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Kapler explains why Giants optioned González back to minors

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SAN FRANCISCO -- A week ago, the Giants weren't just dealing with continued losing. They also had a bullpen that was absolutely gassed as the team boarded a flight back to San Diego.

A strong stretch by the rotation has allowed some key relievers to get rest, but you're never fully prepared for Coors Field. With three games in Denver this weekend -- and co-aces Carlos Rodón and Logan Webb not scheduled to pitch -- the Giants activated right-hander Zack Littell on Wednesday to get back to an eight-man bullpen. Unfortunately for rookie outfielder Luis González, that meant another trip to the minors. 

González was optioned to Triple-A after a slow start to August. Manager Gabe Kapler said he expects González back soon, although he cannot return until next weekend at the earliest. If González does not return this month, he's a good bet to rejoin the roster when it expands to 28 players on Sept. 1.

In explaining the move, Kapler put an emphasis on the bullpen. 

"It feels like we have a more robust group of pitchers that are ready, and adding one additional pitcher to the mix -- a proven, successful reliever in Zack Littell -- gives us an eight-man pen for the first time in a while. It just feels protective going forward and it felt like a good time to get Luis going," he said. "He did a great job for us. Obviously he still has things to work on, I shared that with him and he knows that. But he's also, at this point, a pretty good major league hitter, and we look forward to having him back as soon as possible.

 

"He's got some baserunning and some outfield work to do, but I feel like he can really swing the bat and has a chance to be a great all-around player for us."

González has been one of the best stories of the season for the Giants, but he had just one hit over his previous 30 at-bats. After posting a .282/.343/.414 slash line in the first half, he is at .192/.286/.274 in the second half.

González still has had plenty of lengthy at-bats, but he is down in the bottom four percent of the league in expected slugging percentage. Kapler said the staff has seen "a little defensiveness at the plate" from González and wants him to get back to trying to drive the ball more.  

"We're seeing a less aggressive approach to the opposite field," he said. "While he's hitting the ball to the opposite field, he's sort of slapping it over there rather than looking to drive the baseball over there. I think that has limited his ability to then get the ball in the air to the pull side consistently with power."

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The move leaves the Giants with just four bench players, but they're not worried about matchups as much at the moment. Kapler noted that all of his position players are healthy, and he's likely to run them out there more often during this stretch. After the series at Coors Field, the Giants have days off on Monday and Thursday. 

Gonzalez will spend that time in the minors, but Kapler said several times Wednesday that he expects him back soon. 

"At his best, he's a staple in our lineup," he said. 

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