SAN FRANCISCO – With scruffy blonde facial hair still gracing his upper lip, Austin Slater walked in to the Giants clubhouse Monday afternoon with head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner by his side.
Slater had just finished taking some practice cuts to test the left wrist he jammed during an at-bat Sunday. He politely declined reporters’ interview request, allowing manager Gabe Kapler to break the unfortunate news a few moments later. Slater (left wrist inflammation) became the seventh Giants player and fourth in the past four days to land on the injured list.
The next time Slater plays baseball for the San Francisco Giants, that mustache will likely be nothing but a memory, as he was placed on the 10-day injured list before Monday’s series opener with the New York Mets. He won’t be eligible to rejoin the Giants until June 2, with Mustache May in the rear view mirror.
“After the swing and the discomfort he felt yesterday… he did not really feel like he was able to complete the at-bat the way he wanted to, so one of the questions was that possible it could happen again?” Kapler said. “I think we had enough trepidation there where it made some sense to let it calm down a little bit.”
Slater has been swinging a hot bat (7-for-26, 10 walks, 9 strikeouts over his past 16 games) and would have likely been in the Giants’ lineup Monday night against Mets left-hander David Peterson. It raised eyebrows when Joc Pederson, a left-handed hitter, pinch-hit for Slater in the fifth inning Sunday against Padres lefty Mackenzie Gore. Slater, it was later revealed, felt discomfort in his left wrist while swinging at a changeup during his second at-bat, in the third inning.
On Monday, Stuart Fairchild was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento and slotted in to Slater’s spot in center field, batting ninth. It was the 16th career game at the major-league level for Fairchild, 26, a career .273 / .361 / .441 hitter over five minor-league seasons who came over last month for cash considerations after being designedated for assignment by Seattle.
“Excited to see him do his thing,” Kapler said. “Good reputation of being a strong defensive outfielder, quality at-bats against left-handed pitching. Good spring speed. Fast base runner. Looking forward to seeing what he can contribute. ”
Fairchild’s arrival marked the fourth and final of the players acquired in a flurry of trades with the Mariners last month to make his debut with San Francisco. One player, Mike Ford, has already been sent back to Seattle. Another, utility man Donovan Walton, played one game and was optioned back to Triple-A Sacramento. The other, power-hitting infielder Kevin Padlo, was batting fifth and playing first base Monday night after rejoining the roster Sunday to take the place of yet another injured Giant.
Already reeling, coming off a series sweep at home to the division-rival Padres, the Giants have now lost four players to the injured list in the past four days. Lingering knee issues sent LaMonte Wade Jr. back to the IL on Friday, then Brandon Belt on Sunday. In between, on Saturday, Curt Casali sustained a minor concussion and was still unavailable Monday.
“It’s a challenge, but we’re kind of past it,” Kapler said. “In our minds, nobody cares. What we care about is putting together the best lineup with the group that we have, trying to win today’s baseball game. ”
In total, Kapler is missing seven of his chess pieces, giving the organization’s depth its second stress test in as many months. Giants players have missed a total of 251 games because of injuries this season. In 41 games, they have already used 47 players.
The Giants’ losing streak reached four games Sunday for the second time this season, after dropping four straight games twice during their entire 107-win campaign last season. It’s no coincidence that their worst stretches of baseball have coincided with their biggest health issues.
The seven players the Giants are currently without – pitchers Anthony DeSclafani, Matthew Boyd and Jake McGee in addition to the four aforementioned players – are the most they have missed at one time since a COVID outbreak last month, when they lost five straight games for the first time since 2020.
In one piece of good news, Casali, who was concussed on a foul tip Friday night, is “improving,” Kapler said, and the hope is that he will be ready to return when he is eligible, on Saturday in Cincinnati.
“We feel good about the trajectory he’s on,” Kapler said.
Matthew Boyd nearing live action
One player most fans haven’t given much thought, rightfully so, is Matthew Boyd.
The left-hander signed a free-agent contract with the Giants this offseason but has spent the start of this season recovering from the September operation he had to repair the flexor tendon in his throwing shoulder. The injury interrupted Boyd’s strongest season of his career after he started last year with a 1.94 ERA in his first seven starts with the Tigers.
Boyd, who started the season on the 60-day injured list, is eligible to come off June 6, only a couple weeks away, but will require a little more time than that. It is possible, however, that Boyd will have started throwing live bullpens and verging on a rehab assignment by that date, and possibly starting games for the Giants by July.
Seven months removed from surgery, Boyd has been throwing 40-pitch bullpens at “100 percent” intensity since about the start of April, he said. The next step will be transitioning into live batting practice sessions and eventually a rehab assignment.
“It’s getting close,” Boyd said. “Within the next week, week-and-a-half I’ll get in to these competition-type things. … Live BPs, rehab games, then it’s every five days from there, essentially my spring training. ”
Top prospect injured, too
The Giants’ injury woes have not been contained to their major-league roster.
Outfielder Luis Matos, considered San Francisco’s No. 3 prospect and No. 58 overall according to MLB Pipeline, hasn’t played a game since May 4. On Monday, the club revealed that Matos, 20, had suffered a left quad strain and has spent the past two-plus weeks on the injured list.
In 18 games with High-A Eugene, Matos had 10 hits in 66 at-bats, a batting line of .152 / .253 / .152.
He has been rehabbing the injury at the Giants’ minor-league complex in Arizona and on Sunday began his progression to return to game action.