Slater, 27, was viewed as a weapon against left-handed pitching entering the 2020 campaign, but he quickly has shown that he has the potential to be more than a platoon piece.
Slater on Saturday became only the seventh player to hit two home runs in a game off Dodgers ace lefty Clayton Kershaw, and he has shown promising results when given an opportunity to prove he can hit righties, too.
In the Giants’ 6-4 loss to the Astros on Monday, Slater hit his third homer of this road trip. It came off Josh James, a hard-throwing right-hander who has held right-handed batters to a .208 batting average in his career. Slater added a single off Ryan Pressly, another tough righty.
After hitting .205 with a .671 OPS in 101 plate appearances against righties in 2019, Slater entered Tuesday 5-for-18 (.278) with a home run and a triple in 22 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers this year. He made his third consecutive start against a right-hander on Tuesday, batting sixth against the Astros’ Brandon Bielak.
“I’ve always felt that I can hit both, but it’s a matter of proving it,” Slater said during a pregame Zoom call. “The track record suggests that I’ve struggled more against righties than lefties. I’m making a goal of setting out to prove that wrong.”
Manager Gabe Kapler commended Slater for his preparation following Monday night’s game, noting that he set himself up for success with a specific drill during batting practice.
"When a player trains for the outcome that he had tonight, which is a home run to right-center field off a righty, I think it's worth noting," Kapler said. "… In his batting practice session out on the field, we had the machine set up from an arm angle on the right side of a pitcher firing him fastballs. We were watching him in BP training for that moment, driving balls into the opposite field.
"So when that practice session shows up in the game and rewards a player for that kind of high-level training and effort, I think it's worth noting. It's a good example for all of us to train at that speed and in a way that's pretty uncomfortable, and we can see the results translating in the game."
Apart from his strides at the plate, Slater has also proved to be an asset on the basepaths, where he’s gone 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts to start the season. No other Giant has more than one steal thus far.
“One thing that’s been great about Slater so far this year, particularly with stolen bases, is he’s been ready for that green light, and he’s taken advantage of it,” Kapler said. “That’s been notable. He’s become more dependable as an all-around player.
“It’s one of the things we’ve pointed to about Yaz. There aren’t a lot of holes in his game. He’s a good defender, he gets good jumps. He’s taking good routes to the baseball, making high quality throws, hitting left and right. Yaz has kind of become a complete player. Slater is looking to tweak every part of his game and raise the bar for himself so that he establishes himself as a great all-around player, as well.”
• Donovan Solano, riding a 15-game hitting streak, was out of the starting lineup on Tuesday because of abdominal soreness. Kapler called the decision to sit Solano a “precautionary measure” and said the 32-year-old infielder would be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
• Pablo Sandoval, who celebrated his 34th birthday on Tuesday, also did not start against Bielak because of “family concerns,” according to Kapler. Wilmer Flores started at designated hitter in place of Sandoval, who is hitting only .184 with no extra-base hits through his first 16 games of the year. Kapler said Sandoval, like Solano, could return to action as soon as Wednesday.