The Giants are slated to face three left-handed starters during their opening series against the Dodgers, including veteran ace Clayton Kershaw on Opening Day.
That bodes well for right-handed hitters like Austin Slater, who is projected to earn plenty of opportunities to start against lefties as the Giants embrace platoons to create more favorable matchups during the regular season.
With lefty Sean Manaea on the mound for the A’s on Monday night, the Giants stacked their lineup with right-handed hitters to try to exploit the platoon advantage. Brandon Crawford was the only left-handed hitter to start for San Francisco. The configuration proved effective, as Slater, who batted leadoff, finished 3-for-4 with five RBIs to propel the Giants to a 6-2 win in their exhibition game at the Coliseum.
Slater delivered a bases-clearing double off Manaea in the second inning before adding a two-run double off another southpaw, reliever Jake Diekman, in the seventh. Manager Gabe Kapler has cautioned not to read too much into exhibition lineups, but Slater’s success could make him a solid leadoff option against left-handers moving forward.
“Obviously, I like hitting lefties,” Slater said in a recent Zoom call with reporters. “I like to think I'm pretty good at it. Decent track record, but it's something that we'll address once we get closer.”
Slater, 27, is among the players who could stand to benefit the most from the Giants' move toward positional flexibility and versatility under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. Slater can play all three outfield positions and took grounders at all four infield spots during Spring Training, which will make it easier for Kapler to get him into the lineup during the regular season.
Slater posted an .838 OPS against lefties in 2019, making him a good counter to Alex Dickerson in the outfield or Brandon Belt at first base this year. The Stanford product said he hasn’t minded toting around a collection of gloves and being prepared to play anywhere around the diamond.
“It's guys just being baseball players,” Slater said. “I think guys are able to round out their game and not be so narrowed in on one specific position. It helps you understand the game. It helps the team. I think it creates an atmosphere of a better team culture, where it's, ‘We're going to do whatever it takes to win today.’
“It's exciting. I enjoy it. It adds a little twist every day when you come to the ballpark.”
Short work expected for starters
Projected starters Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly each pitched one scoreless inning in their final tuneup before the regular season. Gausman, Smyly and Tyler Anderson, a candidate for a rotation spot or a bulk innings role, combined to retire nine of the 10 batters they faced. Stephen Piscotty accounted for the only damage against the trio, launching a solo shot off Anderson in the second.
While it’s odd to see potential members of the rotation pitch in short stints before the start of the season, Gausman said the coaching staff did a good job communicating the plan for each pitcher over the course of Summer Camp.
“These last three weeks have been a lot different for all of us,” Gausman said. “Obviously we couldn’t go about getting stretched out like we normally would. We had to kind of pitch every three days as opposed to every five days, so we kind of really had to cram a lot of stuff in a small amount of time.
“One thing they did a really good job was communicating early on was when you’re going to pitch. You could look on email and see exactly what you were going to do the next day. I think with something like this, communication is one of the hardest things.”