Mac Williamson

Months after concussion, Mac Williamson once again being evaluated

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USATSI

Months after concussion, Mac Williamson once again being evaluated

SAN FRANCISCO — As the Giants try to sort out their roster for the rest of the season and decide if they want to take extended looks at minor leaguers, a powerful outfielder has been sidelined because of a lingering injury. 

Mac Williamson was put on the Triple-A disabled list on Saturday and will undergo additional testing to determine if he is again having issues related to a concussion he suffered in April. Williamson has not played since August 7. General manager Bobby Evans said the Giants are gathering info, and Williamson’s current issues are “possibly connected to his concussion earlier in the season. (He is) being evaluated.”

Williamson, 28, appeared on the verge of a breakout earlier this season. He overhauled his swing in the offseason and had a huge spring before posting a 1.626 OPS and hitting six homers in his first 11 minor league games. Williamson made an immediate impact upon his promotion, hitting three homers in his first five games, but he went down hard after tripping over the bullpen mound on April 24. 

Williamson missed 27 games and saw a specialist when the Giants visited Pittsburgh in May. He couldn’t recapture that early magic after returning, batting .187 in 23 games before getting sent back down. At times, Williamson appeared to be finding traction in Triple-A, but overall his numbers were down significantly. Williamson was 3-for-26 in August before getting shut down. It’s unclear when he might have started dealing with symptoms again. 

The Giants figured to take a look at several young players in September if they fail to make a dent in the standings over the next couple of weeks. At some point, they need to figure out what they have in Williamson and Chris Shaw, who has had strikeout issues in Triple-A but also has 22 homers this season. 

--- Brandon Belt joined Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday and will play five innings. He should be back by Tuesday. Hunter Strickland will pitch another inning on his rehab assignment tonight. He is expected to be activated when eligible August 18. 

Down on the Farm: Joe Panik starts rehab assignment, Mac Williamson hits moon shot

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AP

Down on the Farm: Joe Panik starts rehab assignment, Mac Williamson hits moon shot

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.

Not ready for major moves, Giants swap one young outfielder for another

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AP

Not ready for major moves, Giants swap one young outfielder for another

SAN FRANCISCO — Here’s all you need to know about the current situation in left field, an ongoing black hole for the Giants for years on end: Alen Hanson, a utility infielder, has gotten two of the last three starts there, and that could be the norm for a while. 

The Giants made an outfield move Saturday morning, but it was not one that will particularly shake things up. This was more about kicking a painful decision down the road. Mac Williamson, who was struggling since returning from a concussion, was optioned back to Triple-A. Austin Slater, who was hitting .344 at that level with 24 doubles and five homers, was recalled, but he will not get an everyday look. 

Manager Bruce Bochy said Hunter Pence likely will start in left on Sunday and indicated that Hanson will get additional time there as the Giants try to take advantage of one of their hottest bats. There are no indications that the team is ready to make a more serious move, such as parting ways with Pence — who has a .463 OPS — or Austin Jackson, who is at .603. 

“These guys have had success in the major leagues,” Bochy said. “It could be a game or two that everything clicks.”

Pence is a fan favorite who is in the last year of a lucrative deal, and Jackson is not even a quarter of the way through a two-year deal. Both were relegated to backup duty recently by Gorkys Hernandez and Williamson, but the latter had seen his OPS drop to .516 after hitting three homers before his concussion. 

“We just want Mac to get back to playing every day and get his swing back to where it was when we brought him up earlier before his concussion,” Bochy said. “

Williamson has a 1.525 OPS in two minor league stints this season. If he can recapture any of that magic, made possible by an offseason swing overhaul, perhaps the Giants will come to terms with the situation at the big league level. For now, they will continue to roll with veterans, hoping that they break out. Bochy said Pence and Jackson are working hard every day to contribute in limited roles. 

“I know how hard this game can be when you’re not playing every day,” he said. 

The problem is that that is the role. The Giants need their backup outfielders to produce as pinch-hitters, but Jackson is 2-for-15 off the bench and Pence is 1-for-10. Slater, with his simple swing and gap power, could be intriguing in that role, and perhaps he’ll stick. For now, he appears to be the only reinforcement coming. Bochy said there have been no discussions about promoting Steven Duggar.