Notes: How La Stella affects Longo, Flores
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants struggled to get third baseman Evan Longoria off his feet last year.
Longoria opened the 2020 season on the injured list, but he returned after missing the first week and went on to appear in all but one of the Giants’ remaining 54 games. The workload seemed to catch up to the 35-year-old veteran, who batted .169 (10-for-59) over the final 16 games of the season.
The Giants didn’t have many good options to back up Longoria, but they addressed that hole in their infield by signing Tommy La Stella to a three-year, $18.75 million deal this offseason. La Stella is expected to see time at first, second and third base and could help spell Longoria against tough right-handers this year.
While Longoria has prided himself on being an everyday player throughout his 13-year career in the Majors, he acknowledged that getting more rest could help keep him more fresh over the 162-game regular season.
“My goal has always been to be on the field for every inning,” Longoria said. “I think if I come into camp and go into the year expecting to have days off, it's kind of like a disservice to myself and to my teammates. With that being said, when we can get strategic off-days, or try and get me off my feet for a little bit more, I do think there's some benefit to that.”
Longoria, who is signed through the 2022 season, said he plans to maintain an open dialogue with manager Gabe Kapler and have frequent discussions about when it would make the most sense to give him a day off. Longoria posted a .671 OPS against righties and an .859 OPS against lefties last year, so the Giants could opt to start the left-handed-hitting La Stella at third against right-handed pitching this year.
“I don't think Evan has any interest in playing 162,” said Kapler, a former teammate of Longoria with the Rays. “We'll get him off his feet at the time it makes more sense for other players, but also for Evan.”
Flores’ uncertain outlook
Another infielder who will be affected by La Stella’s arrival is Wilmer Flores.
Flores, 29, emerged as one of the Giants’ most consistent and productive bats in 2020, but it’ll be harder for the Giants to find playing time for him without the designated hitter in the National League this year. He will be an option to start against lefties at first base and will compete for at-bats at second base along with Donovan Solano and La Stella.
Where does Flores expect to spend most of his time defensively this spring?
“I don’t know,” Flores said. “I don’t know how to answer that. I take ground balls everywhere.”
Wade excited for Giant opportunity
The Giants plan to use the spring to take a serious look at outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr, who was acquired from the Twins in exchange for right-hander Shaun Anderson earlier this month. Kapler has said that he believes Wade probably profiles best at a corner outfield position, but he wants to see how the 27-year-old handles center field this spring. Wade is expected to start there in one of the Giants’ first two exhibition games next week.
“Honestly, I feel comfortable in all three [outfield spots],” Wade said Wednesday. “From a defensive standpoint, I feel like I’m going to be able to bring energy and cover some ground out there and communicate with the guys. I look forward to getting out here with the outfielders in game-like situations just to see how everybody is moving out there.”
The Giants are auditioning a handful of players at center field this spring, including Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater and Jaylin Davis, to try to build more depth behind Mauricio Dubón. San Francisco views Wade as an intriguing option for the fifth outfield spot due to his plate discipline and contact skills. He has a career .796 OPS in the Minors with more walks (303) than strikeouts (281), though he has never hit for much power.
Kapler said first baseman Brandon Belt is “a little bit under the weather,” though the illness is not COVID-19 related. Belt hasn’t been spotted on the field at Scottsdale Stadium since full-squad workouts began Monday, though he was expected to be limited early in camp as he rehabs from right heel surgery. The Giants have said they are cautiously optimistic that Belt will be ready by Opening Day on April 1.