Giants

Giants searching for right-handed hitters to balance lefty-heavy lineup

Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. --  A month into camp, it's pretty easy at this point to picture an Opening Day lineup. The only question marks coming in were in the outfield, and Steven Duggar, Mac Williamson and Gerardo Parra are currently headed for the starting spots.

That could change any moment with a trade or free agent addition, but at the moment, the Giants are trying to figure out how to fill out the roster around that group. Farhan Zaidi likes positional versatility, but he said recently that another issue is on his mind. 

"One thing that's an area of concern for us is making sure we're protecting the left-handed bats in our lineup," Zaidi said. "We have, in all likelihood, three left-handed infielders and one or maybe two left-handed outfielders, and you want to feel like you have right-handed bats coming off the bench that can either platoon or spell those guys, or come in against a tough lefty late in the game. 

"The handedness is as much of a challenge as making sure we're covered defensively."

In a division full of good left-handed starting pitchers, the Giants could have a regular lineup featuring five left-handed hitters. The bigger issue is trying to find a way to complement them with bench pieces. Pablo Sandoval, Yangervis Solarte and Alen Hanson are all switch-hitters who hit much better from the left side. Sandoval and Hanson both posted a .439 OPS from the right side last season.

It's hard to see what the immediate solution is. The Giants do not have a Kiké Hernandez type who mashes lefties and can pay anywhere. They do have Cameron Maybin in camp, although he has gotten off to a slow start and doesn't have a track record of success against lefties.

 

Zaidi likes Drew Ferguson, and an Austin Slater, Anthony Garcia or Henry Ramos could find a role balancing the outfield. 

The best way may be to rely on a different kind of in-house solution. Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Brandon Belt have all shown they can handle lefties for stretches in the past, and the Giants always could give Buster Posey more time at first, with Aramis Garcia catching. 

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Posey is still being slow-played, which showed over the past week as the Giants struggled against a series of lefty starters. 

"That's kind of showing up in some of these games, the need for right-handed bats," manager Bruce Bochy said. "You're hoping the Williamsons and Slaters and different guys at some point of the year -- even Maybin, who didn't have great numbers against lefties last year -- will step up for you."