OAKLAND, Calif. — The Giants’ outfield has been tracking to start the year shorthanded, and manager Gabe Kapler made the presumed news all but official on Sunday.
Mitch Haniger (oblique) and Austin Slater (hamstring) will start the season on the injured list, Kapler said before the Giants-Athletics Bay Bridge exhibition series.
“We have Mitch Haniger starting the season off the roster,” Kapler said Sunday in the Oakland Coliseum. “We have Austin Slater starting the season off the roster. I don’t expect them to be off the roster long. Haniger sooner, Slater a little bit behind him.”
Haniger signed a three-year, $43.5 million contract this winter — San Francisco’s biggest signing of the offseason cycle. In 2021, his last fully healthy year, the outfielder hit 39 home runs. He also finished 11th in American League MVP voting in 2018.
But a streak of unfortunate and fluky injuries have otherwise prevented Haniger from repeating that production. He was hit in the pitch in the face in 2017, foul-tipped another to hurt his groin in 2019, and has suffered back, knee and ankle injuries.
Now, Haniger as a Grade 1 oblique strain. He was diagnosed with the injury on March 12 and initially expressed optimism that he’d be ready for Opening Day. He was shut down for a week and has since resumed activities to ramp up.
Haniger is closer to returning than Slater, who played just three Cactus League games. The center fielder missed time with right elbow neuritis, and then strained his hamstring in his first game back.
Slater hit .264 with a .774 OPS last season. He’s expected to form the right-handed side of a center field platoon with Mike Yastrzemski.
Without Slater and Haniger, all signs point to catcher/outfielder Blake Sabol and speedy center fielder Bryce Johnson breaking camp with the Giants. The former leads all qualified hitters in spring training OPS (1.125) and the latter leads all players in stolen bases (12).