SAN FRANCISCO–Outfielder Austin Slater ignited a seventh inning rally with a leadoff single and scored a go-ahead run by racing home on a sacrifice fly Tuesday, but Slater will open Wednesdays contest against the Rockies on the Giants bench.
Manager Bruce Bochy slotted Hunter Pence in as his starting left fielder against Colorado starter Kyle Freeland, hoping Pences previous success against Freeland will pay off against the Rockies.
With Pence, Slater and outfielder Austin Jackson all vying for playing time in left field, Bochy has yet to commit to rewarding Slater for a dominant season at Triple-A Sacramento with regular starts in the big leagues. Instead, the Giants will attempt to ride the hot hand at a position thats been a source of frustration for Bochy for much of the year.
Pence is 4-for-7 in his career against Freeland and has hits in each of his last two at-bats including a walkoff double that sealed a victory for the Giants in 11 innings on Sunday. Though neither of Pences last two base hits were line drives, Bochy said the clubs Opening Day starter in left field has got the magic wand going.
Its hard when youre not giving these guys back-to-back starts or two out of three games and trying to get their timing and trying to get them all in there, Bochy said. Today more than anything, he got a game winner a couple of days ago and got a rally going yesterday.
Slater hit .344 with a .981 OPS in the Pacific Coast League this season, clearly demonstrating a mastery of Triple-A pitching that forced the Giants to promote him after Mac Williamson struggled for an extensive period during the first half of June.
Though Williamson received an opportunity to seize the starting job with regular opportunities in left field, the Giants appear reluctant to offer Slater a similar chance.
Slaters versatility could help him work his way into the lineup, as Bochy said the Giants are willing to consider him for playing time in center field. Slater can play all three outfield positions and also spent a short stretch at the beginning of the year working at first base with the Sacramento River Cats.
While the Giants want to continue providing at-bats for their veteran outfielders, the club is in no rush to bring starter Jeff Samardzija (shoulder tightness) back from the disabled list.
The right-hander allowed six earned runs in four innings with Triple-A Sacramento in what was expected to be his final rehab outing Tuesday in Albuquerque. Despite throwing 88 pitches, Samardzija will likely make a fourth rehab start next week because the Giants want him to work deeper into a game before he rejoins the starting staff.
Bochy said he spoke with Samardzija Wednesday and the pitcher said he feels completely healthy and ready to contribute, but with the way rookies Andrew Suárez and Dereck Rodríguez have performed of late, the Giants want to stretch Samardzija out.
This does help us make sure these guys are fully ready when they come back and we dont have any kind of rush mode, Bochy said.
The Giants are also awaiting the return of starter Johnny Cueto, who will make a rehab start for Triple-A Sacramento Friday as he recovers from an elbow sprain that landed him on the disabled list May 2.
Cueto was one of baseballs most dominant pitchers before he was sidelined with elbow trouble, and the Giants have indicated theyll need to monitor the right-handers health closely once he rejoins the rotation.
If Suárez and Rodríguez continue to perform at a high level in upcoming starts, the Giants could consider having Cueto and Samardzija piggyback each other and pitch in the same game when they return to reduce the stress level on their arms and ease them back against major league hitters.