For just the third time in his 12-year career, Brandon Crawford is hitting the injured list.
Crawford, who played one game since suffering a knee contusion while sliding awkwardly into home plate in Atlanta, will miss San Francisco’s next seven games. The team expects him to return July 5, when he’s eligible to come off the IL.
“I think he’s in a fine spot, but I think it’s going to be great for him to be in a better spot,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think this is an opportunity for a player who hasn’t really been healthy for the majority of the season to get healthy. And give him a break to let all of his tissues recover, his knee included. Sometimes a stretch of, like, seven days without having to grind through the rigors of a game can be really big for a player.”
The biggest inciting incident for Crawford’s IL stint was the knee bruise he suffered while crashing into Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud. He missed two games thereafter, then returned and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a throwing error. Crawford has also played through illness, quad and forearm issues this season.
Crawford’s toughness is a valuable skill, but playing through injuries through the years also may have contributed to the 35-year-old’s current status.
“I consider Craw to be an incredibly durable player,” Kapler said. “I consider Evan Longoria to be an incredibly durable player. In that they just play through a lot of banged up times. I think that’s why, in some cases, we’re here now. There were moments where he probably could’ve used 10 days to get things right in his body, and he was just able to push through those. I think it’s impressive.”
As a player ages, it becomes harder to play at a high level through nagging injuries. This season, Crawford is hitting .224 with a below average .663 OPS. The three-time All-Star has committed 10 errors, tied for most among all shortstops and more than he had in the entire 2021 season.
The decline comes one year removed from Crawford’s best season in his career. A revamped swing allowed him to club 24 home runs and place fourth in National League All-Star voting. The Giants are publicly confident that talent and production is still in there, and could reappear once the veteran is fully healthy.
“Probably be back and making contributions before you know it,” Kapler said. “Maybe a healthier version of Brandon, which we saw what that looks like last year, it’s pretty enticing to try to recapture that.”
To fill Crawford’s roster spot, the Giants recalled newly acquired Yermín Mercedes. He’ll be available off the bench Sunday.
“He’s just a raker,” Kapler said of Mercedes.
Mercedes broke into MLB in 2021 by starting his career 8-for-8 at the plate. He earned American League Rookie of the Month honors by slashing .415/.455/.659 with five doubles and five home runs in 22 games. But he fell off a cliff after April, eventually got demoted and contemplated quitting the sport.
That’s quite the experience for a rookie. Did he learn any lessons from going through all those ups and downs?
“Yeah, I just learned you need to be focused,” Mercedes said from the Giants’ clubhouse shortly after meeting his coaches for the first time. “No matter what’s going to happen, you need to be focused. That’s my mentality right now: be focused. I just want to come into the ballpark, I just want to make my team happy, I want to make my team win, do the best I can do with them. I just want to win.”
Kapler said Mercedes fits what the organization was looking for in this moment. He provides some positional flexibility at corner outfield and first base, and also has some experience catching. Mercedes likely won’t start many, if any, games behind the plate but could serve as an insurance policy if SF decides to pinch-hit for their catcher and needs an option to cover a couple innings.
Mercedes’ activation comes in somewhat of a strange position, as right-handed starter Tyler Mahle is on the mound for Cincinnati; Mercedes is a right-handed hitter. But LaMonte Wade Jr. is still rehabbing in Sacramento and the Giants want him to be fully confident in his knee and before bringing him back.
Until then, Mercedes will get the chance to try to recapture some of that April magic.
“I’m so excited to be a Giant,” Mercedes said. “They give me the opportunity right now to come here and keep doing what I do.”