La Stella gets first Cactus hacks; Rodón sharp

March 30th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tommy La Stella enjoyed a short but productive 2022 Cactus League debut on Tuesday afternoon.

La Stella, who is working his way back from offseason left Achilles surgery, went 1-for-2 with a bases-clearing double and a walk while serving as the Giants’ designated hitter in an 11-6 win over the Padres at Scottsdale Stadium.

La Stella, the No. 2 hitter, flied out in his first at-bat before stepping up to face Padres left-hander Luke Westphal with the bases loaded in the second inning. La Stella came through with a double into the right-center-field gap and coasted into second base while running at an intensity level of 80%. He worked a walk in his third and final plate appearance and was replaced by pinch-runner Yorlis Rodríguez

“It was encouraging in two ways,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Obviously, great at-bats. Long at-bats. Tommy La Stella-like at-bats, and then solid contact even on the fly ball to right field. And then I thought he ran fine. We knew he was going to run at 80%. He was able to monitor himself and run 80%. I thought it was a good day overall.”

Kapler said the next step for La Stella will be to get more at-bats and potentially to play defense in a Cactus League game by the end of the week. La Stella said he isn’t sure if he’ll have enough time to ramp up for Opening Day on April 8. 

“I wouldn’t say we’ve necessarily ruled it out at this point, but it’s still up in the air,” La Stella said. 

La Stella said he’s still experiencing some post-surgical pain in his left Achilles and is trying to “decrease the sensitivity” to avoid any setbacks. He’s been putting in defensive work at second base in the back fields this spring and is gradually expanding his range from side to side, as well as his sprint capacity.

The return of the universal designated hitter would give the Giants the ability to carry La Stella on the active roster even if he’s not ready to play nine defensive innings, but the 33-year-old veteran noted that he’ll have to get to a point where he feels “comfortable and capable of running the bases.”

“It’s not just the defensive aspect of it,” La Stella said. “But, yeah, it’s certainly nice to have [the universal DH].”

The Giants already are down one veteran infielder after losing Evan Longoria to right index finger surgery on Tuesday. First baseman Brandon Belt has yet to appear in Cactus League games because of right knee inflammation, but he remains on track to be ready for the start of the regular season, according to Kapler. 

“It’s hard losing a guy like that,” La Stella said of Longoria. “Fortunately for us, we have a deep team. Hopefully, we’ll be able to pick up the slack. But it’s not a guy that you can really replace.”

Rodón gelling with Bart
Carlos Rodón
continued his stellar spring, yielding only one hit -- a bloop single by Ha-Seong Kim -- and striking out four over four innings in his second Cactus League start. Rodón said he settled in nicely with the help of rookie catcher Joey Bart, who encouraged the veteran left-hander to pick up the pace early in the game.

“We had a little slow pace in the beginning, but he said, ‘Hey, let’s pick it up,’ and sure enough, that kind of got the groove going, so it was good,” Rodón said.

Rodón, who is projected to serve as the Giants’ No. 2 starter behind Opening Day starter Logan Webb, is lined up to make one more exhibition start before the start of the regular season. Tuesday marked the first time he threw to Bart in a game, but he praised the young backstop’s receiving skills and said he’s looking forward to continuing to develop their relationship this year.

“Having to take Buster [Posey’s] job is not the easiest of things, for sure,” Rodón said. “There’s some expectations there. But Joey seems to have a good head on his shoulders and a good mindset. He’s a confident kid. He’s somewhat quiet. He wants to work hard, and he’s open to a lot of things. He listens a lot, so I think he’ll handle it just fine.”

Quick hits
Joc Pederson and Bart each crushed long, two-run home runs off Clevinger in the Giants’ five-run third inning. It was the first homer of the spring for Pederson and the second for Bart, who is 4-for-12 with five strikeouts over five games.

Luis González, a non-roster invitee, also had a nice day, going 3-for-3 with a double and logging six innings in left field.