San Francisco Giants left fielder Alex Dickerson (8) hits a solo homerun in the 3rd inning at Oracle Park on July 5, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to S.F. Examiner)

Giants outfield has a new look against Diamondbacks

San Francisco trying Abiatal Avelino in outfield for first time in big league career

ORACLE PARK — The San Francisco Giants outfield will look a bit different Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

While right fielder Mike Yastrzemski said the X-Rays on his left hand — after he got plunked in the seventh inning by Jake Diekman on Sunday — came back “fine,” but manager Bruce Bochy said he’s day-to-day. Austin Slater is playing in place of him, which isn’t entirely out of place.

Avelino — a shortstop by trade — has played just seven games in the outfield between the Dominican Winter League and Triple-A, but he’ll be playing left field in place of Alex Dickerson. While Dickerson is sitting mainly because the Giants are facing a left-hander in Alex Young, both Avelino and his recovery from a nagging oblique injury play a part.

“The last couple days, the swing started to feel like it was coming along again,” Dickerson said. “I haven’t felt great in the box but that’s to be expected. It did start feeling better in Oakland, and I hope it just continues here.”

Dickerson knew he’d be slow to come back at times because he hadn’t played baseball in two years. There’s a little extra maintenance that goes on now, after Tommy John and back surgery, but he figures he needs about two more batting practice sessions to get as right as one can get this late in the season. It’s likely he’ll start in left on Tuesday.

“This kind of an injury, it’s one of the tougher ones,” Dickerson said. “If you look at it across the league, there’s been a lot of oblique injuries this year, and a lot of guys coming off of it, very few have come out hot.

“There’s a little bit of a mental block there. There’s a little bit of just engaging in like your core muscles — I just realized I wasn’t using it and I was playing on it for a little over a couple weeks before it finally really gave out. You create a lot of bad habits in that time that you’ve got to correct when you come back, so that’s kind of what I’m dealing with right now.”

Dickerson hits right-handers at a .287 clip over his career, and a decent .253 against lefties. The biggest difference comes in the kind of damage he does: Against righties, he slugs .529, but against lefties, just .380.

“I generally am not walking on them, and I’m not hitting home runs against them,” Dickerson said. “In this era of really kind of cherishing OPS, it doesn’t look quite as good. I’ve always handled them alright, I just tend to take a much simpler approach and take what they give each other like sliders and fastballs away.”

Then, there’s the Avelino of it all. Since Aug. 14, Brandon Crawford has been hitting .333 with seven runs, a double, a triuple and a home run in 30 at-bats, meaning Avelino has limited to just five plate appearances.

“He’s been up for a while, and with Craw swinging well, we thought we’d let him have this left hander,” Bochy said. “He worked quite a bit last year out in the outfield, but this year hasn’t got time out there. But he’ll be fine. He’s good athlete. And he’s been wanting to go out there and play different positions. So this seems like the perfect day to put them out there to get some playing time.”

Avelino hadn’t gotten many reps in the outfield, even during batting practice, but he got a crash course on Monday, Bochy said. There was talk about bringing up Jaylinn Davis — who hit 10 homers in his first 18 games with the Triple-A River Cats — but that wasn’t considered at length.

“He’s excited,” Bochy said of Avelino. “And that’s the biggest part of it, is no hesitation. He wants to get out there. I don’t want him to ever feel bad if he doesn’t quite make the play. You know, we’re putting in place where he hasn’t had a lot of time. We’re comfortable doing it. I’ll see how he looks. First five or six innings, if it’s going well, he’ll he’ll finish the game.”

*****

Johnny Cueto is making his first rehab start for Triple-A Sacramento on Monday, and is slated to throw 65 pitches. Though it’s entirely possible the Giants re-evaluate his timetable coming off the outing — he already has a locker ready for him at Oracle Park — San Francisco intends to stick with the two-start plan, and get Cueto back in September.

“The bullpen he threw in here a couple days ago that I saw, it was impressive,” Bochy said. “… I don’t want to send the message to him that we’re trying to rush him or anything.”

Bochy said that Cueto is essentially still in spring training, and needs to condition both his body and his arm, as well as work on the finer details like fielding his position and handling a bat.

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