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Gabe Kapler let another Giant make a season-opening speech



Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — Gabe Kapler’s big moment to address the Giants shortly before his Year One began did not last long.

Before batting practice against the Dodgers on Thursday, the manager told his 30 players he was proud of them in the visiting clubhouse.

They “did a really nice job of embracing a new way of practicing,” Kapler said from Dodger Stadium over Zoom. He applauded their “willingness to be creative and simulate game reps” through a three-week summer camp that had never been seen before.

And then he turned it over to someone with a bit more experience addressing the Giants.

Hunter Pence is “always good at inspiring people,” Kapler said, accurately. “Hunter has some of the most consistent, positive energy of anybody. He never wavers. We just thought it would be good for them to hear from one of their teammates, a guy who has been around Major League Baseball for a while, has seen it from a number of different angles, is coming off a great season, and somebody that the younger players on our team really look up to and respect.”

Asked if Pence had turned up the volume a bit, as he’s done in postseasons past, Kapler smiled. “The volume was just right for the room.”

And yes, Pence was wearing a mask.

The Giants wore “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts as they warmed up on the field. At least 12 Giants knelt during the national anthem for Tuesday’s exhibition game against the A’s.

Kapler declined to name a starter for Friday. Righty Ross Stripling is going for Los Angeles.

The Giants’ lineup against Clayton Kershaw would have included Austin Slater, Donovan Solano and Darin Ruf, Kapler said. Instead, Joe McCarthy was in right field, Mauricio Dubon at second, Pablo Sandoval at first and Alex Dickerson in left.

MLB officially expanded the playoffs to 16 teams, which is helpful for a lesser club like the Giants.

“I think anytime you add teams to a playoff it serves as an exciting component of the season,” Kapler said. “This change in particular, given all of the uncertainty that we’ve faced so far, I think [is] an element that makes the season feel a little different, a little fresher and little more exciting.”

Kapler on McCarthy, who he said had a “really nice camp,” despite some hard hits falling in gloves:

“McCarthy is definitely on the list of one of our better outfielders,” Kapler said of McCarthy, who had 2015 back surgery and again hurt it in 2019 spring training, then spent the season catching up. “He’s as healthy as he’s been in quite some time, he’s coming off some longer term-back struggles. But he’s healthy and he’s athletic and strong right now.”