MrLefty and I have a modest home opener streak going. It’s not as prodigious as Crawnik’s, but it goes back to 2017. (We even were among the 8000 or so who got to go to the 2021 opener under severe COVID restrictions, and I also count 2020 because my cardboard cutout was in the house.) In the 2017 version, after the pregame hoopla, Buster Posey got beaned in the first inning by then-Diamondbacks starter Taijuan Walker. That will take the air out of a baseball stadium. (Posey sustained a concussion and missed a week or two.)
Yesterday’s home opener wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it didn’t go well. Not only did the Giants lose because it was “bust” day in this year’s “boom or bust” offense, but they lost another catcher to an injury. In the short run, that’s a much bigger problem than the loss.
Let’s start with the good things about this game. It will be a short list.
Alex Cobb/Camilo Doval
Cobb looked great and deserved better. He gave the Giants a sharp seven innings (97 pitches) with no walks and six strikeouts. He lost the game because of giving up a fourth-inning solo homer to some Royals guy I never heard of. (“Royals guy I never heard of” was kind of the theme of the day. I recognized exactly four names in the Royals’ starting lineup, and one of those was #ForeverGiant Matt Duffy, who might have gotten the second loudest ovation of the day after Brandon Crawford. On the other hand, I have heard of Aroldis Chapman, of course, but I didn’t realize he was on the Royals until he showed up on the mound in the eighth inning. Chapman can still throw triple digits, too.)
The eighth and ninth innings were handled by Taylor Rogers and Camilo Doval, respectively, each appearing in only their second game of the season. In a limited sample size, Rogers is not off to a great start in a Giants uniform. A solo homer to Salvador Perez (whom I HAVE heard of) in the eighth felt like a backbreaker, even though it only made the score 3-1. Taylor has the same slumpy body language as Tyler when things don’t go well. It’s like having identical twin Brandon Belts in a bad stretch.
Doval, on the other hand, who looked completely rattled in his save at Yankee Stadium, looked just fine yesterday, and I saw a 103 on the gun.
In this odd-numbered year of 2023, the Giants don’t hit in their odd-numbered games (1,3,5, & 7 and counting). They didn’t get shut out like they did in their two losses at Yankee Stadium, but they came pretty close. They had only five hits, and no one had more than one. Their only run came via a clutch two-out knock by rookie Blake Sabol, which temporarily tied the game at 1-1.
In the ninth, the Giants looked like they finally woke up, and this brought some energy into the park. Joc Pederson had a leadoff triple after the Royals’ right fielder (some guy) misplayed the ball off the wall. Mike Yastrzemski was called out on a very iffy 2-2 pitch that had even the mild-mannered Yaz complaining and usually low-key manager Gabe Kapler calling it out after the game. Thairo Estrada then smoked a ball to the left side, but it was caught by our old friend Duffy. After a walk to Crawford, putting the tying runs on base, Sabol was also called out looking on strikes to end the game. Party over before it ever got started.
You don’t see Mike Yastrzemski argue often, and he certainly had a point there in a big spot in the 9th pic.twitter.com/TYdjxgaeJx
— Danny Emerman (@DannyEmerman) April 7, 2023
Crawford had a particularly putrid game at the plate. The Giants had precious few rallies yesterday, and Crawford killed two of them by grounding into double plays. Crawford is now hitting .143 for the season, and did anyone notice that Casey Schmitt had a double and a triple and three RBI in Sacramento last night? Just mentioning it. I’m not suggesting that Crawford is going to get benched anytime soon, but he had a really bad year in 2022, and I don’t think they’ll let him repeat that for the entire 2023 season if they have a top prospect ready. I know Schmitt was drafted as a 3B, but they have good options there with David Villar and J.D. Davis.
LaMonte Wade Jr. went a very lackluster 0 for 3, and he’s not showing much as a leadoff hitter. (I know he keeps getting hit by pitches, and that’s led to a fluky spike in his OBP, but I’m not giving him credit for that.) Davis pinch-hit for him in the eighth when Chapman came into the game and promptly singled. Speaking of Davis, after Estrada, no one on the team is hitting better than he is. He really needs to be playing somewhere every day. He hits righties almost as well as lefties, so there’s no need to platoon him, either.
The Catcher Problem
So Roberto Pérez was injured throwing to second base in the sixth inning, leading to a game delay when Sabol had to come in from left field and gear up to catch. It’s reportedly a shoulder strain, and Pérez missed time with the same problem in 2020 and 2021. This is not good, folks.
In the short run, it appears that Austin Wynns will join the team today from AAA Sacramento. They don’t have much choice.
Per source, #SFGiants catcher Austin Wynns is traveling to join the team from Triple-A tomorrow. He will presumably be replacing Roberto Pérez if he lands on the IL. Wynns was outrighted off the 40-man during the offseason so another corresponding move will have to be made.
— Marc Delucchi (@maddelucchi) April 8, 2023
So here’s the conundrum. The Giants don’t have a 40-man spot available, and neither Wynns nor newly signed catcher Gary Sanchez is on the 40-man roster. Sanchez hasn’t even joined the River Cats yet, so he’s not ready to come up to the Giants today. Joey Bart is not eligible to come off the IL until Monday. So the Giants will have to find a spot for Wynns, at minimum until Bart can return–though they probably want Bart to go to AAA for at least a bit.
If/when they decide Sanchez is ready, they will likely have to DFA Wynns (again) to put Sanchez on the 40. But since they’ve DFA’d Wynns before, they risk losing him on waivers if they take him off the 40 again. Now, I saw Wynns catch in the River Cats’ opener on Tuesday, and he looked flat-out dreadful behind the plate, so it might be no great loss if they have to DFA him again. But the way things are going with catchers this season, you hate to burn a guy who already knows your pitching staff. So this Pérez injury is particularly ill-timed. If it had happened a couple days later, they could have activated Bart and bided their time with Sanchez. Now they’ll have to make at least one 40-man move they didn’t want to make (to get Wynns on the roster) and maybe two (to get Sanchez on the roster).
Adding to the intrigue is the way everyone is talking up 2020 first-rounder Patrick Bailey, who has yet to play a game in AA. (Richmond’s opener was rained out yesterday.) Kapler, farm director Kyle Haines, beat writers–everyone seems to think that there’s a good chance Bailey could be on the major league roster and maybe the #1 catcher before this season ends. But in the meantime, here we are with Sabol and Wynns and…yikes.
The Giants players all entered the stadium on an orange carpet from left field as they were introduced one by one. Even the injured guys got to be introduced, and at the time, I said that Bart’s expression was “I’m still here. Don’t forget about me.” Same with Austin Slater, by the way.
Ruf is on the Move!
Last year’s home opener ended with a thrilling tenth-inning walk-off hit by Slater, which brought Darin Ruf all the way around from first, with Duane Kuiper’s memorable “Ruf is on the move! Ruf is on the move!” call. Well, guess what: Ruf is on the move…back to the Giants.
Darin Ruf is re-signing with the @SFGiants on a minor-league deal, sources tell @TheAthleticMLB
He spent 2020-22 with the Giants, then got traded to the Mets, who released him before Opening Day.
Best OPS, Giants RH hitters 2020-22
Austin Slater .781
Evan Longoria .778
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 8, 2023
We’ll see if this turns into anything, but with the Giants lacking in right-handed hitting depth due to the lingering injuries to Slater and Mitch Haniger, they sure could use some vintage 2021 lefty-mashing Darin Ruf. The hilarious thing is that the Mets traded FOUR players, including Davis, to get Ruf last July, and now the Giants have all of those guys AND Ruf. And if they end up adding Ruf to the major league roster, they’ll only have to pay him the pro-rated major league minimum…while the Mets pay Ruf the salary that the GIANTS signed him to before the 2022 season. LOL, Mets.
Royals at Giants, 1:05 p.m. at Willie Mays Field
Brady Singer vs. Sean Manaea
Manaea will be making his first start in a Giants uniform. It’s an “even” game, so the Giants will hit a cajillion homers today. Should be fun for those attending!
At least in 2017, the Giants won the game and I got a souvenir T-shirt. I didn’t even get that this year. I went to a souvenir stand in the third inning and was told that all Opening Day merchandise was sold out throughout the entire park. My guess is that, anticipating a lack of enthusiasm for the team and this opening series, the Giants had less merch available. So I’ll have to rely on photos and my Facebook memories post to prove that I kept my streak alive. Sighhhhhh. Lefty out.
Announcement: There will be no Out of Left Field next weekend. I’m traveling to Spain starting Monday and will be speaking at an academic conference (near Barcelona) next Saturday!