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World Series

Sanders Is Giants' Gain

Right fielder who nearly became an Angel in the off-season helps San Francisco win Game 1.

October 20, 2002|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

Eleven years in the major leagues has taught Reggie Sanders not to assume anything, so he phoned Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman to check the fine print.

Sanders planned to sign with the club last December but wanted to confirm his role as the everyday right fielder, which he figured he would be during fast-moving contract negotiations. Talk about miscommunication.

Tim Salmon has occupied that spot for a decade and wasn't going anywhere, prompting Sanders to shift gears because becoming a designated hitter wasn't on his to-do list. The San Francisco Giants were waiting with just the right offer and continue to be pleased they closed the deal.

The Giants got a big performance from their right fielder Saturday night in a 4-3 victory over the Angels in Game 1 of the World Series at Edison Field.

Sanders did his part to help the Giants zap the excitement from a noise stick-banging crowd of 44,603, following Barry Bonds' leadoff homer in the second inning with a one-out solo blast. He also walked in the fourth and singled with two out in the sixth, scoring on J.T. Snow's two-run homer that ended a rough night for Angel ace Jarrod Washburn.

Everything quickly came together for Sanders in Anaheim after a 1-for-16 slump in the National League championship series. So that's why the Angels were interested.

"I was very close to signing," Sanders said. "I knew Anaheim would be a great team and the Giants would be a great team. I've always wanted to be on a team that's contending and trying to win, and it's just real interesting to see how things work out."

Things didn't work out well for the Angels in Game 1.

They stranded eight runners, failing to get the timely hits that the Giants did. Sanders was at the forefront of the attack, making the necessary adjustments after an awful experience as the Giants defeated St. Louis for the NL pennant.

Several conversations with hitting instructor Gene Clines, and a lot of extra batting practice, paid off for Sanders in the second against Washburn. The streaky hitter got a fastball in the right spot and could finally smile again after homering over the right-field scoreboard.

"I got position ready," he said. "I was in position to hit the ball a lot sooner. Before, I was caught behind. Now, I'm in good position to hit the ball out front and I know what I have to do.

"It's just a matter of not getting too low during the lows or too high on the highs. You have to stay as even as you can and believe that it's going to turn around."

The Giants were especially happy Sanders had a good vibe at the plate because he's one of the most respected players in the clubhouse. A member of the Arizona Diamondbacks' World Series championship team last season, Sanders has contributed to the Giants' success despite batting .189 in the postseason.

"This team knows it can count on Reggie," catcher Benito Santiago said. "Everybody knows what he can do. Yeah, he's been kind of struggling in the postseason, but he came up big. If he does that again [tonight] nobody is going to [remember] what he did last week."

It's good that Sanders has a short memory, the Giants said.

"Reggie is one of those players who doesn't let too much bother him one way or another," reserve outfielder Tom Goodwin said. "It's not like he's going to come in and panic and make a whole bunch of changes. He knows what kind of swing he has and the adjustments he has to make. Anybody would be happy to have a Reggie Sanders on their team."

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