There was a line of Giants running the bases before Friday’s game — Tommy La Stella, followed by Darin Ruf, followed by Alex Dickerson — and in reverse order, they are racing their way toward returns and tough decisions for the Giants.
The depth of the team has been integral, and players will be squeezed off the 26-man roster and perhaps 40-man roster. Good problems to have, as the saying goes, but a problem nonetheless.
Dickerson (upper back strain/tightness) is expected to be back first and could be activated as soon as Saturday. Gabe Kapler said they are waiting until after Friday night’s game against the Phillies at Oracle Park to make a final decision and said it’s “possible” they get him some minor league or sim at-bats first, though that doesn’t seem likely.
A rehab assignment or sim game is a bit more of an option for Ruf (hamstring strain). The left fielder/first baseman/bench bat put on a show during batting practice but said recently he is still not fully comfortable after the grade-two strain. Returning next week may be the next goal.
La Stella (hamstring strain) cannot return until July 2 at the earliest because he is on the 60-day injured list, but he is running and is “very close to being able to go out also and ramp up slowly on a rehab assignment,” Kapler said over Zoom.
Dickerson will require a 26-man roster spot, and the lefty-hitting outfielders who could be optioned — Steven Duggar and LaMonte Wade Jr. — have made solid cases they belong in the majors. Wade often has been their leadoff hitter, typifies a lot of what they like in plate approaches and holds a solid .793 OPS. Duggar, meanwhile has hit everywhere outside of Washington and carries a .979 OPS.
They could option Austin Slater for a first time this year, though Slater is a rare righty in the group; if he gets sent down, it would make more sense when Ruf returns. Still, for a player who had a breakout 2020, it would be a difficult decision to demote Slater. Mauricio Dubon also could be in the conversation, though the Giants would be woefully thin at shortstop. Jason Vosler could be optioned, though he is 5-for-10 in his past five games and consistently making good contact.
Would they give up on the Mike Tauchman experiment? The trade acquisition from the Yankees essentially has won two games by himself with his glove and another with a grand slam in Texas, and yet he has not consistently hit. His batting average with the Giants is down to .175 with three homers in 147 plate appearances. He works pitchers as well as any hitter in the league, but Duggar has leap-frogged him in the competition to play alongside Mike Yastrzemski.
Tauchman, who cannot be optioned, has been seen on the field early the past few days normally working with hitting coach Justin Viele.
“His hands are moving a little bit further away from his body and not quite as far back, as a small adjustment,” Kapler said of the 30-year-old. “We’re considering — kind of asking for — some adjustments because I think he knows there’s a better brand of performance in there. We saw that in ’19 with the Yankees. We know that he’s capable of driving the baseball and continuing the very disciplined approach at the plate.
“We very much believe in Mike Tauchman.”
The Giants will have yet another decision to make early next week, when righty reliever John Brebbia is expected to join the team. After pitching back to back Monday and Tuesday for Triple-A Sacramento, he is set to pitch for the River Cats again Saturday, which might be his final tune-up.
Aaron Sanchez left his River Cats rehab start early Thursday with a blister on his right middle finger, said Kapler, who attributed his poor command and performance to that blister.
The manager had not yet talked to the rehabbing starter about the next step.
Also leaving a minor league start Thursday was righty prospect Sean Hjelle, who exited a Double-A Richmond start with a lower back strain, Kapler said.
Tyler Beede, whose rehab assignment was extended for another 10 days, is set to pitch again for Triple-A on Monday.