Giants

Bruce Bochy has a plan to execute Giants' imperfect platoon scenarios

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USATSI

Bruce Bochy has a plan to execute Giants' imperfect platoon scenarios

SAN FRANCISCO — On the surface, it was a perfect fit. 

Farhan Zaidi has been open about the fact that he might try to find a platoon partner for Steven Duggar this year, so when he signed Cameron Maybin to a minor league deal a few days into spring training, it seemed like that duo was set. Duggar hits left-handed. Maybin hits right-handed. They could form a defense-first duo up the middle.

But Maybin isn’t actually all that seamless a fit if that’s what the Giants are really planning. His OPS is 42 points higher when he faces right-handed pitching, and last year he had a .252/.321/.325 slash line against lefties. Duggar has extremely small samples, but he slashed .333/.370/.476 against lefties, far outpacing his stats against righties. 

The numbers say maybe it won't work as planned, but as the Giants try to form a competent outfield, they’re going to see if Maybin can balance out Duggar and Gerardo Parra, who also hits left-handed. Manager Bruce Bochy said Maybin would see plenty of time against left-handed pitching this spring.

“I know sometimes these splits don’t match up, but sometimes when you start playing a guy a little bit more against lefties or righties, they get more comfortable,” he said. “When you’re facing lefties, you just don’t see them that much, so I’m going to try to give Maybin as many at-bats as I can off lefties here this spring. 

“Now, nothing has been said about ‘we’re platooning,’ but if a guy’s numbers aren’t that good against a pitcher righty or lefty, I try to push at-bats that way so he can get more comfortable.”

Maybin, who overhauled his swing in the offseason by making trips to see a specialist in Los Angeles, said he’s not worried about what the splits say. 

“You get in the box, you look for something you can handle, something you can do damage on,” he said. “That’s kind of been my approach. With some offseason work, I hope that I can just continue to get better against righties and lefties.”

The same holds true for Joe Panik, who like Duggar is a returning starter who has found his name connected to a potential platoon. 

For most of his career, Panik has fared pretty well against same-side pitching, but his numbers dropped off a cliff in 2018. In 120 plate appearances against lefties, Panik hit .191 with a .489 OPS. Yangervis Solarte is a more balanced switch-hitter than Alen Hanson, but his OPS is about 50 points higher against righties than against lefties. 

At the moment, the Giants have some imperfect solutions as they look to platoon more. They’ll spend the spring getting veterans extra work against certain pitchers, and perhaps a young player like Drew Ferguson — a right-handed hitter — will break into the mix. 

[RELATED: Bochy ready to embrace platoons]

Then again, there’s always the solution that Duggar, Panik, and others in similar spots would prefer: Hitting well enough that you play against both sides. Both have shown they have the skills to do it. 

“I have to be the player I know how to be,” Panik said. “But at the same time, as a teammate, you have to be open to whatever they say. They’re going to know that I don’t hit so-and-so well, and you have to be unselfish. You have to grow up and mature and understand it is about one goal. I know that if I’m doing what I’m capable of doing, I can hit anybody. But again, it’s going to be about winning.”

Giants' Austin Slater embracing versatile role for Giants this season

Giants' Austin Slater embracing versatile role for Giants this season

When asked what position he'll play this season, Giants utility man Austin Slater went outside the box. Well, actually, he stayed right in the box

"Right-handed batter's box," Slater jokingly said Friday to KNBR's Mark Willard.

Slater, 27, fits the bill of what the Giants are looking for right now. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, along with manager Gabe Kapler, have preached positional versatility. And Slater might be San Francisco's very own Swiss Army knife.

Last season alone, Slater played four positions for the Giants -- right field, left field, first base and second base -- and that was over just 68 games. He also played 11 games at third base and three in center field for the Sacramento River Cats in Triple-A.

"I feel good all over the diamond, all over the outfield," Slater said. "Wherever they put me, I'm OK with it."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Aside from catcher, the only position Slater for sure won't be playing is the same one he actually was drafted at by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school. Slater was a star prep shortstop in Florida before missing his senior season due to a freak accident, and went to Stanford originally as a shortstop as well. 

He primarily has played the outfield while wearing an infielder's glove recently more often. But Slater still is waiting to play his childhood position in the big leagues.

"I'll jab at Ron Wotus every once in a while and ask him when I'm going to play short," Slater said. "But he'll tell me the same thing every time. 'Get off the drugs, sober up.' But it's fun and I enjoy working at each position." 

[RELATED: Why Giants' not-too-distant future could be extremely bright]

Slater hit a career-high five homers and nine doubles last season. He also had a .275 batting average off lefties with an .838 OPS. That should help him find playing time in the shortened 60-game season. 

More than anything, though, Slater's versatility could be his golden ticket. There will be plenty of competition for the Opening Day roster and beyond, but Slater gives Kapler a lot of options.

Funny Madison Bumgarner pitching routine shows some things never change

Funny Madison Bumgarner pitching routine shows some things never change

Some things never change. 

While Madison Bumgarner no longer is with the Giants, his time with the Arizona Diamondbacks is proving the switch of a uniform doesn’t mean the shift of a personality.

Prior to a recent simulated game, MadBum made sure his outing was all his:

He’s previously discussed some of the things he does, like participating in a rodeo under an alias Mason Saunders, that his hobbies are what they are, and he doesn’t “do anything just for fun, per se.”

So the music being shut off is a sentiment to that.

Perhaps this means he will thrive during the season as fans will not be in the stands due to the MLB safety protocol. However, some teams admitted they will utilize fan noise to be played out of the speakers with cardboard cutouts in the stands.

[RELATED: Madison Bumgarner gives funny response about facing MadBum]

Not sure that will be something he would be able to control, but he’s used to playing in front of crowds. Whether he’s listening to Max Muncy yell at him to fish a home run ball out of the ocean, or you know, throwing in a World Series, the noise never appears to distract him.

It’s nice to know he can control that -- at least for now.