Johnny Giavotella joined the Orioles in the offseason as a minor league free agent in part because of the reputation the organization had for giving players opportunities. As he kept his bat going at Triple-A Norfolk and saw his Tides teammates receiving calls to the big leagues, it gave him hope that he would experience the same.
With the Orioles able to add an extra position player because left-hander Jason Aquino won’t be needed for another start until after the All-Star break, the club selected Giavotella’s contract from Norfolk before the Orioles’ series opener at the Minnesota Twins.
“It definitely gives you hope,” Giavotella said. “This is a first-class organization and an organization I’ve always looked up to every time I played against them because they always played hard, they always played competitive baseball, and that’s another reason why I signed here. So I’m just excited to be back up and excited to get going and see this team reel off some wins. … I [tried] to just focus on what I can do to help the team win down there, focus on my game and when the call came, I’d be ready.”
Giavotella, a 29-year-old infielder, has been swinging a hot bat for Norfolk, hitting .306/.368/.441 with 22 doubles, four triples, five homers and 45 RBIs in 83 games. His .306 average ranked fourth in the International League.
“Just having confidence in what I can do,” Giavotella said. “Sticking to my approach. Not trying to do too much and try not to let the negative things affect me down there and just try to stay positive. Control what I can control and have the right attitude every day.”
The team optioned Aquino, who started Wednesday’s series finale in Milwaukee, in a corresponding move and designated first baseman David Washington for assignment to create 40-man roster space for Giavotella. Aquino can return as soon as July 16.
There’s no question the Orioles liked Giavotella’s bat, but he was previously low on the organization’s infield depth chart. With the injury to starting shortstop J.J. Hardy, infielders Ruben Tejada and Paul Janish are already on the big league roster in utility roles.
Other than the bat, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been most impressed with Giavotella’s motor.
“There’s no one who plays the game harder than Johnny,” Showalter said. “I told him when we broke camp that I thought he had a chance to lead that league in hitting. He was probably in the top five or 10. He brings a lot of energy. He’s a good hitter. He’s got probably as good a track record of hitting over his career as anyone you’d want to see. [Norfolk manager Ron Johnson] said he was their best hitter, so we’ll bring him up here, see if there’s a need for what he brings.”
Giavotella has plenty of big league experience — he played parts of the past six seasons at the major league level with the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels, appearing in 129 games with Los Angeles in 2015. But getting the big league call again was special.
“I was talking to my fiancé last night in the hotel in Gwinnett, and the manager R.J. happened to walk by and he was on the phone,” Giavotella said. “He said, ‘Listen, I’m here next to him right now,’ and he looked over at me and said, ‘You’re going to the big leagues.’ So I was on the phone with my fiancé and I told her and we were excited about it.”