Giants

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."

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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.

Giants plan to add player names to back of home jerseys in 2021 season

Giants plan to add player names to back of home jerseys in 2021 season

The Giants can simultaneously be the most recognizable and the most anonymous team in the National League. 

If he wanted to, manager Gabe Kapler could send out a lineup that would have been normal way back in 2012: Brandon Belt at first, Brandon Crawford at short, Pablo Sandoval at third, and Hunter Pence in the outfield. Back in spring training, those four shared a clubhouse with Buster Posey, too. 

At the same time, the Giants often start groups that look more like the half of a split-squad that's headed out to Glendale for the late game of a spring training doubleheader. They used 64 players last year, a National League record, and a lot of them weren't even in town long enough for fans to learn their first name. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

In a nod to that latter issue, the organization will make a significant change to the home jerseys next season. Team president and CEO Larry Baer told the San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins that the organization decided earlier this summer to put player names on the backs of home jerseys.

"Part of it is the substantial roster turnover we've had, but it's also about the way people consume games now," Baer said. "You'd like to believe everybody's sitting down in front of the TV for three hours of Kruk & Kuip, but between social media, Twitter, highlights availability, a lot of people tune in for 20 minutes and then go do something else. The game's on the screen, but they aren't necessarily paying attention. If they're a casual fan, they don't want to have to figure out if that's Alex Dickerson or Mike Yastrzemski."

[RELATED: Battle of the Bay has extra meaning in shorter MLB season]

Teams are not allowed to change their jerseys during the season, so the new look won't go into effect until 2021. The current one is an homage to the team that arrived from San Francisco in 1958 and was a favorite of former owner Peter Magowan. 

It made more sense earlier this decade, but roster turnover has become a big part of the weekly routine at Oracle Park under new president Farhan Zaidi. There were a lot of misses, but that helped the Giants find Dickerson and Yastrzemski, two players who are key parts of this year's lineup and will have their long last names on their backs by this time next year. 

Giants vs. A's MLB live stream: How to watch Battle of the Bay online, on TV

Giants vs. A's MLB live stream: How to watch Battle of the Bay online, on TV

The Battle of the Bay is here.

The Giants (8-12) welcome their Bay Area rival A's (13-6) to Oracle Park for a three-game weekend series. The Giants are coming off a tough 10-game road trip where they went just 3-7, losing two out of three to the Houston Astros in their last series.

Oakland lost two of their last three to the Los Angeles Angels, but won nine straight before that. However, they will be without Ramón Laureano for the series, as the A's outfielder will start serving his suspension Friday night after it was reduced from six to four games upon appeal.

Here's how you can watch the Giants play the A's online (download the MyTeams app here!) and on TV:

Friday, Aug. 14

Giants broadcast

When: Giants Pregame Live at 6 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 6:45 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
Stream: MyTeams app

A's broadcast

When: A's Pregame Live at 6 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 6:45 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Saturday, Aug. 15

When: First pitch at 4:07 p.m. PT
TV: FOX
Stream: FuboTV - Get a free trial

Sunday, Aug. 16

Giants broadcast

When: Giants Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:05 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
Stream: MyTeams app

A's broadcast

When: A's Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:05 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]