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Giants playing several regulars in Cactus League opener



Courtesy of SF Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Giants baseball officially returns Saturday, and many familiar players will ring in a year that may be defined by unfamiliarity.

Brandon Crawford, LaMonte Wade Jr., Austin Slater, Thairo Estrada and Joc Pederson are penciled into San Francisco’s starting nine for Saturday, manager Gabe Kapler announced Friday. They’ll be in the lineup as prospect Tristan Beck takes the mound on Saturday at 1:05 in Mesa against the Cubs.

Crawford, who will play shortstop Saturday, is entering his 13th season for the Giants. He would’ve moved off the position for the first time in his career had SF acquired Carlos Correa, but injury concerns nuked that deal and kept the two-time World Series champion at short.

Wade has the inside track to start at first base — at least against right-handed pitchers. Knee and other injuries derailed his 2022 season after a masterful 2021 campaign.

Slater is starting at center field in the Cactus League opener and is expected to split time there with platoon partner Mike Yastrzemski. Estrada is set to play second base and Pederson will serve as designated hitter, the position where he’s most valuable given his defensive limitations.

Exciting prospect Casey Schmitt (third base), catcher option Blake Sabol and unproven talent Heliot Ramos (right field) will join those regulars in the lineup. Left field, as of Friday morning, was still undecided.

That group of players will be the first Giants lineup to play under the baseball’s new rules.

Pitch clocks in center field and along the back stop — those were specifically installed at Scottsdale Stadium Friday — will be in effect. When the bases are empty, pitchers get 15 seconds to deliver a pitch and 20 seconds with runners on.

Defenses can only place two infielders on each side of second base.

Pitchers have to monitor their “disengagements” every at-bat to avoid balks.

The bases are bigger, cutting down the distances between them.

“I anticipate us being very inquisitive,” Kapler said. “Curious, asking a lot of questions, not worrying about not knowing. So, yeah: if I was to anticipate anything, I’d anticipate us being intellectually curious around the rules and seeing what happens.”