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Giants’ backup-catcher battle appears to have two front-runners

Tyler Heineman. Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In the wake of Aramis Garcia’s hip surgery that could keep him out for the season, it appears the Giants’ backup-catcher battle has two main fighters.

“I think we have two good options in [Tyler] Heineman and [Rob] Brantley,” Gabe Kapler said as pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Tuesday. “Those are two guys who can compete.”

Both could serve as platoon possibilities, as Heineman, who debuted in Miami at the tail end of last season, is a rare switch-hitter and Brantly, who came from Kapler’s Phillies, is a lefty. The Giants would like a complement to Buster Posey’s righty bat in a role that Stephen Vogt excelled in.

Their first option is gone, Garcia incurring the injury in winter league and having surgery last week with an 8-10 month timetable for a return.

In his place are options who have little resume but plenty of peripherals the Giants like. Heineman, 28, has bounced around, now with his fifth organization, always a high on-base guy with a solid defensive reputation, but not hitting enough at high levels of the minors to burst his way in.

Kapler knows Brantly, who spent last season in Philadelphia’s system though he played a single game in the majors.

“The first thing I like about him is he’s an excellent teammate. He puts other people before him, and I think that’s a valuable trait in a backup catcher,” Kapler said of the 30-year-old who has 126 games of major league experience. “He’s an intelligent game planner and game caller. He had a nice year from the left side of the plate in Triple-A last year, controlled the strike zone well and produced a little power.”

Handicapping those two as the favorites makes Chad Tromp a wild card. Tromp, 25 next month and a righty, spent much of last season struggling through injury in Cincinnati’s system.

Speaking of catchers, Joey Bart’s locker is near Buster Posey’s.

“That’s by design,” Kapler said.

Bart, who sustained a hand fracture in the Arizona Fall League, said his hand is 100 percent.

Kapler praised the way Hunter Pence swung against lefties and said they will have to “find ways to keep Hunter fresh and healthy,” suggesting they view him as a strict platoon player.

“We see Hunter as an influencer in the clubhouse,” Kapler said. “We see him as a high-energy contributor in the dugout. And we see him as a good all-around baseball player and a guy that can really impact the ball against left-handed pitching.”

Kapler on the proposed new playoff format for 2022, which would include raising the entrants from five to seven in each league and allowing some higher seeds to choose their opponent: “It’s an exciting concept. Any time these concepts are introduced at the early stages, it kind of seems like they go through iterations. … But anything that makes the game more exciting for fans, gives more teams opportunity to get to the postseason, I think is good for baseball.”


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