Bryce Eldridge

What's next for Giants two-way first-round pick Eldridge

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SAN FRANCISCO -- When a "Welcome, Bryce Eldridge" graphic popped up on the scoreboard on Wednesday afternoon, some Giants employees noted how unfortunate it was for the first-round pick that his big trip to Oracle Park was being partially overshadowed by Marco Luciano's long-awaited debut. But for Eldridge, the timing turned out to be perfect. 

The 18-year-old walked into the cage an hour later and found himself staring at Barry Bonds, who was in conversation with a Giants hitter. 

"I kinda interrupted him," he said later, smiling. "I just shook his hand and introduced myself."

Eldridge didn't get a chance to talk hitting with Bonds, but if all goes according to plan, he'll one day get that opportunity to ask for advice. The Giants brought Eldridge to San Francisco for a night to meet the players and coaches, do interviews, see the ballpark, tour the city and take aim at McCovey Cove, but on Thursday, he'll begin the long road through the minors.  

Eldridge will join the Giants' ACL Orange team in the complex league in Arizona, although for now, the two-way player will only be hitting. He shut his arm down after his high school season ended in Virginia and the Giants want to be extremely careful about ramping back up. It's possible Eldridge gets a chance to pitch in the instructional league, but he might mainly focus on hitting for the rest of 2023. 

"Trying to get him onboarded on both, it just felt like we were going to shortchange him," senior director of player development Kyle Haines said. "Right now it's just really focusing on the bat and the defense and then we'll get moving on the pitching as he feels more comfortable on the bat and hitting. Today, you could tell that obviously he's looking more and more comfortable. 

"We're just trying to smartly progress him. It's hard enough to be a big leaguer, let alone do it two ways."

That's the experience right now for a player Eldridge is trying to follow through the minor leagues. The Giants took Reggie Crawford as a two-way player in the first round last year, but he hasn't swung a bat in a game since June 14 and has just 16 at-bats all year. Crawford was recently promoted to High-A Eugene so he could face a better challenge as a pitcher, and for now, any work on his hitting will come in the cage between games. 

Most evaluators believe that Crawford will ultimately be only a pitcher and Eldridge will be a hitter, and that thought crossed some minds in the dugout on Wednesday as the entire front office gathered to welcome the first-round pick and watch an impressive BP session at Oracle Park. But Eldridge wants to try both, and right now the Giants are staying open-minded.

Eldridge will start his professional career in right field, although the Giants believe he might ultimately end up in left or at first base, where he played in high school. They're hoping his athleticism allows him to be a plus defender in right, where he has never played before. 

"I'm starting to get super-comfortable pretty quickly," Eldridge said. "I've got the arm already. I'm pumped to be out there."

Eldridge didn't get to show it off at all on Wednesday, but he did get a tour of the clubhouse, where a locker was set up for him right next to Luciano's, and he met with several players. The veterans were stunned by his size, and the 6-foot-7 teenager said Joc Pederson yelled "light tower power" as he went out to hit. Between rounds, Eldridge picked Brandon Crawford's brain, trying to find out more about how the longest-tenured Giant approaches batting practice. When he stepped back into the cage, Eldridge told Craig Albernaz to throw them up and in so he could try and turn on a ball.

"I was trying to put something in the bay today and get a good first impression," he said, smiling. "I didn't get any, I hit a few (homers). But it was really cool."

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