Team Israel’s biggest star, Joc Pederson, rejoins SF Giants from ‘crazy loud’ World Baseball Classic

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Back from his starring role for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, Joc Pederson returned to the Giants’ clubhouse Friday morning, jovial as ever. Twirling a bat in his hands, Pederson bounced from locker to locker, catching up with teammates.

When it was time to take the field, Pederson was back at first base, where he has been doing the majority of his work this spring.

Almost like he never left. Except one thing.

It sure is quiet here.

“The experience of loud stadiums, passionate fans, yelling, screaming, drums, whistles, it makes it more fun,” Pederson said. “So it might be a little slower here to start.”

Pederson, along with Giants closer Camilo Doval (who is expected back in camp Saturday), had the unique experience of playing in a playoff environment in March. While Pederson and Team Israel were eliminated following pool play, it didn’t come as much of a surprise in a stack group that included Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Doval’s Dominican Republic, which only added to the atmosphere in Miami.

The games at LoanDepot Park set a domestic World Baseball Classic attendance record, averaging 29,585 fans per game, MLB announced Friday. The ballpark, which can feel cavernous during Marlins regular season games (which averaged 11,203 in 2022), took on an entirely different personality, with sound reverberating off its closed roof.

“It’s the most fans I’ve ever seen or played in front of in Miami,” Pederson said. “It was crazy. It was loud.”

Pederson was accompanied by his daughter, Poppy, and two of his older brothers, Champ and Tyger, among some other family members. On their final night there, the family loaded onto a yacht and sailed down the Miami River, which winds between downtown’s glistening glass towers.

But most memorable for Pederson was sharing the field with Tyger, 32, a coach in the Seattle Mariners organization, who also suited up for Team Israel as its third base coach. While there was no Pederson waving Pederson home — Joc’s only hit in nine at-bats was a double, but he was stranded on second — it marked the first time the brothers were in uniform together since they were amateurs.

Joc said the last time he and Tyger were teammates was in 2010, when both played for the Waimea Waves of the Hawaiian Collegiate Summer League.

“It was cool watching my brother coaching third base,” Pederson said. “He really enjoyed it.”

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If you were surprised to see Pederson in center field, a position he hadn’t played regularly since 2017, well, join the club. In 2022, he was rated MLB’s worst defensive left fielder. According to Pederson, fellow MLB outfielders Harrison Bader and Kevin Pillar were supposed to make up two-thirds of Israel’s outfield, but without them, Pederson was asked to play center (alongside former Giant Alex Dickerson).

“I don’t know what happened,” Pederson said. “They wanted me to play center, so I said sure. I felt pretty comfortable out there.”

So, does that mean Pederson is an option now in center for San Francisco?

Manager Gabe Kapler laughed at the question.

“He’s gonna continue to do his work at first base,” Kapler said. “It was nice that in the WBC he got some outfield work in.”

Health check

Giants outfielder Austin Slater is undergoing an MRI on Friday after he left Thursday’s game early with tightness in his calf and hamstring. It was his first time playing the field this spring after missing the first half of the Cactus League schedule with an elbow issue. … One possible contingency plan if Slater isn’t ready for Opening Day, non-roster invitee Stephen Piscotty, is dealing with oblique tightness but “trending in the right direction,” Kapler said. … Third baseman David Villar (hip), who hasn’t played in a week, will return to game action Saturday. … The other piece of the left half of the Giants’ expected Opening Day infield, Brandon Crawford (knee), will resume baseball activities this weekend. … Reliever Cole Waites (lat strain) threw a 20-pitch bullpen Thursday, which went well. He’ll throw one more before getting into his first game of the spring.

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