ORACLE PARK — As yet another veteran departed the San Francisco Giants to make way for a younger rookie, Bruce Bochy maintained that the club is not waving the white flag on the playoff race.
Amid a flurry of roster moves on Tuesday, the Giants released second baseman Scooter Gennett and, in his place, called up hot-hitting middle infielder Mauricio Dubon — acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers on July 31 in exchange for Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black.
The Giants manager clarified that these transactions had little bearing on the team’s pursuit of the second National League wild card spot, instead pointing to the play of Dubon as the primary reason for the move.
“I think you look at how this kid’s been playing,” Bochy said. “We just felt like it was time to bring this kid up and make a change there and that’s pretty much it.”
In 21 games with San Francisco, Gennett struggled to recapture his 2018 All-Star form – an .847 OPS with 23 home runs and 92 RBIs with the Cincinnati Reds – batting .234 with a .644 OPS as he traded time at second with Donovan Solano. Giving Gennett his unconditional release allows him to hook on with another team before Sept. 1, the deadline for a player to be in an organization in order to be playoff eligible.
Meanwhile, Solano has flourished as a platoon player, registering career highs in batting average (.341) and OPS (.847) while giving the Giants positional versatility – 27 games at second, 19 at shortstop and two at third.
In the minors, Dubon essentially forced the Giants to promote him with standout play at Triple-A Sacramento, slashing .323/.391/.485 in 25 games for the River Cats.
The 25-year-old Dubon, a longtime Giants fan, profiles as a middle infielder with a plus bat, capable of playing both second and shortstop.
“We’ll use him off the bench today but we’ll mix it up,” Bochy said before Tuesday’s game. “Donovan’s been doing a great job and Craw [Brandon Crawford] needs some days. He’s going to see work at both places.”
Besides his solid bat and versatility, Bochy also lauded Dubon’s feel for the game.
“He has really really good instincts,” Bochy said. “He’s really a smart player, has good instincts for the game, really good game awareness.”
Though Dubon’s promotion will mark the first time he has seen regular at-bats at the major-league level – he recorded just two at-bats with Milwaukee — Bochy seemed confident that the rookie would bolster the Giants offense.
“We try to put our best club out there to be honest,” Bochy said. “At this point, we’ve got to go with the hot bats.”
While the Giants hope Dubon will be a boon for their 24th-ranked offense, the team is set to receive a boost to its pitching staff in short order, as Johnny Cueto will make his final rehab start – as long as there are no complications – for Sacramento on Saturday.
In 15 1/3 innings of rehab thus far, Cueto has pitched to a 4.70 ERA across the Arizona Rookie League, High-A and Triple-A, with all his earned runs coming in three starts in the latter two divisions.
A healthy Cueto could go a long way to vaulting the Giants back into the playoff picture, giving San Francisco dependable starters on three out of five days, in addition to Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samrdzija.
With the rotation set to improve, the Giants bullpen took a hit, as Trevor Gott moved to the 10-day injured list with a mild elbow strain, coupled with a Grade 1 UCL sprain in his right arm. Bochy said that the team plans to shut him down from throwing for two weeks, but that he expects to see Gott pitch again before season’s end.
The Giants also recalled outfielder Joey Rickard to supplement their bench with right-handed-hitting depth, and promoted right-handed pitcher Tyler Rogers, the twin brother of Minnesota Twins reliever Taylor Rogers.
Rickard hit .231 in six games with San Francisco earlier this month with three walks, a home run and three runs scored. At Triple-A Sacramento, he’s hit .372 in 46 games with a .587 slugging percentage.