LOS ANGELES — Once June hit, so did Kevin Pillar.
The Giants outfielder has looked like a new player this month, and not just because he has shifted from center to right. In 15 games in June, the 30-year-old has raised his batting average from .214 to .229, slashing .281/.281/.491 while striking out just six times in 57 at-bats.
The walks and plate discipline are still not there, with zero walks. But he had two home runs, eight RBIs and six doubles in the span entering Wednesday’s matchup with the Dodgers.
“He’s really picked it up,” manager Bruce Bochy said at Dodger Stadium. “Especially against right-handers, which he’s seen more of. Churn out good at-bats, big hits.”
On June 11, the Giants signaled Tyler Austin would see more time against righties, which figured to trickle down into less time for Pillar. But Pillar’s hot play has kept him in the lineup, and while the Giants have said they still want to see Austin more against righties, it has not happened.
Pillar, who’s making $5.8 million this season and is arbitration-eligible for 2020, has said he’s not thrilled with not playing center and would embrace a trade to a contender. As a righty bat heating up and with a highlight-reel glove, he’s making that a more realistic option.
On June 11, the Giants gave him a rest. In six games since, he’s batting .375.
“He was the guy that really hadn’t had a break,” Bochy said of Pillar, whose .241 BABIP indicates he’s been unlucky this season. “We gave him a day off, he ended up playing late in the ballgame. Who knows, that might have helped him.”
Pablo Sandoval remained out of the lineup, but it sounded as if that won’t last much longer.
“He’s doing a lot better. Try to take some swings today,” Bochy said of Sandoval, who has a laceration to his right pinkie.
Shaun Anderson, after another first inning to forget Tuesday, signaled that he was open to tweaks and might “need to throw an inning first in the bullpen.” Bochy said a youngster adjusting to rough openings is not unique.
“With pitchers, maybe sit down for a few minutes, get back up and throw a few and just make sure you’re ready,” Bochy said. “… It’s a critical inning. I’ve always thought probably it’s the most critical inning.”