The Giants activated Joe Panik from the DL yesterday, as Henry Schulman reports in his latest piece for the San Francisco Chronicle. That’s not even the most interesting news, however, as Schulman also reveals a flurry of insight into the clubs plans for utilizing their other players in the near future.
Perhaps chief among these tidbits is the confirmation that veteran Hunter Pence will play in a backup role when he returns from the disabled list, where he’s been shelved with a sprained thumb since mid-April. Skipper Bruce Bochy couldn’t have been more direct, making it clear that Mac Williamson is the club’s primary left fielder while stating that he’d like to get Pence in later in games, “like I would with a fourth outfielder.”
Although Bochy’s plans are hardly surprising considering how much injuries and the aging curve have slowed Pence’s production across the past few seasons, it’s surely disappointing news for the three-time All-Star. Pence was once one of the great players in the game, ranking 33rd in fWAR from 2008-2014 with at least 20 homers in every one of those seasons. This year, however, Pence kicked off the season by hitting .172/.197/.190 with just one extra base hit an alarming 22 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances. He’s in the final year of his five-year, $90MM contract and thus will reach free agency at season’s end.
The oddest thing to come out of Schulman’s piece is the news that Pablo Sandoval is taking ground balls at shortstop. “He’s got good hands and a good first step,” said Bochy. When the club activated Panik, they optioned Kelby Tomlinson to the minors in a related move, leaving Sandoval as the only reserve infielder on the major league roster. That’ll change soon when Alen Hanson returns from his hamstring injury (Schulman notes that this will probably happen early next week), but for the time being it would seem as though the club is prepared to turn to Sandoval as its emergency shortstop in the event that Brandon Crawford has to come out of a game for any reason.
At least one more move is coming, as Madison Bumgarner is slated to make his season debut against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday.