Haniger shut down with left oblique strain

March 12th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Outfielder , one of the Giants’ top free-agent acquisitions, will be shut down for the next five to seven days after being diagnosed with a Grade 1 left oblique strain, the club announced Saturday.

Haniger was slated to start in right field against the Rockies on Friday, but he was a late scratch after experiencing tightness on his left side while taking batting practice before the game. An MRI exam subsequently revealed the strain, which will create some uncertainty about Haniger’s availability for Opening Day.

The Giants did not offer a timetable for Haniger’s return to play, but the 32-year-old veteran expressed optimism that he’ll be ready to go for the club’s 2023 opener against the Yankees on March 30. Haniger missed nearly two months with a right oblique strain in 2017, but he said this injury feels much less severe.

“I was kind of shocked that there was even a strain,” said Haniger, who joined the Giants on a three-year, $43.5 million deal over the offseason. “It just felt really tight. It didn’t feel like I had any damage, per se, but when I’ve done it in the past, it would hurt. Rolling out of bed, getting into a car, stuff like that. I don’t feel anything like that. As far as daily movements, I feel really good. Obviously, if I tried to swing today, I’d probably feel it. But I’m pretty optimistic.

“My goal is to be back as fast as possible. I feel confident that I’ll be back before Opening Day, but at the same time, we’ve just got to make sure we listen to my body, listen to the trainers, and do it right so that this doesn’t come back up.”

The Giants were already dealing with a couple of other injuries in the outfield, as Luis González is expected to miss the start of the season with a low back strain, and Austin Slater has yet to appear in a Cactus League game due to right elbow neuritis. San Francisco doesn’t have a lot of right-handed outfield options behind Slater and Haniger, so if they’re unavailable for Opening Day, the club could take a more serious look at non-roster invitees like Stephen Piscotty or Bryce Johnson, or shift Thairo Estrada to the outfield.

Manager Gabe Kapler said the Giants haven’t looked that far down the road yet, as they believe Haniger and Slater still have enough time to ramp up for Opening Day as of now.

“I don’t think anything that’s happened thus far changes our early season game planning,” Kapler said. “I think my inclination is that Slates is trending in a direction where he’s going to be ready for us for the season. I don’t have any reason to believe yet that Mitch won’t be ready for the season for us. It’s kind of on the same track. Maybe just with less reps in Spring Training.”

Haniger is expected to be evaluated again next week and is hoping he’ll be cleared to resume his normal Spring Training progression. That might leave him only two weeks to get back into game shape, but he said he’s confident he’ll be able to pick up where he left off without much issue.

“I feel like I’m in a good place right now with where I’m at at the plate,” Haniger said. “I’ve dealt with little lulls before where I can’t swing. I know how to keep my mind sharp and stay on top of the other stuff and be ready.”

Worth noting
Rule 5 Draft pick continued his push for a spot on the Opening Day roster by going 3-for-3 with a two-run homer and two walks while serving as the designated hitter in the Giants’ 13-8 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium.

Sabol, who also laid down a bunt single and stole second in the first inning, is now batting .529 (9-for-17) with three homers through his first eight Cactus League games. The Giants brought Sabol into camp to compete for one of two catching spots, but Kapler said the left-handed hitter could get some looks in the outfield now that Haniger and Slater are dealing with injuries. Sabol, 25, was drafted by the Pirates as an outfielder before taking up catching in the Minors two years ago.

, who is ranked as the Giants’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, made his first Cactus League start at shortstop on Saturday, logging seven innings there while going 3-for-4 at the plate. Schmitt won the Minor League Gold Glove Award at third base last year, but he played shortstop at High-A Eugene when Marco Luciano was injured and could continue to draw reps there to open up another potential path to the big leagues for himself.