Gillaspie ready for any role he's asked to play

2016 postseason star vows to maintain diligence throughout

Gillaspie ready for any role he's asked to play

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As one of the Giants' key performers last October, it would seem Conor Gillaspie has no business mentioning the possibility of beginning this year at Triple-A.

Yet there he was the other day, raising the subject of a season-opening stint in Sacramento.

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"Moving forward, honest to God, it does not matter to me what I do," Gillaspie said. "If it's not here, if it's in Triple-A, so be it. I'm past the point of trying to figure out my direction in my career."

Don't misinterpret Gillaspie's attitude as uncaring. It made cruel sense. He thrived while replacing injured third baseman Eduardo Nunez when it counted most last season. Yet he'll probably receive relatively few opportunities to build upon that success, destined as he is to serve as Nunez's backup.

That won't alter Gillaspie's professionalism or his diligence. His ability to thrive in a supporting role resulted from his steadfast allegiance to his pregame routine, which is the lifeline for every reserve.

Gillaspie becomes October legend

"I don't know of a harder worker," Giants assistant hitting coach Steve Decker said of Gillaspie, who was drafted by the Giants in 2008 before he migrated to the White Sox and Angels from 2013-15. "This guy puts in a routine every day that gets him prepared."

It also helped hone Gillaspie's swing for his big October output. His eighth-inning, three-run homer accounted for the scoring in the Giants' Wild Card victory at New York. He lined a critical two-run triple off Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, the Giants' lone victory, then went 4-for-4 in the Game 4 finale.

Overall, Gillaspie drove in six of San Francisco's 16 postseason runs while hitting .421 (8-for-19). It represented an affirmation for him.

"I think it taught me the importance of that hard work," said Gillaspie, 29. "You just don't ever know when you're going to have to step in and play. Truthfully, I think the entire postseason was just a byproduct of really working hard to be ready for something like that."

Manager Bruce Bochy appreciated Gillaspie's contributions. "What Conor did was beyond what we were hoping for," Bochy said. "It certainly softened [the blow of] losing Nunez."

A .256 hitter in 469 Major League games, Gillaspie honed his swing with the help of an apparatus that has existed for decades yet was new to him: a pitching machine. He asked Decker or hitting coach Hensley Meulens to set the machine at higher velocities to approximate the deliveries he'd see in a game.

"Until last year, I don't think I had ever hit off a machine before," said Gillaspie, who batted .262 in 101 games for the Giants last year. "Of course, I was playing a little bit more. That has really helped me quicken my hands and kind of simulate something closer to a game."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com 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.