AT&T PARK — The San Francisco Giants have an outfield problem. It’s not a bad one to have, but it’s one that’s going to need to be reckoned with at some point, and that point is fast approaching.
With two underproductive bats in Hunter Pence and Austin Jackson, a slumping Mac Williamson, a red-hot Gorkys Hernandez and a resurgent Andrew McCutchen (.301 in the month of June), not to mention super-utility man Alen Hanson, San Francisco have a log jam, and two hot prospects who need room.
Without exposing Pence and Jackson to the waiver process, the Giants found room for at least one of their top young pieces by optioning Williamson to Triple-A and recalling No. 5 prospect Austin Slater on Saturday. Still, Slater won’t take over in left right away.
“Before his concussion, Mac was in a really good place, and now he’s having some struggles here, so we just felt it was time to let him go back down and get back to where he was,” Bochy said.
Slater will help off the bench, and get some playing time with the big club.
“I’ve got Pence and Jackson, so I’ve got to find ways to get them in the lineup,” Bochy said. “Hunter’s probably going to get the start tomorrow.”
Bochy made the back-of-the-baseball-card argument for Jackson and Pence still getting starts over Slater — who was hitting .344 in Triple-A and has a .281 average with the Giants in stints over the last two seasons.
Jackson is a career .274 hitter with a 22.7 career WAR, but just a 2.3 WAR after his first five years in Detroit. Pence, a .281 career hitter, is coming off the second-worst season of his career and after rehabbing a thumb injury and re-engineering his swing, he’s still hitting just .241 since returning to the Majors.
“These guys have had success in the Majors, and it could be a game or two, and something clicks,” Bochy said. “It just a difficult position because I have now really four guys who can play left field.”
Complicating matters is the fact that now, both Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik are healthy, leaving Hanson — who has a .338 batting average against right-handed pitchers — without a place to play, other than left field.
Oh, and if that’s not enough, Steven Duggar — the Giants’ No. 3 prospect — is hitting .288 in the month of June with one home run, two triples and six doubles.
“It’s hard enough when you’re trying to get one guy a shot to show what he can do,” said Bochy, who also said that at the moment, there are no plans to bring up Duggar.
While Williamson was sent back down to find the swing he had when he was first called up this season — getting more everyday at-bats — Bochy acknowledged that the best way to get a good long look at Slater would be to get him consistent at-bats.
“Could be, as we get in this,” he said. “That’s going to be up to us to get him as many at-bats as we can.”
Jeff Samardzija will throw 90 pitches on Tuesday at Albuquerque in his second rehab start. He threw 70 pitches over four innings in his last outing for Triple-A Sacramento.
Asked if the concussion is still impacting Williamson’s hitting — he’s batting .187 since returning — Bochy said the monthlong layoff did more damage than anything.
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I think it affected him in the fact that it disrupted his play, because he was in a very good place there, and then we had to shut him down for quite a while,” Bochy said. “It’d have been nice if he didn’t have to deal with that, kept playing and stay on the roll that he was on.”
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