whatever to communicate in between pitches."

[RELATED: Bochy, Zaidi explain why Panik DFA was difficult]

Crawford said he maybe took that for granted over the years. He'll now adjust to the duo of Scooter Gennett and Donovan Solano, and very likely will have a new double-play partner next year. Change has come for the Giants and for Panik, and several teammates and coaches said Tuesday that this could be good for the 28-year-old. He'll get a fresh start, and Crawford expects to see him on the other side for years to come. 

"He's still a really good player that deserves a chance somewhere," he said. "He always puts together good at-bats, he's tough to strike out, he gets on base a lot. He does a lot of little things right."

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