Marrero hoping to seize opportunity with Giants

Marrero hoping to seize opportunity with Giants

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- History has proven that outfielder Chris Marrero's apparent long-shot attempt to make the Giants' Opening Day roster is less inconceivable than it might seem at first glance.

At 28, Marrero would be categorized as a late bloomer if he suddenly began thriving in the Majors. He'd have plenty of company. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner didn't exceed 500 plate appearances in a season until last year at age 31. Raul Ibanez initially reached that standard at age 30 as he amassed 305 home runs and 1,207 RBIs during 19 Major League seasons. Among the Giants, first baseman-outfielder Michael Morse comes closest to fitting the description, having recorded his best season (.303, 31 homers, 95 RBIs) at age 29.

"Some guys just figure it out a little later, like Michael Morse," Marrero said Monday before the Giants' Cactus League exhibition against the Texas Rangers. "He figured it out later on in his career. ... If I could follow in his steps and bloom late like he has, I'll be fine."

Or, as Morse said, "I always thought of it as, there's two bus stops when it comes to baseball. There's one you can catch when you're young, but if you miss that, maybe you can catch the next one when you're a little older."

Marrero must continue to display power to sustain his chances of breaking camp with the Giants. He entered Monday with three home runs and eight RBIs, tied with Jae-gyun Hwang for the team lead in both categories during the Cactus League schedule. Marrero's totals don't count a walk-off homer he hit last Wednesday to defeat Puerto Rico's World Baseball Classic squad in an exhibition game. A right-handed batter, Marrero also leads the Giants with nine strikeouts.

Marrero's walk-off home run

"He has an attack mentality," assistant hitting coach Steve Decker said. "He accelerates on the breaking ball, which is good to see. He's an aggressive hitter. He's not just feeling for the ball. Those guys will go through periods of striking out, but when they're hot, they can really do a lot of damage."

Marrero has chased similar opportunities through 11 professional seasons. Washington drafted him in the first round (15th overall) in 2006, but injuries and the Nationals' reserve of talent prevented him from gaining a foothold in the Majors. He played 39 games for the Nats in parts of 2011 and 2013, representing his lone big league activity. By contrast, Marrero has appeared in 1,083 Minor League games.

Morse, who established himself with Washington during that span, witnessed Marrero's struggles.

"I thought he had all the tools," Morse said. "I thought he was gifted, but he just hasn't had that shot yet. I think he's at that age right now where he's going to get an opportunity somewhere and he has to make the most of it."

Last year, Marrero appeared to be on the brink of creating an opportunity for himself when he accumulated 23 homers and 71 RBIs for Boston's Triple-A Pawtucket affiliate. But the Red Sox never called.

"They were in first place," Marrero said. "They didn't need any more hitters."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.