Giants roll with punches with Wade, Longoria sidelined

March 29th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- One day after learning they’d be without third baseman Evan Longoria on Opening Day, the Giants absorbed another significant blow.

Outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. underwent an MRI exam on Monday that revealed inflammation and bone bruising in his left knee. He will rest for 10 days before being reevaluated, meaning he’s also out for the Giants’ 2022 opener against the Marlins on April 8.

Wade, 28, injured his knee while scoring from third base in the first inning of Monday against the Brewers.

Longoria, 36, had surgery to repair a ligament in his right index finger in Los Angeles on Tuesday, a procedure that is expected to leave his finger immobilized for at least 10 days. The operation will aim to relieve chronic pain stemming from a hit-by-pitch last August.

“It’s a challenge,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s two of our core pieces. We were counting on Evan to be not just ready for Opening Day, but at his best. And LaMonte was off to such a good start in Spring Training. He feels really good about his timing. That timing is going to be disrupted.

“Having talked to both players, there’s plenty of optimism around tackling a tough challenge and coming out on the other end, not just whole, but in a really good position to have a great year.”

With Longoria out, the Giants will lean primarily on Wilmer Flores to fill their hole at third base, though Kapler said Thairo Estrada and Mauricio Dubón could see time there. Other options include Jason Vosler, Luke Williams and non-roster invitees Jason Krizan and Alex Blandino.

Longoria batted .261 with an .833 OPS and 13 home runs in 2021, though he was limited to 81 games by a freak left shoulder sprain he suffered in a collision with shortstop Brandon Crawford.

“He’s had a rough couple of years with respect to his feeling good and wanting to maintain progress and then having something derail that,” Kapler said. "But he’s as tough as they come. He’s demonstrated that over his career. He’s played through a lot of pain.

“Evan just wants to go out there and play baseball and feel good when he plays. One of the challenges of getting a little bit older as a player is the aches and pains take a little bit longer. You recover a little less rapidly. I think that’s frustrating for Evan.”

The Giants will be hard-pressed to replace Longoria’s steady defense and production against lefties (1.088 OPS in 2021), particularly after losing three other right-handed bats -- Buster Posey, Kris Bryant and Donovan Solano -- over the offseason.

Although the Giants are now thinner on right-handed bats, Kapler said he’s confident his club will still be able to do damage against lefties given the return of such hitters as Flores, Estrada, Darin Ruf and Austin Slater. Longoria’s injury could also put more pressure on the left-handed-hitting Mike Yastrzemski to deliver a bounce-back campaign and show that he can hit lefties as well as he did over his first two Major League seasons. Yastrzemski logged a .997 OPS against lefties in 2020, when he placed eighth in National League MVP voting, but that figure plunged to .513 last year.

“He’s more than capable of handling left-handed pitching,” Kapler said of Yastrzemski. “We saw that. I think the best version of him is going to be a guy that’s tough to take out of the lineup against anybody.”

Wade was a revelation for the Giants in 2021, batting .253 with an .808 OPS and a career-high 18 homers over 109 games and earning the nickname “Late Night LaMonte” because of his penchant for delivering clutch late-inning hits. His injury could mean an expanded role for fellow left-handed-hitting outfielder Steven Duggar, who wasn’t a lock to make the Opening Day roster at the start of the spring since he has Minor League options remaining.

“This is one of the things that we pride ourselves on, being able to handle tough challenges, obstacles and staying both strong and even through those,” Kapler said. “I don’t think this is a moment to get down or emotional. I think it’s to be expected. We’re going to have setbacks. We’re going to have injuries, and we’re going to have challenges. This won’t be the first time. We’ve dealt with them in the past. We’ll deal with these ones similarly.”