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How Gabe Kapler views ‘mentally tough’ Donovan Solano after infielder’s arbitration loss



John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

It should be far better news for the Giants and everyone involved when Donovan Solano beats other teams than when he loses to his own.

Solano, coming off a terrific and surprising Silver Slugger 2020 season, lost in an arbitration hearing that was heard Thursday, in which his agency requested $3.9 million and the team countered with $3.25 million, which is what the 33-year-old will be paid.

His emergence is a curious one, as it has happened so late in his career with peripherals that suggest a regression could happen. He has been a godsend for the Giants the past two seasons, in which he has batted .328 in 135 games and will enter camp as a valuable second baseman.

But not as valued as his agency believes he should be. In his last year of being arbitration eligible — he will be a free agent after the season — the arbiters sided with the club, who hadn’t been to an arbitration case since 2003 with A.J. Pierzynski. The other eligible Giants this offseason either settled or were nontendered.

While arbitration hearings are not as vicious as they once were — the proliferation of stats makes it more numbers-based than anything — it still will be worth watching how Solano feels about his value to the team.

“He’s about as mentally tough as they come, about as mentally prepared as they come,” Gabe Kapler said Saturday of Solano, with whom the manager recently texted and appeared to be fine.

Solano is expected to report soon, with the first full-squad workout Monday. He will be a front-runner for the second-base job, but Wilmer Flores (also a righty hitter) is around, and lefty Tommy La Stella could take up some of his at-bats, though he will move around the infield.

“We’re going to have to cover 162 games, and to cover 162 games, we’re going to need everybody,” the manager said. “A lot of players are going to get a lot of at-bats. … I am betting heavily on Donovan to come in to camp feeling very confident and in a good space mentally.”

Catcher Curt Casali, brought in to be Buster Posey’s complement, had December surgery in Nashville on the hamate bone on his left hand and expects to be ready for Opening Day.

He’s taking swings — 30 to 40 on Saturday — and said “pretty soon” he can start catching. He said he has plenty of time to be eased in.

It’s a positive that he has plenty of experience with Giants pitchers, so many of whom came from Casali’s former team in Cincinnati. He won’t have to familiarize himself much with Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Matt Wisler and Wandy Peralta, but he still called it a “challenge” to get on the same page with the others.

“Fortunately this organization has a lot of technology at its disposal,” Casali said over Zoom. “I can recap each video of the bullpens of each guy per day, which is pretty fascinating. Get a bird’s-eye view of just basically what it’s like, what their pitches do.

“Obviously that doesn’t substitute for actually catching them, but I’m going to lean on Buster, I’m going to lean on the pitching staff, the coaches, Andrew Bailey and just try to play catch-up as quickly as I can.”