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Short Giavotella hoping to have big future

Short Giavotella hoping to have big future

Short Giavotella hoping to have big future
OMAHA, Neb. -- Seeing Johnny Giavotella play second base or stand in the batter's box might conjure up images of other small-in-stature middle infielders. David Eckstein may come to mind; maybe Nick Punto or even Dustin Pedroia.

Listed generously at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, Giavotella isn't likely to be mistaken for a professional athlete on the street.

So if someone saw him come up to bat after Omaha Storm Chasers teammate David Lough hit a leadoff double to begin a game against the Iowa Cubs on June 13, it might be expected that Giavotella would lay down a bunt or attempt to slap the ball the other way.

What actually happened is what might elicit more comparisons to Pedroia than Punto. Giavotella slapped the ball -- into the left-field bleachers, a no-doubter of a home run to put the Storm Chasers up, 2-0.

Surprising? Only if you haven't seen Giavotella play. Only if you dismiss players because of their size.

"The smaller guys have to earn people's respect. They don't just give it to them based on their physical appearance," Giavotella said prior to the game. "To just have that mentality to work for everything you need to accomplish just really affects my game, really helps me and propels me to the next level. It's probably the biggest reason I've made it this far -- my work ethic and that drive to be the best."

Giavotella, who is No. 9 on MLB.com's list of Top 10 Royals prospects, is considered the future at second base for the Royals. He likely won't be called up until he has a chance to play every day, much like the organization dealt with current rookies Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.

But when Giavotella does make the jump, he should be ready. He's hitting .321, with five home runs and 53 RBIs. He's got a .375 on-base percentage and a .441 slugging percentage, fueled by his 21 doubles.

But Royals manager Ned Yost has different praise for Giavotella.

"He is a scrap iron, he's a little, freakin' gamer, dirt bag-type player," Yost said. "He doesn't fear anything. He's one of them guys, man, if you ever get in a fight, you bring your lunch, because it's going to be there for a while. He ain't givin' up."

Omaha manager Mike Jirschele had a similar assessment.

"He's definitely a gamer -- plays the game hard, never gives up," Jirschele said. "He's going to battle right to the end and give you everything he's got, leave everything out on the field every day, which is nice to see out of a player."

It's this competitiveness that seems to set Giavotella apart. Whether or not it's fair to try and quantify it, the Louisiana native seems to know how to win.

"Ever since I've been in high school and ever since I started playing baseball, I've been a competitor," Giavotella said. "I've cared about nothing but winning, so I guess I had that winning attitude. No matter what team I'm on, we usually find a way to succeed."

A glance at Giavotella's track record seems to agree. He helped Jesuit High to the Louisiana 5A state title in 2005, and while at the University of New Orleans, Giavotella was named the Most Outstanding Player at the 2007 Sun Belt Conference tournament as UNO won the championship.

That winning aura is there.

"I think you have to be at the game to actually be able to watch it happen, to really see it and put your finger on it," Giavotella said. "It's intangible and it's something you can't see in a box score. But you can talk about it, you can definitely see it when you're out here watching us play as a team. You can tell we have that fire, that passion to win."

Perhaps the only knock on the 2008 second-round pick is his defense. Giavotella is second among active Storm Chasers with seven errors so far this season. He won't likely win any Gold Gloves in the Majors, but he makes the plays he should.

And, maybe most importantly, he continues to work to improve.

"He continues to work out there. His work ethic is great defensively, he's out there every day doing early work and just working on his weaknesses," Jirschele said. "I've seen improvement from Day 1. He's turning the double play better than he ever did. His backhand has improved. He's definitely going in the right direction."

And soon -- maybe this year, maybe next -- that direction should be slightly southeast, toward Kauffman Stadium and his Major League debut. There's no doubt Kansas City could use a gamer who knows how to win.

"That would mean the world to me," Giavotella said. "It's every little kid's dream playing Little League baseball, to get called and play in the Major Leagues. You watch all these guys on TV and they're like giants. They're almost bigger than life. To be a player on that same caliber would be a dream come true."

Adam Holt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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