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Giants set rookie-heavy lineup for matchup with Cy Young favorite Snell, Padres



© Kirby Lee | 2023 Sep 22

The Giants aren’t yet mathematically eliminated from the postseason yet, but their starting lineup for Monday night’s series opener suggests that they’re going to give some of their rookies real chances for the rest of the season.

Marco Luciano, Luis Matos, Heliot Ramos and Tyler Fitzgerald, along with mainstay backstop Patrick Bailey, are starting for San Francisco (77-79) behind ace Logan Webb. They’ll get a crack against Blake Snell, who has become the runaway betting favorite for the National League Cy Young Award.

Snell leads baseball with a 2.33 ERA and ranks first among NL pitchers in Baseball Reference’s WAR metric. Although Webb has pitched more innings and is tied with Gerrit Cole for the most quality starts in MLB, Snell is on the cusp of the second Cy Young of his career.

He’ll present quite a test for the Giants’ five rookies in the starting nine.

Fitzgerald, a natural middle infielder, for the entirety of his young career. He started four games in center field and will get a crack at third base Monday. He has only played eight games at third in the minors this year, and 30 in his professional career overall.

Next to Fitzgerald in the infield will be Luciano, who has flashed the power potential that the Giants desperately need. In the past three days, he has registered hits with exit velocities of 111.8, 107.8 and 107.5 mph.

Veteran Austin Slater will be flanked by Matos in left field and Ramos in right. Every single player in San Francisco’s batting order to start hits right-handed, a clear choice in reaction to the southpaw Snell.

“After a very challenging — and what continues to be a very challenging three-month stretch, I think the silver lining is the rookies we’ve developed to the Major League level,” manager Gabe Kapler said pregame. “And they’re Major League development. It’s not just getting to the big-league level, but like actually seeing real, tangible development that they can apply for the remainder of the season but also for next year.”

Kapler mentioned Kyle Harrison as a guy who has proved that he can slot into a big-league rotation next year, Luciano as a “poised, capable, toolsy” shortstop, and Bailey as a “cornerstone” catcher. He also pointed to Tristan Beck as a MLB-ready pitcher and Casey Schmitt — who isn’t on the active roster — as someone who significantly developed this season.

“You can see through all of this…is the core group of young, physical, athletic players that have a chance to be Giants for a really long time,” Kapler said. “While this is not how we wanted to be talking about things with a handful of games to go, two big series left, it’s important that we do talk about it that way in this moment, because we’re working to try to win baseball games for the rest of the season, but we’re also trying to win baseball games for the next five years, plus. I think there’s kind of a glimmer, a strong signal that we’re trending in the right direction.”

How the rookies perform in the final week of the season won’t change how the front office approaches the offseason. It’s too small a sample to make broad declarations either way.

But getting real, MLB reps is still valuable for young players, which is one of the most pressing storylines to watch as the season winds down.

“Every big moment, every game on the line situation — you could say that (last) Dodgers series for Luciano and Fitzgerald was a pretty big step forward in their development,” Kapler said. “Just that alone, being in that stadium with 45,000 screaming fans, and each of them having moments where they could legitimately win the game for us. Those are huge development moments in a young player’s career. Happy for them, that they were able to come through those, and I imagine feel quite a degree of confidence. They were able to handle those moments and actually thrive in them.”

Starting with Monday night and the Padres, there should be plenty more moments to come.

  • The Giants’ clubhouse was more crowded than usual on Monday afternoon. Joey Bart, Sean Hjelle, Anthony DeSclafani, and Scott Alexander were each present, although not all of them were on the 28-man active roster.

    With the River Cats’ season over, it’s easy to have a player like Bart with the team on taxi. Alexander is out for the season with a hamstring strain. DeSclafani, who has been recovering back home on the east coast from an elbow strain, is in town for a checkup. Hjelle has replaced Luke Jackson (paternity list) for the time being.

    Although Kapler said the team has no plans to shut down veterans for the home stretch, it’s easy to place players on the injured list at this time of the year. Expect more players — particularly those who played well in Triple-A — to get some at-bats and chances during this final home stand.

  • On Aug. 1, the Giants were 10 games above .500 with the National League’s third-best record. Since then, San Francisco has 19 wins. The Oakland Athletics? Eighteen in that span.

  • It’s been reported in several publications that Farhan Zaidi called a team meeting a few weeks ago, and that several people — including Ron Wotus and Zaidi — addressed club then. Thairo Estrada also spoke to the team in a meeting he called before that.

    Kapler, who prefers 1-on-1 conversations, didn’t speak up in that setting, he said. The deliberate manager explained that it’s important to give multiple voices a platform to be heard.