González odd man out as La Stella returns

May 17th, 2022

DENVER -- One day after delivering one of the most memorable performances of his young career, rookie outfielder Luis González was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento as part of the Giants’ roster shuffle prior to Monday night’s series opener at Coors Field.  

González, 26, batted .349 with 15 RBIs over 21 games and hammered a three-run home run off Albert Pujols on Sunday, but the Giants had to clear a spot on the 26-man roster for infielder , who was activated off the injured list on Monday after missing the first 33 games of the season while recovering from offseason Achilles surgery. 

Despite his hot start -- and his impressive pitching debut on Sunday -- the Giants decided to send down González, who has Minor League options remaining. Gabe Kapler admitted that it was “one of the more challenging discussions” he’s had as a manager.

“Very difficult,” Kapler said. “Even if you’re in Luis’ position and you know Tommy La Stella is coming back, in your brain, you’re performing very well and you feel like you’re making contributions to the team. Those are always going to be challenging conversations. It is part of breaking into the league, establishing yourself as a Major League player and being a player with options. I explained that to Luis, and of course, he was a pro and understood it. There was some disappointment because he’s a human being that played really well and was having a great time.”

The Giants also made a couple of moves to replenish their bullpen, selecting the contract of Mauricio Llovera from Sacramento and optioning Yunior Marte. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Llovera, the Giants transferred Anthony DeSclafani to the 60-day injured list. DeSclafani, who has been out with right ankle inflammation, won’t be eligible to return until June 21 at the earliest.

Kapler said DeSclafani did not experience a setback, but the Giants felt a “long, slow ramp” was the best course of action for the 32-year-old veteran, who signed a three-year, $36 million deal over the offseason.

La Stella, 33, started at designated hitter and batted eighth against Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela on Monday in his 2022 season debut. He went 9-for-29 (.310) with a 1.015 OPS and two homers over nine rehab games with Sacramento and should only deepen a Giants lineup that is finally back to full strength following an injury-marred start to the season.

“Tommy is one of the better plate appearances in baseball,” Kapler said. “It’s as simple as that. He has great discipline. He fouls pitches off. He’s extremely competitive in the batter’s box. Kind of the epitome of what we want our hitters to do. Make a lot of contact, drive the baseball occasionally, draw a walk here and there, keep the line moving, which Tommy does exceptionally well.”

La Stella said he’s feeling good physically and is confident his body will be able to bounce back once he resumes playing the field. Even so, the Giants could err on the side of caution and start him at DH in the early going since Wilmer Flores and Thairo Estrada will be available to play second base.

“I’m comfortable with where we’re at,” La Stella said. “I was able to do everything I needed to do on the field down there, so I’m good to go. That was kind of their focus down there, making sure that the recovery time wasn’t anything prolonged and I was able to come back out the next day and do what I needed to do.”