May 30, 2024
Sean Hjelle was also recalled as Ross Stripling was placed on the 15-day IL and Ryan Walker on the paternity list.

ATLANTA — Stuck in a 1-for-28 slump, Brandon Crawford was out of the Giants lineup Saturday against the Braves, and manager Gabe Kapler said there’s a good chance he gives him another day off Sunday with left-hander Max Fried on the mound.

In part, that’s why Casey Schmitt was rushing from the West Coast along with right-hander Sean Hjelle on Saturday.

The pair each received early wake-up calls — 5:15 a.m. PT for Hjelle — but only Hjelle had made it to the ballpark with less than 2 hours until first pitch.

Schmitt is likely to start at shortstop in the series finale Sunday with Crawford receiving a second straight day off, Kapler said. Hjelle gives them another arm with right-hander Ross Stripling (mid-back strain) placed on the 15-day injured list and Ryan Walker on the paternity list.

While Crawford was short-spoken when asked about his recent struggles after striking out in all three of his at-bats in Friday’s loss, Kapler provided some more insight Saturday, which also explained why back-to-back rest days might be beneficial.

“He’s been grinding. He’s been grinding mentally. He’s been struggling. But he’s also dealing with physical things that have made it more difficult for him to have success,” Kapler said. “He’s had some forearm tightness in his left elbow, which really hasn’t enabled him to get on top of the baseball like he wants to, and we know that he’s dealt with some knee soreness over the course of the season. I think those two things combined make it pretty clear we need to get him a day off and potentially a day off tomorrow as well.”

Schmitt, hopefully, will arrive with all of his baseball gear in tow. And Hjelle’s, as well.

Sean Manaea welcomed Hjelle back to the clubhouse in endearing fashion.

“Hi, Big Sean!” he said. To which Hjelle replied, “Hi, Big Sean!”

Fortunately for Hjelle, he wasn’t the only big Sean in the clubhouse; arriving with nothing but his glove and some street clothes, he borrowed a pair of Manaea’s size-15 cleats and stole a pair of Under Armour compression pants from Luke Jackson (don’t worry, they stretch).

Baseball gear isn’t the only thing the Giants are counting on Schmitt to bring with him.

They’re hoping he returns with renewed confidence after spending two weeks punishing Triple-A pitching. In 10 games since being sent down, Schmitt is batting .311/.354/.533 with a pair of home runs. He hadn’t homered since his third big-league game in May, and was batting .120 since the start of June before being sent down.

“There’s definitely a snowball effect to having success on the field,” Kapler said. “There’s no question that Casey felt some anxiety and quite a bit of pressure when he wasn’t getting knocks. He goes down to Triple-A, takes a little bit of the pressure off, gets some knocks and there’s no question he’s going to come back up here with a little bit more confidence. There’s no guarantee of success as a result, but I think without question alleviating some of that stress and pressure was important.”

Hjelle hasn’t had the same success at Triple-A, but in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, the process is more important than results.

Hjelle said he made a mechanical adjustment, shortening his stride, that has helped the shape of his pitches.

“I was starting to get a little long and flying open,” he said. “Stuff started to lose its shape a little bit. So just trying to shorten back up, which might seem weird as a 7-foot guy, but that’s where I’m at my best.”

Stripling to IL

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Back issues derailed the start of Ross Stripling’s season and, rather than try to pitch through them as he did earlier this year to disastrous effect, he opted for a second back-related stint on the injured list after a consultation with Kapler and trainer Dave Groeschner.

“We thought about two possible paths,” Kapler said. “One was powering through this and sending him out there not at his best. Then we thought about the other path which was let’s give him a little blow and let him get back closer to 100% so he can be his best. We need that. He needs that.”

Where’s Harrison?

Top prospect Kyle Harrison is scheduled to make his next start Sunday.

It’s unlikely that comes with the Giants against the best lineup in baseball.

“I don’t really anticipate Kyle pitching for us tomorrow,” Kapler said, while noting, as always, “everything’s on the table.”

Tasked with refining his command, Harrison has struck out 11 batters without issuing a walk over his past two starts at Triple-A. In his last start Tuesday,  he threw 44 of his 60 pitches for strikes, including 19 of his first 23.

“That’s always really fun to watch, especially (because) we have the pitch counter up there in Sac and you look up and you see that 19 of 23 or whatever it was and he’s absolutely on the attack against those guys,” said Hjelle, who had a front-row seat. “I always enjoy watching Harry throw. I enjoy seeing that much talent on the mound, always. It’s fun to watch. It’s impressive to watch. He can do a lot of things up there on the mound and get some swings from some really good hitters that not everybody could get.”

Notable

— Kapler shared a couple of “surprises” he learned about his players off the field so far this trip. Heliot Ramos? Big coffee drinker. And Austin Slater? A Waffle House devotee. He described Ramos as a “coffee-head,” explaining that “I just learned this because on our off day I went to a coffee shop that isn’t, like, 2 minutes from the hotel, which means I had to find it” — a similar ritual to Ramos, who “said everywhere he goes, he goes to a new coffee shop.”

Kapler ran into Slater closer to the team hotel, searching for a scooter to wheel his way to the nearest Waffle House. (As a minor-leaguer, Kapler said he indulged similarly. His go-to order: A chicken breast, eggs and a waffle.) “He’s like, I like to go to Waffle House. It’s my favorite restaurant. Anytime I’m in Atlanta, I like to go to Waffle House.”

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