Crawford on pause with knee discomfort

Giants get a look at shortstop depth as veteran halts baseball activities for a week

March 14th, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Another injury concern cropped up for the Giants on Monday, when the club announced that veteran shortstop will not participate in baseball activities for a week due to left knee discomfort.

Crawford, 36, landed on the injured list with the same knee issue twice in 2022 and missed nearly a month of the regular season. The injury also hampered his production. Crawford batted .231 with a .652 OPS, a notable dip from the resurgent campaign he enjoyed in 2021.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler said Crawford’s latest knee issue is similar to what he dealt with last year, so the team felt it was prudent to shut him down and give the soreness and inflammation time to subside. If Crawford is healthy enough to return to action next Monday, he will have 10 days to complete his ramp-up for Opening Day on March 30 at Yankee Stadium.

“We are just trying to get him ready for Opening Day,” Kapler said. “We don’t see a lot of value in trying to stick him out there at shortstop and pushing him really hard. We want him to be ready for New York. We’re just going to have that mindset of getting him as physical and comfortable as possible for Opening Day.”

After their nixed deal with star free agent Carlos Correa, the Giants were expected to lean heavily on Crawford at shortstop, where they don’t have much established depth beyond .

Estrada started at short on Monday afternoon and cranked a two-run home run -- his first of the spring -- off right-hander Brent Honeywell Jr. in the first inning of the Giants' 11-9 victory over the Padres. The Giants are also taking extended looks at and , two left-handed-hitting middle infielders who were added to the 40-player roster over the offseason.

Wisely, who is also getting exposure in center field, is 3-for-15 (.200) with two home runs over six Cactus League games. Díaz is 7-for-21 with two homers over eight games.

“We think they’re going to make an impact on our club,” Kapler said last month. “Maybe early in the season, perhaps a little more in the middle of the season. But I don’t think there’s any question those two guys are going to be instrumental to our success in some way.”

Díaz exited Monday’s game in the bottom of the sixth inning with slight hamstring tightness.

Beyond Estrada, Wisely and Díaz, the Giants also have , a natural third baseman who has also been working out at shortstop. Schmitt, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Giants’ No. 4 prospect, won the Minor League Gold Glove Award at third in 2022, but he filled in capably at short for High-A Eugene when fellow top prospect Marco Luciano was injured last year.

“I think we all believe that he can be a great third baseman at the Major League level,” Kapler said of Schmitt. “He doesn’t have as many reps at shortstop, but I don’t see any reason why he can’t be a good shortstop, as well.”

Schmitt has been opening eyes with his bat, as well -- the 24-year-old homered and tripled against the Padres to boost his Cactus League batting average to .462 (12-for-26) over nine games. 

“Awesome at-bats,” Kapler said. “Very aggressive. Very confident. Using the whole field. Driving the baseball. Taking pitches that aren’t strikes. It’s a pretty compelling package.”

Worth noting
Catcher , getting some outfield reps following the injury to (Grade 1 left oblique strain), drew his first start in left field. He lost a ball in the sun in the second inning, allowing it to fall for a two-out double.

“Not the most comfortable look,” Kapler said. “But how could it be? He’s been catching the entire spring. All of his focus and attention has been on catching. But he’s pretty athletic. I think he’s going to be OK.”

hit his team-high fourth homer and made a couple nice plays in his second start in right field.

• Speedster had a productive day, going 1-for-2 with two walks, three runs and four stolen bases. Johnson has seven steals in  eight games this spring.

“I think today is a good indication of what he’s capable of,” Kapler said. “That’s a real base stealer. We asked him to be ultra-aggressive this spring so we can see it firsthand, and we’ve been able to see it.”