GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Hope has arrived for baseball’s downtrodden in the form of the 26th man. Players who felt underutilized or underappreciated could have renewed opportunities to compete for jobs.
Ruf and Green improved their odds of making the club in the Giants’ 11-7 Cactus League loss to the Indians on Monday. Green smacked a three-run homer in the sixth inning off Cleveland right-hander Nick Wittgren. His third homer of the spring tied him for the club lead with Ruf, who tripled and scored in the seventh inning. That was Ruf’s seventh hit in a span of seven plate appearances, good for 19 total bases.
Ruf again connected solidly in the ninth inning, when his fly to deep center ended the game.
Commenting on Green’s and Ruf’s combined surge, Giants manager Gabe Kapler said, “I think it continues to encourage us to get as many looks as possible and see as much baseball as possible. I think you’ve probably noticed that they’ve both been getting quite a few reps. They’ve earned those reps.”
Asked how the 26th man’s existence might influence Green’s and Ruf’s chances of opening the season with San Francisco, Kapler said, “I like to describe a Spring Training roster as kind of a big puzzle. We want to see as many different players perform as possible. There’s several spots up for grabs.”
In short, Green and Ruf could remain active until the final round of cuts, despite being non-roster invitees who would necessitate some personnel juggling if they were deemed good enough to become Giants.
Creating opportunities for Green, 26, and Ruf, 33, to prove themselves further might have partially motivated Kapler to declare that observers could see some unusual-looking Giants lineups in the next several days of Cactus League games.
“You’re going to see some mixing up of the lineups going forward,” Kapler said. “Spring Training lineups are generally designed to give guys work.”
Yes, Ruf and Green have hit proficiently. But Kapler would like to see where Ruf, a first baseman-outfielder, might fit defensively. Green, a third baseman, might be tried at other positions, given the Giants’ emphasis on versatility.