Giants promote Austin Slater, demote Mac Williamsonadmin
SAN FRANCISCO–The Giants are closing in on the halfway point of the 2018 season and the club has yet to settle on an everyday left fielder.
The search will continue for the foreseeable future after the Giants announced Mac Williamson was demoted to Triple-A Sacramento and Austin Slater was promoted to the 25-man roster.
Williamson burst onto the scene at the end of April with three home runs in his first 19 at-bats, but he suffered a concussion after crashing into the wall along the left field foul line on April 24 that sidelined him for more than a month.
Williamson returned to the roster after a brief rehab assignment but never regained the form he demonstrated after his initial promotion. After a 3-for-32 stretch at the plate that included an 0-for-3 night Friday against San Diego, Williamson was sent back to Triple-A in favor of Slater.
“We just want to get Mac back playing every day and get his swing back to where it was when we brought him up earlier before his concussion,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Mac was in a really good place and he’s been having some struggles here so we just felt it’s time to let him go back down and get back to where he was.”
Slater proved he deserves an opportunity to start regularly in left field after crushing Triple-A pitching during the first half of the year, but it does not appear the Giants have plans to reward Slater with consistent starts. The 2014 eighth round draft choice hit .344 in 195 at-bats with the Sacramento River Cats and posted a .981 OPS, but Bochy said Slater will fill in as a part-time player.
“He’ll help off the bench and he’ll get some playing time too,” Bochy said. “I’ve got Pence and Jackson and I know I’ve got to find ways to get them in the lineup.”
The Giants have five outfielders on their 25-man roster, but neither Hunter Pence or Austin Jackson have forced their way into the lineup on a regular basis. Pence is hitting .195 in 87 at-bats this season while Jackson is hitting .241 with a .291 slugging percentage.
Despite their struggles, Bochy believes Pence and Jackson’s roles as reserve outfielders is a challenge for any player and he’s optimistic more opportunities will lead to improved results.
“You don’t ever forget the history of the player and the heart they have,” Bochy said. “I can tell you nobody is working harder than (Jackson) or Pence.”
Utility player and switch-hitter Alen Hanson will start in left field Saturday against Padres right-hander Jordan Lyles and if he continues to swing a hot bat from the left side of the plate, Hanson figures to receive an extensive look against righties in the coming weeks.
With left-hander Eric Lauer slated to start for the Padres Sunday, Bochy said he plans on using Pence in left field.
The Giants’ reluctance to insert Slater into the starting lineup is a gamble considering the club is 38-39 and sits five games back of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks entering play Saturday. Slater thrived in a starting role with Triple-A Sacramento and a left field-by-committee approach may not be sustainable for the Giants if both of their veteran reserves continue to struggle.
Slater traveled to San Francisco from Sacramento as part of the taxi squad Thursday, but returned to the River Cats lineup on Friday after the Giants decided not to activate him. Following a 2-for-4 performance, Slater received another call from the Giants and is happy to be back at AT&T Park.
“They told me going into the season that would be my role so it wasn’t really surprising,” Slater said. “It’s kind of to be expected. Obviously not that short of a turnaround but that’s part of it.”
Samardzija scheduled for additional rehab start
Right-hander Jeff Samardzija (shoulder tightness) will make his third rehab start Tuesday with Triple-A Sacramento against the Albuquerque Isotopes.
Samardzija threw 73 pitches in his last outing but only lasted four innings. Bochy said the Giants want Samardzija to pitch deeper into Tuesday’s contest to ensure he’s completely healthy and ready to rejoin the rotation.
Bochy expects Samardzija will throw around 90 pitches and if all goes well, Samardzija could start for the Giants on the club’s next road trip.
Posey sitting again
Giants catcher Buster Posey is out of the lineup Saturday against the Padres as Nick Hundley will catch for the second straight night.
Bochy said Posey, who played first base Friday, isn’t dealing with any major injuries and entered the series with Saturday circled on the calendar as a scheduled day off. Posey has only caught consecutive games once since playing behind the plate three days in a row from June 3-5.