Gabe Kapler had an open door policy this spring, posting updated depth charts on an office wall and encouraging players to come in and see where they stood. For as much as this coaching staff prepares, it's possible that the "first base" column players glanced at never quite stretched as far as Kapler had to on Wednesday.
Before the second game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Giants put Brandon Belt on the Injured List with a strained oblique, with Kapler installing Darin Ruf as his everyday starter for the time being. Ruf's reign came about in part because Wilmer Flores and Tommy La Stella also are on the IL, but it didn't last long.
Ruf suffered his own soft-tissue injury, a strained right hamstring that will send him to the MRI tube. His replacement was Jason Vosler, who simply picked up the baton, settled in at first base ... and hit a game-winning homer that capped one of the best comebacks of the Kapler era.
Vosler's homer came a few seconds after Austin Slater's two-run blast. Together, they gave the Giants a 5-4 win over the Diamondbacks, who have lost 10 straight. The 30th win for the Giants was one of their best, and perhaps it was the one that'll make Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris smile the widest.
Zaidi and Harris have tried to build the 40-man roster from both ends, and it's paying huge dividends. They targeted Vosler early in the offseason to give them another left-handed bat on the infield, only to later push La Stella ahead of him. Vosler waited his turn and he took advantage of his latest opportunity, hitting his first MLB homer in a huge spot.
"I would be lying if I really told you that I remembered all of it," Vosler said afterward, smiling. "I remember going up to the at-bat, I remember the approach through the at-bat, but once I hit the ball I don't remember much after that until I was out on the field the next inning."
Luckily for Vosler, there were 25 other Giants more than happy to fill in the blanks. The dugout exploded when the 27-year-old pulled the go-ahead shot into the Giants' bullpen, where Jake McGee caught it and tucked it away for the rookie to grab later along with the lineup card. Kapler said he was standing next to Evan Longoria when the ball left the yard. He couldn't remember the last time he saw Longoria so excited.
"I've seen him have game-winning home runs when he wasn't as excited as he was for Vosler right there," Kapler said. "That's how you know how people feel about one of their teammates."
The veterans are rooting the newcomers on because they know they'll need them. This is a team that might not have a single player exceed 145 games, and the MRI scans are piling up in trainer Dave Groeschner's office. But the Giants have hung near the top of the race because there always is a next man up.
The first run came from Steven Duggar, who has surged back into what once was a crowded outfield picture. Slater has lost time because of Duggar's reemergence, but he remains a dangerous bat off the bench, and he took Alex Young 460 feet to left to tie the game.
"Uhh, yeah, that one felt pretty good off the bat," he said. "You could say no-doubter."
Slater's ball and bat flip had hardly landed when Vosler gave the Giants the lead, and Tyler Rogers held it through a tense bottom of the ninth. The win clinched a two-game mini-sweep at Chase Field and sent the Giants to Dodger Stadium on a high note.
It will be a happy flight, but the mood will be a bit more serious in Kapler's row. He has a roster with plenty of depth, but losing Ruf ahead of a series where the Giants will face lefties Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw is a blow. The Giants did not have much info on Ruf after the game, but he said he'll get his hamstring scanned and hope for the best.
Kapler was hopeful, as well, but he also knows he has his work cut out for him. Flores is due back Saturday, and in the meantime, the Giants can get by with Vosler at first, and maybe some creative shuffling. Perhaps there's a Buster Posey cameo, or another call-up of LaMonte Wade Jr.
Kapler has fewer options than he did this spring, but he still has options, and he trusts them.
"I think we have a team that knows how to pick each other up," he said. "Ruf is a big loss for us and obviously with Belt having just gone on the IL, it makes it even more significant, so I don't want to discount that. At the same time, we have to turn the page and get ready to play tomorrow's baseball game with the roster that we have, and right now it's an exciting opportunity for Vosler and for others.
"So, that's what we'll be doing. We'll be getting those other players ready to perform and step in and do good work."