Giants have 'lots to be excited about' with González

Rookie right fielder sets early tone, flashes pull-side power with leadoff homer vs. Bucs

June 18th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- Giants rookie Luis González didn’t do anything to merit a demotion to Triple-A Sacramento last month, but the 26-year-old outfielder ended up being the odd man out as a result of a roster crunch.

González’s stint in the Minors didn’t last long, though, as he ended up being recalled four days later when LaMonte Wade Jr. landed back on the injured list with left knee inflammation. Since then, González has emerged as perhaps the Giants’ steadiest hitter, sliding into the leadoff spot against right-handed pitching and carving out an everyday role in right field.

González continued to impress by smashing his first career leadoff home run in the Giants’ 2-0 series-opening win over the Pirates on Friday night at PNC Park. The reigning National League Rookie of the Month is now batting .303 with an .810 OPS over 45 games this year, but it remains to be seen whether he’s done enough to solidify his spot on the roster.

With Wade, a fellow left-handed-hitting outfielder, expected to begin a rehab assignment with Sacramento this weekend, San Francisco will soon be faced with another tough roster decision, and González is one of the club’s few position players with Minor League options remaining. The decision will ultimately be out of González’s hands, but he’s doing everything he can to show that he deserves to stay.  

“It’s hard not to bet on Luis González’s career at this point,” manager Gabe Kapler said recently. “There’s a lot of signals that he can use the whole field. He can hit anywhere in the lineup. He can hold his own against lefties. He’s an athletic defender who needs polish -- he’s not all the way there on D -- but he’s getting better jumps and starting to make adjustments out there. We saw the arm strength. 

“I’m starting to feel like he’s a guy that’s going to hit for average. Not that that’s any huge revelation. He’s doing that now. I think there’s a lot of good signals with Luis and lots to be excited about.”

González also flashed his pull-side power, crushing an elevated cutter from Pirates right-hander Zach Thompson over the right-field bleachers and onto the concourse -- steps from the Allegheny River -- to give San Francisco a 1-0 lead in the first inning. González said he’s been working with hitting coach Justin Viele on pulling the ball correctly, so he was pleased to see the fruits of his labor pay off in the form of the Statcast-projected 387-foot blast, his third of the year.

“There are some things I’ve been working on with JV in the cage, so it’s good to see some results come out of it,” González said. “That’s kind of what I was trying to do right there. I put myself in a good hitter’s count. I was just trying to get something middle-in and hit it over the fence in right.”

Joc Pederson added another solo shot in the fourth to support a brilliant outing from left-hander Carlos Rodón, who allowed only two hits and two walks to go with eight strikeouts over eight scoreless innings in his longest start of the season.

González helped back Rodón, his former White Sox teammate, with a couple of nice defensive plays in right field, including a sliding catch that robbed Diego Castillo of a hit in the seventh inning. He showed off his strong arm during the Giants’ recent homestand as well, delivering two outfield assists against the Royals.

“I thought he was a great player when I saw him with the Sox a couple of years ago,” said Rodón, who lowered his ERA to 2.84. “He just needed an opportunity. He’s a pretty electric player. Good defender, great swing and has some speed. He’s been a pleasure to watch.”

González was a third-round pick of the White Sox in the 2017 MLB Draft, but he was released last summer after suffering a season-ending right shoulder injury. He ended up landing with the Giants, who made the savvy decision to stash him on the 60-day IL and pay him the Major League minimum to rehab, a move that Chicago had been unwilling to do.

Rodón admitted that he was surprised the White Sox let González go, though he’s happy to see the young outfielder thriving with the Giants. González is certainly intent on making sure the opportunity lasts as long as possible.

“We’re playing at the highest stage here, so yeah, it’s just a blessing,” González said. “I’m happy to be here.”