SAN FRANCISCO — Giants manager Gabe Kapler will put a designated hitter in the lineup against another National League team Friday for the first time since the pandemic-shortened season in 2020 and then do it 161 more times during the course of the season.
It will likely be Darin Ruf as the DH against the Miami Marlins Friday at Oracle Park, and perhaps through the weekend. Then odds are it will be a season of mix and match for Kapler as he calculates the best matchups as well as ways to get partial days off for bats he wishes to keep in the lineup.
In other words, don’t expect the Giants to go the route many American League teams do and find a defensively challenged player who can hit to take the bulk of the DH swings.
Kapler sounded a little wistful about removing an element of strategy from the game.
“It might just not be as fun,” Kapler said. “The National League style is great, you get to think about what the best time is to hit for a pitcher. There’s the double-switch and fun nuances. I think we’re still going to be aggressive using our bench. It’s nice to have the DH spot because you can get guys off their feet from time to time.”
The Giants are coming off a season where they led the majors with 346 at-bats from pinch hitters and a major league record 18 home runs. The next best figure was 10. Giants pinch hitters hit only .199 but were first in walks (47), second in hits (69) and second in doubles (16).
When Ruf isn’t manning the DH spot, he’ll be one of those pinch hitters, with others such as Wilmer Flores, Tommy La Stella (when healthy) and Joc Pederson available as well.
“In 2020 we got a little taste of that and I liked it because that gets a hitter more opportunities,” Flores said. “It’s going to be a little different but I think it opens up the door for players.”
Kapler believes to some extent the skills which help a pinch hitter excel are transferrable to being a designated hitter.
“A lot of being a good hitter is preparation, and a lot of being a good pinch hitter is preparation and not necessarily being on the field,” Kapler said. “We have a lot of work we can do in the cage in terms of learning the opposing pitchers, but being mentally prepared when you walk up to the plate to attack the first pitch and be especially aggressive on a pitch we can drive.”
Flores, who will probably get more DH work when third baseman Evan Longoria comes off the injured list, will await the call.
“Being a DH is different because you start the game and are going to have multiple at-bats,” Flores said. “Pinch-hitting means you have to be ready because you only get one chance. Each of us individually knows what we have to do to be ready.”
Williams makes the roster
Luke Williams went from being designated for assignment with Philadelphia to being traded to the Giants on March 27 to making his first Opening Day roster.
Williams, 25, hit .245 in 58 games with the Phillies last season but can play in both the infield and outfield, which is a skill the Giants love.
“I think that was one thing my dad and I would talk about, that the Giants would be a real good fit for me,” Williams said. “The way they take advantage of versatility in everyone. It can really benefit my career and benefit the team as well hopefully.”
Williams should stick around as long as La Stella is recovering from Achilles’ sheath surgery and anything beyond that will have to do with his production.
“I can see Luke getting a start against a left-handed pitcher,” Kapler said. “I can see him hitting for a left-handed batter. He can play defense, we can use him as a pinch-runner. He’s pretty flexible and versatile in that way.”
Williams quickly caught the eye of catcher Joey Bart.
“He’s extremely athletic. Watching him move around the field is really impressive and the defensive aspect is elite, even just watching him shag balls in the outfield. He gets to balls in a hurry,” Bart said. “I think he’s going to be a weapon for us and come off the bench like we saw in spring training and get some hits.”
The 15/13 split
After earlier indicating the 28-man roster would be divided among 14 pitchers and 14 position players, the Giants instead went with 15 pitchers — five starters and 10 relievers.
“I think you’re seeing that around the league, people being extra cautious with their pitching staffs,” Giants director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. “You look at a 10-man bullpen, we’ll have plenty of coverage tomorrow but the issue becomes when you’re playing that fourth, fifth, sixth game in a row. Options dwindle as to who’s up. We’re not wedded to it for the entire month, but coming out of the gate, it made sense to have coverage there and not overly tax pitchers out of the gate.”
Seeing double in the N.L. West
Tyler Rogers’ twin brother Taylor has joined the division, coming to the San Diego Padres in a deal that sent Chris Paddack to the Minnesota Twins.
The identical twins don’t approach their craft the same, with Tyler throwing as a submarine right-hander while Taylor is a lefty.
“My family is excited,” Tyler Rogers said. “The N.L. West is the best-looking division in baseball.”
Tyler would ordinarily not see his brother throughout the season, but the Giants play the Padres 19 times.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him throughout the year,” Tyler Rogers said. “Dinners are on him.”
Bart on Buster
Giants catcher Joey Bart will be first man up to replace the departed Buster Posey, who retired following the season. Bart, according to Kapler, will get plenty of work but not necessarily be an everyday player with Curt Casali getting his share of action.
Bart suspects he’ll hear from Posey at some point but doesn’t want to intrude.
“I think there’s going to be some dialogue, but I’m going to let him be retired,” Bart said. “I’m all ears, but I just want to respect his time. You know Buster, you play this game for so long, I assume he’ll be tuned in and he’ll be locked in with us.”
Casali on Webb
Casali is looking forward to seeing Opening Day starter Logan Webb pick up where he left off in helping pitch the Giants to 107 wins and then perform brilliantly in the postseason against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“If you think about a year ago, he kind of made the team as a necessity because of an injury and now you look at him and he’s just the clear, no-brainer, no-doubt Opening Day starter for us,” Casali said. “It shows what can happen in a year and how much he grew. He’s earned the opportunity and I can’t wait to see what he does this year.”
Asked to determine Webb’s ceiling, Casali said, “I don’t know if you can see it. He’s got everything you’d ever want.”
Source: Culled From Paradise Post.