The Giants’ infield gained Evan Longoria on Thursday just as they lost Brandon Belt to the DL. In Sacramento, the big league club’s infield got even closer to full strength with who was playing second base down in Triple-A.
For the first time since July 6, Joe Panik was back on the field to begin his rehab assignment from a groin injury. Panik started at second base for the Sacramento River Cats and batted second in the lineup, one spot ahead of familiar face Mac Williamson.
In his first at-bat back, Panik shed off any rust he might have had. After working the count to three balls and two strikes with three foul balls, Panik finished an eight-pitch at-bat with a fly ball single to right field. One batter later, Williamson followed with a towering 457-foot home run to straightaway center field.
Williamson is doing everything he can to make it back to San Francisco in what is now a crowded outfield. In his last 10 games, Williamson is batting .325 (13-for-40) and now has three home runs in his last seven games. How to get him back on the 25-man roster will be a puzzle in itself, but there’s no denying the power when healthy.
Overall, Panik played five innings before being replaced by Miguel Gomez at second base in the sixth inning. He finished the night 1-for-3 with his single and two fly outs, one to center field and one to left field.
Before Panik went on the DL, he struggled at the plate for June and the six games he’s played in July. Between the two months, Panik hit just .218 (24-for-110). The lefty isn’t striking out — taking a seat just seven times with no strikeouts in July — instead he simply hasn’t found any holes this season.
Last year, Panik had a BABIP of .301, meaning his batting average of balls in play was .301. This season, that number is down .238 which is the lowest in his major league career. Panik is not finding hits when he puts the ball in play despite his hard-contact rate of 30 percent tying his career high.
Anderson takes the loss
Shaun Anderson, making his second Triple-A start, saw firsthand how tough the Pacific Coast League can be for pitchers. And Raley Field isn’t nearly close to one of the worst pitchers parks in the league.
The Omaha Storm Chasers totaled 14 hits on the night, eight coming off Anderson. When it was all said and done, he left the game allowing nine runs, but only six earned as the River Cats made three errors including one by Anderson himself in the first inning.
On a positive note here, despite giving up a season high in runs and allowing the second-most hits in a start this year, the 23-year-old Anderson still got through six innings and has not gone under five innings in any of his starts this season.