DENVER -- Austin Slater is playing left field as if he wants to stay there a while. Recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on June 23, Slater made two noteworthy catches during the Giants' 5-2 loss Monday to the Rockies.In the second inning, Slater ranged toward the left-field line to backhand Noel
DENVER -- Austin Slater is playing left field as if he wants to stay there a while. Recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on June 23, Slater made two noteworthy catches during the Giants' 5-2 loss Monday to the Rockies.
In the second inning, Slater ranged toward the left-field line to backhand Noel Cuevas' line drive for the inning's second out. Statcast™ appraised Slater's play as having a 51 percent catch probability. He needed to cover 35 feet to make the play (he actually covered 37) and did so in three seconds of "opportunity time."
Slater outdid himself one inning later, charging forward to corral Chris Iannetta's bid for a hit and leave a pair of runners stranded. The catch probability on this one was 62 percent. It required Slater to span 23 feet (he actually covered 25) in a "catch opportunity" time of 2.7 seconds.
Slater received the ultimate compliment: praise from starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, the beneficiary of both grabs.
Asked if Slater showed him something with his defense, Bumgarner said, "He hasn't had to show me anything. I really like his game."
Said Slater: "He's one of the ultimate competitors, not only on our team but in the whole league, and to have that kind of encouragement means a lot, especially coming from a player of his caliber."
Slater explained that the catches were more similar than they looked.
"Both of them were kind of top-spinners, and I happened to get a good break and I had a chance to lay out, and at the very least knock it down and keep it in front of me," he said. "Those are, for the most part, reaction plays and just thinking off the bat that I'm gonna catch this ball."
Slater, who can play all three outfield positions, acknowledged that he'd like to feel a little more settled on the field.
"Hopefully, you get to a point where you don't have to think at all and everything just comes naturally," he said. "We talk about natural players and what comes with experience, and I think I'm getting better at this."
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyRsports.