Back with Giants, Scutaro plays part of star
Veteran second baseman 'blessed' to discover success late in career
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Marco Scutaro is baseball's version of the character actor who finally gets a starring role late in his career and takes full advantage, emerging as an overnight sensation.
Scutaro's Oscar arrived on Oct. 28, 2012, two days before his 37th birthday, in the form of a World Series championship trophy. The media reviews were sensational.
"Great things happen when you work together as a team," Scutaro said on a dark, rainy Wednesday at the Giants' camp, reflecting on the wonder of a storybook season. "All of a sudden, we were playing as a unit, and everything clicked. It was amazing. We were a totally different team."
The Giants chose this winter to keep a good thing going, signing Scutaro to a three-year deal worth $20 million and also retaining center fielder Angel Pagan to keep that top of the order intact.
"This is where I wanted to be," Scutaro said. "I'm really happy to be back, with a chance to win again."
Scutaro was in Colorado, with a Rockies outfit on its way to a franchise-worst season, when the call came on July 27 that he was going to San Francisco in a swap for Minor League infielder Charlie Culberson.
It drew little in the way of national attention, but this would prove to be the most pivotal of all the Deadline moves. With Scutaro taking over at second base and hitting second in the order between Pagan and Pablo Sandoval, in front of Buster Posey, the Giants took flight. But it was not, by any means, an immediate ascension.
The Giants didn't score in Scutaro's first two games in the new uniform, getting blanked 10-0 and 4-0 as the Dodgers were completing a three-game sweep in San Francisco. Arriving in Denver for a three-game series starting Aug. 3, the Giants had lost seven of eight and were seven games above .500.
Starting with a sweep of the Rockies, they would go 38-19 the rest of the way and then stage a memorable postseason run, coming from behind to put away the Reds and Cardinals before sweeping the Tigers for a second championship in three seasons.
The National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player with 14 hits and a courageous stand after getting steamrolled by the Cardinals' Matt Holliday at second base, Scutaro would recall a turning point in the season in Los Angeles Aug. 20-22. This was a week after NL batting leader Melky Cabrera, the All-Star Game MVP, had been handed a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
Sweeping that three-game series at Dodger Stadium, the Giants seized control of the NL West and never looked back, carrying the momentum down the stretch and through the postseason.
"In one month, we were a different team from the one that got swept by the Dodgers when I got to San Francisco," Scutaro said. "We were working as a team, playing together. It was fun to be a part of something like that."
A .276 career hitter, Scutaro batted .362 in 61 games for the Giants, with a .385 on-base percentage and .473 slugging percentage. He drove in 44 runs and scored 40.
His poise and toughness seemed to rub off on young shortstop Brandon Crawford, who emerged as a force down the stretch and through the postseason. Scutaro's big-brother wisdom certainly helped World Series MVP Sandoval, who grew up admiring his fellow Venezuelan.
"He's a leader," Sandoval said. "Everybody in Venezuela loves Scutaro. He plays the game the right way."
Scutaro and Sandoval will be on the field together in the World Baseball Classic, wearing Team Venezuela's colors as part of a world-class infield with American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera. Giants reliever Jose Mijares also will perform for Venezuela.
Venezuela will compete against the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Spain in a highly competitive first round of pool play starting March 7 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
This will be Scutaro's third Classic. Venezuela finished seventh in the 2006 inaugural event and was the bronze medalist in 2009, with Japan seizing the gold on both occasions.
"We had such a great team in the first one -- and everybody beat us," Scutaro said. "Then, in the next one, we lost to Korea [in the semifinals]. It's a great honor to play for your country. We'd really like to win one."
Scutaro is embarking on his 12th Major League season. He made his debut in 2002 with the Mets, moving in 2004 to Oakland and making his breakthrough with 137 games for the A's, batting .273. He became a full-time player in Toronto in 2008, excelling for two seasons before moving to Boston for two more quality seasons.
He was respected inside the game for his selfless, intelligent play, but it wasn't until 2012 -- and his dynamic effort for the Giants -- that Marco Scutaro became a household name beyond Venezuela's borders.
Perhaps no image of the postseason is more enduring than Scutaro looking to the skies, into the falling rain, as the Giants eliminated the Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS in San Francisco.
"I was blessed," Scutaro said.
Giants fans know the feeling.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.