Wednesday, September 28, 2022

SF Giants newcomer Kris Bryant’s center field play could help unlock team’s full potential

PHOENIX – In the hours following the Giants’ 7-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night, manager Gabe Kapler sent newcomer Kris Bryant a text message informing the versatile slugger that he would be center in Thursday’s series finale. will start in the area.

“I reached out to him last night and said, ‘Hey, are you ready and comfortable in the middle?’ Like I always do when trying something new by my side and he was very excited,” Kapler said. “It gives us confidence when our players are excited about opportunities.”

Bryant appeared in seven different positions for the Chicago Cubs this season before being dealt in San Francisco on Friday, but he spent most of his time in third base and corner outfield spots. Kapler acknowledged that center field isn’t Bryant’s best defensive position, but the former National League MVP has played at center field 13 times this year and demonstrated athleticism to play a capable defense in the middle of the diamond.

Bryant’s audition at center field coincides with the return of first baseman Brandon Belt, who was activated Thursday from the 10-day injured list to make his first start in six weeks. With Belt first and Tommy La Stella starting at third base after returning from a three-month absence on Wednesday, the Giants are approaching full force.

Third baseman Evan Longoria, who has been out since June 6 with a shoulder injury, begins a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Thursday and is set to rejoin the Giants when he returns home for Tuesday’s start. can be. Set of two games against the Diamondbacks.

The return of several key legends is causing the lineup to shrink as a handful of players will be out of play time. Lamonte Wade Jr and Alex Dickerson are the two left-handers who can lose with the bat when the Giants have their full complement of infielders as Bryant is likely to receive at-bats everyday in the outfield, but both from Thursday Starting off Mike Yastrzemsky is out of the starting lineup for the third straight day with a tight right hamstring.

Wade has played 26 games at first base for the Giants this season, but with belts back in fold and Darin Roof and Wilmer Flores also able to play the position, he now expects to see the most of his opportunities in the outfield.

“I think LaMonte is aware enough to understand that Brandon is going to be our regular first baseman against pitching right-handers and also against some left-handers,” Kapler said. “So playing time for Lamonte is more likely to come as an outfielder at-bat.”

Wade Dickerson joins Yastrzemsky and Steven Duggar as the left-handed hitting outfielder on the Giants’ active roster and it is likely that the Giants’ comfort level with Bryant in center field will determine what Duggar will play in the coming weeks. how is used. There’s no doubt Duggar is the best defensive outfielder on the Giants roster, but he’s hit .188 with .503 OPS since early July and that’s when the club needed to build up roster space to reinstate Kevin Gossman. If so, it can be selected. From the paternity list on Sunday.

Utility man Thyro Estrada is another candidate to be sent to Triple-A Sacramento when the Giants need another roster spot, but Kapler has praised Estrada’s at-bat quality in recent days and that of Brandon Crawford is the primary backup at shortstop for starters.

Kapler noted that the Giants discussed using Bryant at shortstop in a pinch, while Donovan Solano also made his 2021 debut earlier this week, but the drop-off is crucial from a defensive standpoint behind Crawford and Estrada.

If Bryant becomes more comfortable in the middle field, the Giants can use him for the first six or seven innings of a game before shifting him to a corner while bringing Duggar or right-handed hitting outfielder Austin Slater off the bench. can. Defensive replacement.

Since acquiring Bryant last week, Kapler has been eager to see the most versatile, flexible version of his roster in full force and with Longoria progress, the Giants are less than a week away from unlocking more lineup combinations and defensive configurations. Could be less away which would help Club make more matchup advantage.

A roster that includes 12 to 13 position players who are starter-caliber players will also give Kapler the freedom to rest their veterans more often, which is important for a team with one of the oldest rosters. .

“We weren’t really in a position where we could leave guys as we navigated our way through the first half of the season and now we’re in that position or we’re gonna be and I think it’s important that we take advantage of that,” said Kapler. “We always know that in whatever position we are thinking about, there is going to be a very good player in that lineup and it gives us someone to pick up on our side for the day. Gives the ability to take off the feet.”

Nation World News Desk
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