After a litany of moves Friday, the Giants made another flurry of roster changes Saturday.
Ahead of Saturday’s matchup with the Phillies, manager Bruce Bochy expressed consternation at the loss of Brandon Belt to appendicitis, noting that with the return of Joe Panik (left thumb) the team had its full squad on the field for the first time in five weeks. That lasted all of two innings before Belt was rushed to the hospital.
In the wake of Belt’s emergency appendectomy early Saturday morning, the team reinstated infielder Alen Hanson from the disabled list. Hanson is expected to fill in at shortstop as needed.
San Francisco also welcomed Hunter Pence home Saturday, reinstating him from the 10-day disabled list, where he had been since suffering a sprained right thumb on April 3. Pence was scuffling in the 17 games he appeared in before being shelved, batting .172 in 58 at-bats with just one extra-base hit
He played in 25 games with Triple-A Sacramento, with an eye toward rehabilitating both his thumb and his swing. Time with the River Cats seems to have done him well. With his re-worked swing he was batting .301 with 13 RBI, though it remains to be seen whether he can translate his success against Pacific Coast League pitching to the Bigs.
He’s known to be a uniquely high energy player, something akin to an exploded coffeemaker on fire, and when asked how he planned to funnel those big vibes into a role that may often place him on the bench for 9-2/3 innings per game, he was confident:
“You just do. You bring the energy in the dugout. There’s lots of ways: try to be on top of as many things as I can notice, try to look for things that you can pick up on pitchers and whatever the case may be. There’s a lot of places that your focus needs to be, so I’m gonna put that hat on and come with it and find that rhythm of getting ready for a pinch-hit at-bat. For now this is my role and I‘m gonna charge in with everything I got.”
Bochy is also confident that Pence can adjust to his new role as a backup outfielder and bench player:
“He’s special, he really is. [With] his outlook on life, the way he just carries himself— he’s such a positive guy. He says, ‘I’m gonna be the best at whatever I can do to help this ball club—whether it’s to come off the bench, a double-switch or an occasional start—I’m gonna be the best I can be.’ That’s been [the way he’s been] since I’ve known him. Granted he’s played everyday [in the past] and he hasn’t been in this situation, but any kind of adversity he looks at as a challenge, not a setback, and that’s what makes him who he is.”
With Pence’s return, it was untenable for the Giants to maintain six outfielders and they had to make a tough decision. The team ultimately opted to designate Grégor Blanco for assignment. The longtime Giant went unclaimed through waivers and will be outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento Sunday and will report to the River Cats Tuesday.
“Gregor was going through a little rut and we got into a situation where we had to make room, so it had to be somebody. Six outfielders was not gonna work. [But] just like we talked about Hunter a second ago, Blanco’s the same way. They’re just pros and they’ll do anything to help the club or organization. That’s why we wanted Gregor back here [coming out of Spring Training] and he’ll always have a special place here.”
The skipper hopes that Blanco can work on finding his timing in the minor leagues in the same way Pence was able to.
Trainer Dave Groeschner reported that Belt was doing well and resting at home Saturday. Former Giant Andres Torres, who also suffered appendicitis and underwent an appendectomy in September of 2012, happened to be at AT&T Park Saturday. In his case he was rushed back in just over 10 days as the post-season loomed, but the Giants plan to give Belt as much time as he needs to get back to 100 percent.
In the meantime Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey will plug the hole at first. Sandoval will get the lion’s share of starts as he will be slated to go against righties while Posey will play against lefties, with Nick Hundley taking over in the squat.
Bochy announced that Posey was out of the lineup Saturday (though available off the bench) and was day-to-day with an elbow contusion after being plunked by Phils starter Nick Pivetta in the fourth inning of the series opener Friday.