The Giants will be without their two starting corner infielders when they play their season opener against the Dodgers on Thursday.
“I don't think it's realistic at this point, being so close, that either Brandon or Evan are going to be ready for Opening Day,” Kapler said Monday before the Giants’ exhibition game against the A’s at the Coliseum. “I think it's going to be a few days into the season. We're hustling to get those guys ready as quickly as possible, but without the full-intensity running reps that Brandon and Evan need, they're just not quite going to be ready for the Opening Day assignment against the Dodgers. I’m not ruling out any point in the series, but that's where we are at the moment.”
Longoria, 34, hasn’t played in an intrasquad game since July 14 after tweaking his oblique on a swing. He has resumed taking light swings in the batting cage and fielding ground balls, though Kapler noted that he was still experiencing soreness when he bent to his right side. Belt, 32, served as the designated hitter in Saturday’s scrimmage, but he has not yet been cleared to run the bases.
Wilmer Flores, Pablo Sandoval, Mauricio Dubón and Donovan Solano are candidates to replace Longoria at third in the interim. Flores and Sandoval are also options at first base, along with Darin Ruf and Austin Slater. Belt, a left-handed hitter, might not have started against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Opening Day if he were healthy, as he is 4-for-60 (.067) with 29 strikeouts against the southpaw in his career.
Hunter Pence (right foot inflammation) was not in the starting lineup on Monday against A’s left-hander Sean Manaea, but Kapler said he expects the 37-year-old veteran to be ready to go on Opening Day.
“We're just kind of monitoring his workload,” Kapler said. “We're very confident in where Hunter is. He got some live reps today at the ballpark earlier and a good practice session in. Part of this is just staging out the progression to Opening Day at this point.”
The Giants experimented with the opener only once last year under former manager Bruce Bochy, but Kapler and his coaching staff appear more keen on embracing unconventional pitching strategies to get the most out of their players in this truncated 60-game regular season.
Rogers, 29, has been viewed as a potential closer for the Giants this year, but Kapler said he believes the submariner could also be a good candidate to open games because he is “kind of matchup proof” and has shown an ability to be effective against both right-handed and left-handed hitters.
“We think that he's sort of a Swiss Army knife,” Kapler said. “We think he has the ability to pitch important, late innings. We think he has the ability to bridge the gap in the middle innings. We think he could give us back-to-back outings. We think he could probably go two-plus [innings] if he needed to if we were able to build them up for that. We think he could open a game. Because we think of him as a Swiss Army knife, we want to have him prepared for all of those possible scenarios.”
Rogers logged a 1.02 ERA in 17 appearances for the Giants last September and continued to pitch well during Spring Training and Summer Camp. He recently said that he’s open to embracing whatever role the Giants have in mind for him this year.
“I guess that’s up to Gabe and [president of baseball operations] Farhan [Zaidi], with this year being a 60-game season,” Rogers said. “Maybe traditional pitching roles are going to be thrown out the window with it being a 60-game sprint.”