Austin Slater, who has played three Cactus League games this spring due to various injuries, isn’t participating in baseball activities.
The Giants announced Slater’s update in a standard injury report. Earlier in camp, he was shut down for right elbow neuritis. Now he’s sidelined with a left hamstring strain nine days before Opening Day.
Slater, 30, is expected to be a key component of San Francisco’s revamped outfield. The Giants sought to improve the outfield defense — one of the most porous units in baseball last year — by adding Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto to the corners. Although neither of them are Gold Glovers, creating stability around a center field platoon of Slater and Mike Yastrzemski should help.
Slater hit .264 with a .774 OPS last season. In 2021, he smacked 12 home runs as one of the most effective pinch hitters in baseball; he had a .950 OPS off the bench that season. Before coming to spring training, Slater’s offseason including his wedding and training sessions with Barry Bonds.
If Slater can’t break camp with the Giants, their depth will already be tested. A goal of assembling a more stable group in the outfield would be to limit exposure to players like Joc Pederson. The Giants would prefer to keep Pederson as a full-time designated hitter, but multiple injuries in the outfield may spring him back into the field.
Haniger, another key piece of the outfield puzzle, has been dealing with an oblique strain. The team said he began his hitting and throwing progression Monday, which makes an Opening Day start possible.
If the Giants want extra outfield depth, the injuries to Slater and Haniger could open a path on the roster for Rule 5 acquisition Blake Sabol. The 25-year-old was introduced in camp as a catcher, but has taken more reps in the outfield — his original position — as spring training progressed.
Veteran Stephen Piscotty, speedster Bryce Johnson or utility man Brett Wisely could also become more serious options to make the Opening Day roster.
In more encouraging injury news, the club expects shortstop Brandon Crawford (left knee inflammation) to return to game action this week. Crawford’s knee bothered him for much of last season and will be something to closely monitor for the 36-year-old.