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Brandon Crawford back for defensively challenged Giants

© Dale Zanine | 2022 Jun 21

As expected, shortstop Brandon Crawford is back for the Giants after serving the minimum 15 days on the injured list.

Crawford, who injured his knee sliding into home plate against the Braves, missed San Francisco’s last eight games. In his absence, the Giants went 2-6, with defense being a major issue. He’ll start at shortstop and hit eighth against left-handed starter Tyler Gilbert.

Donovan Walton got optioned to clear space for Crawford. Walton made two errors while playing shortstop — not his primary position — and appears to have been jumped in role by David Villar, who got called up on Monday. Villar went 2-for-4 in his big league debut.

The Crawford-Villar middle infield will be in tact as long as Thairo Estrada (illness) remains unavailable. Estrada tested negative for COVID-19 multiple times on Sunday, manager Gabe Kapler said, but is still on the COVID-IL. Symptomatic players can be placed on that list, which doesn’t carry a minimum stint.

In SF’s most recent loss, an 8-3 letdown to the Diamondbacks, both Curt Casali and Wilmer Flores made errors from the infield. Flores’ overthrow allowed Daulton Varsho to score from first base on a bunt.

San Francisco has lost nine of its past 11 games. In those nine losses, the Giants have committed 11 errors. SF ranks 29th in outs above average as a team and last in overall defense, per Fangraphs, on the year.

Crawford, despite already surpassing his error total from 2021, is historically a terrific fielder. He’s fought through multiple nagging injuries throughout the season; this was only the third trip to the IL in the veteran’s career. Kapler said the week-plus off should help him get healthier and perform at his best.

“Maybe a healthier version of Brandon, which we saw what that looks like last year, it’s pretty enticing to try to recapture that,” Kapler said when SF put the 35-year-old on the IL.

Crawford’s presence at shortstop should help stabilize things defensively. And with the Giants on a five-game losing streak, they’ll take whatever he can provide.

Curt Casali left Monday night’s game after grimacing in significant pain following a swing. The catcher was diagnosed with a Grade 2 oblique strain, he told The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser in Arizona. That type of injury can sideline a player for at least a month.

Casali cooled off after a hot May, but has still proven to be San Francisco’s most reliable option behind the dish. He’s hitting .232 with four home runs and has played through pain — including a serious hamstring injury — for much of the season.

José Álvarez was also reinstated from the injured list in a pregame roster move.

Joey Bart, notably, has a locker in Arizona according to reporters traveling with the team. Bart, 25, has been working with the River Cats as part of a “reset” since June 8. He’d struck out in roughly half his at-bats with the Giants.

Bart hasn’t been immediately activated, though, indicating Yermín Mercedes will be the emergency backup catcher — at least for Tuesday, with Austin Wynns as the starter. With Casali out indefinitely, Bart’s return is likely imminent by necessity.

Still, the Giants would have preferred for Bart to continue working with coaches on a retooled swing. The former No. 2 pick recently hit a 484-foot home run for Sacramento, which manager Gabe Kapler said made the rounds with the big league club.

“It’s always encouraging to see a guy hit a big home run,” Kapler said. “It’s a much bigger picture thing for us. Not going to make any determinations about it, but it’s certainly encouraging.”


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