Giants look for flexibility at various positions
Kapler, staff prioritized positional flexibility in spring training, more so in summer camp
SAN FRANCISCO » During spring training, San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler and his coaching staff emphasized positional versatility as the club asked players to acquaint themselves with new positions in an effort to increase their value.
The Giants weren’t reinventing the wheel or attempting to create a position-less roster, but they did want to maximize the different options Kapler could explore when building out lineups, bringing in subs and focusing on advantageous matchups.
A philosophy focused on versatility was clearly in place before the coronavirus pandemic interrupted baseball.
As the pandemic rages on, adding new layers of unpredictability to roster decisions and daily lineup choices, positional flexibility has taken on a new level of importance.
“The one thing to note is because we’re going to start with a 30-man roster, which means we’re going to have at least one more position player and probably more than that with a 26man roster, it pays for people to expand their capabilities,” Kapler said.
Since the team returned to Oracle Park for summer workouts, outfielder Billy Hamilton and reliever Jarlín García have been placed on the 10-day injured list for medical reasons, infielder Yolmer Sánchez has dealt with back tightness, outfielder Hunter Pence has foot inflammation and first baseman Brandon Belt is in a walking boot due to a right heel flare-up.
The Giants’ franchise player, Buster Posey, announced Friday he will sit out the season after adopting twin daughters who were born prematurely last Friday and will remain in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Since the pandemic began, Kapler, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris have attempted to establish a family-first culture where players can feel comfortable letting the team know when they’re uncomfortable. Whether a player tests positive for or is exposed to COVID-19, expresses concerns about MLB’s health and safety protocols, or deals with the types of natural aches and pains associated with playing the sport, the Giants want their players to be as adaptable as possible because there’s no certainty who will be available on a daily basis.
Since summer workouts began last Friday, a number of players have continued working at positions they learned during spring training while a handful of others have begun training at new spots on the diamond.
“It’s really more of a general philosophy that we want as much flexibility to get people in the lineup, as much possibility to have pinch-hit options that can go into the game very easily on defense and just be able to move our pieces around,” Kapler said.
With Belt’s status uncertain, the Giants asked outfielder Joe McCarthy to pick up a first baseman’s mitt and provide the team with a left-handed platoon option at the position. Kapler said McCarthy proved he could play the position as a minor leaguer in the Rays organization and could increase his chances of making the Opening Day roster if he can handle the job in the coming days.
With Hamilton out of the current mix in center, Mauricio Dubón, Mike Yastrzemski, Joey Rickard and Austin Slater have all spent more time in the middle of the outfield.
The San Francisco Giants’ Austin Slater makes a catch deep in the outfield during the second inning of his team’s Cactus League game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Feb. 24.