SCOTTSDALE — Gabe Kapler said there will be ongoing conversations with Evan Longoria, as well as all the regulars, about the best playing-time breakdowns that will ensure the team and player maximize production.
“I don’t think Evan has any interest in playing 162,” Kapler said over Zoom on Tuesday.
The conversations are important because Longoria, naturally, enters camp with the mindset that he wants to play every game. He knows that is not going to happen; knows there are now better ways for him to be used; knows the team is doing what it can to construct lineups that will help it win games.
Still, Longoria, who played at least 160 games in each season from 2013-16 with the Rays, only knows one way to be programmed.
“I’ve said this from the beginning of my career: My goal is to be on the field for every inning,” Longoria said on Day Two of full-squad Giants workouts.
Longoria played 53 of a possible 60 games last season, and the missed time was because of an oblique injury that hampered him throughout the season. The Giants didn’t have another option at third, with Wilmer Flores and Pablo Sandoval experiments never working out at the hot corner. They do now.
Tommy La Stella is an ideal platoon partner, a lefty hitter who mashes righties and grinds pitchers down. Longoria has always hit lefties better than righties, but the splits were particularly dramatic last season, when he posted a .671 OPS against righties and .859 against lefties.
While La Stella will move all around the infield — his lefty bat will help at second and perhaps first, too — his .903 OPS against righties last season makes him look like an awfully tempting third-base play against tough righties.
“If I come into the camp or go into the year expecting to have days off, it’s kind of a disservice to myself and to my teammates,” said the 35-year-old Longoria. “With that being said, when we can get strategic off days or get me off my feet, I do think there’s some benefit to that.”
This is the first time he does not enter camp as the undisputed, everyday third baseman since he’s been in the majors during an exemplary 13-year career. The Giants did not give him a heads-up that they’d bring in La Stella — “I don’t have that much input,” he said with a laugh — but the dynamic will be worth watching.
He gets it and sees the appeal of La Stella’s bat.
“Wherever we can put him on the diamond makes the team better,” Longoria said. “The goal is to win any way we can and by trying to put the best lineup out there that we can.”
It will be a delicate balance for Kapler, who sat Brandon Crawford against lefties at the beginning of last season, a move Crawford wasn’t happy with — and a move he erased by hitting lefties better. Crawford did not (and does not) have a player as established as La Stella threatening his playing time, though. The Giants made La Stella, with a three-year pact, the longest commitment of Farhan Zaidi’s regime.
Longoria, a happy Bucs fan, turned to football to explain how he views (and doesn’t view) the signing.
“It’s not really replacing an old quarterback or something when they draft a young quarterback in the first round,” he said from Scottsdale Stadium. “It’s not really the same comparison. It’s a bigger-picture type thing, where you’re trying to fill some spots and trying to put guys in the lineup who can help us succeed. I’m open to whatever it takes to help us win.”