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Giants shuffle Opening Day lineup after Longoria, Wade injuries

The San Francisco Giants are a week away from the regular season, and top position players Evan Longoria and LaMonte Wade Jr. are slated to start the year on the injured list. 

Longoria underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a ligament in his right index finger, an injury he’s been consistently dealing with since the final month of the 2021 regular season. 

Longoria’s operation – conducted in Los Angeles by Dr. Steven Shin – will sideline him for at least a week without any baseball activity. The expectation is that the finger will be immobilized for ten days, destroying any chances he’ll be in the lineup against the Marlins in the season debut at Oracle Park on April 8. 

The 36-year-old will, for the fifth straight season, begin with a stint on the injured list. In a lineup lacking power from the right side, Longoria’s absence presents a gaping hole at third base, and against left-handed pitching. In 2021, he enjoyed a 1.008 OPS and crushed six of his 13 homers against southpaws in limited at-bats against them. 

The injury presents an opportunity for a few Giants infielders to make the roster – one that will have two extra spots for the first month of the season. Wilmer Flores could see innings there despite his poor defensive reputation. The club also faces decisions on Thairo Estrada and Mauricio Dubon, two infielders out of options and seemingly vying for the same roster spot. 

Estrada, 26, is already considered a front-runner to receive playing time at second base after a strong stint in 2021. As San Francisco works to deepen their lineup against facing left-handed pitchers, Estrada’s case is intriguing, only because of his reverse splits. In a similar sample size, he found more success against righties despite being a right-handed hitter himself (.922 OPS vs RHP, .682 vs LHP).

The Giants lost faith in Dubon’s bat early in 2021, but improvement with Triple-A Sacramento and versatility could give him a solid shot to take advantage of the opening. Journeyman Jason Vosler would add a left-handed element to the fold, although he has options remaining, making him expendable. Non-roster invitee and Bay Area product Alex Blandino is 6-for-13 in spring training and is quickly climbing his way on the Giants’ radar. Newly acquired utilityman Luke Williams is another option to fill the void left by Longoria’s injury.

After leaving Monday’s Cactus League contest with discomfort, Wade Jr. underwent an MRI that showed inflammation and bone bruising in his left knee. After an examination by team physician Dr. Ken Akizuki, the 28-year-old outfielder will rest for ten days before a re-evaluation.

The Giants have a plethora of left-handed bats to fill in for Wade Jr., who was expected to start in left field on Opening Day. Instead, the Giants will likely roll out an outfield that consists of newly acquired Joc Pederson in left, Steven Duggar in center and Mike Yastrzemski in right. 

Duggar – who is out of options – wasn’t a lock to crack the Opening Day roster despite his solid 2021. In 107 games, the 28-year-old hit .257 with 8 home runs and 35 runs driven in. Unlike anyone else on the roster, Duggar is considered the only true center fielder on the club, playing the premier position with great defensive ability and speed. 

Longoria and Wade Jr. will likely need time to ramp up their baseball activity before returning to the team.

Notes

  • Logan Webb will be the Opening Day starter for the Giants on the mound, according to manager Gabe Kapler. Webb is coming off a breakout season in 2021 which included a pair of outstanding postseason outings in the NLDS. In his final 22 starts, the right-hander went 11-0 and finished the season with a 3.03 earned run average. 
  • Outfielder Heliot Ramos and right-hander Sean Hjelle, two top-ranked prospects for the Giants organization, were optioned to the minor leagues on Monday. Both are close to the big leagues and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see them in San Francisco at some point this season. Ramos, 22, and Hjelle, 24, will likely head to AAA-Sacramento, where they finished the 2021 campaign.
  • The Giants and Cache Creek Casino Resort have announced they are teaming up in a multi-year partnership. The deal includes a limited-edition Giants table games chip and specially priced tickets for members and employees.
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