Why Austin Slater’s playing time will likely be limited for remainder of SF Giants’ season

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When he’s been in the lineup, outfielder Austin Slater has been one of the San Francisco Giants’ most productive players this season.

Unfortunately for Slater and Giants manager Gabe Kapler, finding ways to fit him in the lineup appear increasingly difficult.

Slater will start for the first time in 11 days in Thursday’s series finale against the Seattle Mariners, but the right-handed hitter is limited to designated hitter duties. An elbow injury that’s been bothering Slater since the middle of August has prevented Slater from playing defense and while Kapler said he’s still working toward a return to the field, it’s uncertain whether Slater will be cleared to play the outfield before the end of the regular season.

“I think it’s realistic, but I don’t think it’s the most likely scenario,” Kapler said Thursday. “I do think it’s a possibility. It looks like we’re going to attempt some catch play here in the next week, probably not in the next couple of days and we’ll see how that goes.”

With left-hander Nick Margevicius on the mound for Seattle Thursday, Kapler said it was imperative the club give Slater an opportunity to get some at-bats. He hasn’t appeared in a game since subbing in as a pinch-runner against the Mariners on Sept. 8 and hasn’t had a plate appearance since he went 2-for-4 against the D’backs on Sept. 6, so finding a rhythm could be difficult for Slater.

With a .328 batting average and 1.030 OPS, Slater’s numbers are among the best of any Giants hitter this season. Groin and elbow injuries have limited him to just 68 plate appearances, and his inability to play the field will likely keep him well under 100 by the time the season ends.

Using Slater as the designated hitter Thursday required Kapler to make a challenging lineup decision as he chose to give Brandon Belt a day off after Belt went 2-for-5 with a home run in Wednesday’s 9-3 win over Seattle. The Giants want Wilmer Flores, who will start at first base Thursday, to face every left-handed starter the Giants see, so Kapler essentially had to decide who would be left out of the lineup among a grouping of Flores, Belt and the team’s leader in batting average, second baseman Donovan Solano.

Kapler said fans should expect to see Belt appear at some point during Thursday’s game, particularly if the Mariners have a right-handed reliever on the mound after Margevicius exits or if the Giants are looking to improve their defense and protect a late lead.

It’s unclear if the Giants would feel compelled to put Slater on the injured list if rosters hadn’t expanded from 26 to 28 players for the 2020 season, but with added space, Slater’s spot is safe even if he doesn’t need to bring a glove to the ballpark.


With only 11 days left in the regular season, the Giants could soon have a decision to make on whether to bring right-handed reliever Reyes Moronta back from the injured list.

Moronta has been out since August, 2019 after undergoing shoulder surgery, but he’s potentially nearing a return to the team’s bullpen as he threw an inning in a simulated game in Sacramento on Wednesday. Kapler said Moronta’s fastball velocity was up to 95 miles per hour which is a few ticks below where he was before the injury, but he also mixed in a sharp slider in his rehab work.

The Giants would be taking a gamble bringing back a reliever with a history of command issues this late in the season, but Moronta does have as strong of a track record as any right-handed option in a young bullpen.

Kapler said Jeff Samardzija (right shoulder inflammation) will throw five innings in a simulated game in Sacramento on Thursday and the Giants will likely have to make a call on whether to bring him back to the roster next week.


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