SF Giants outfielder Austin Slater has been noticeably absent from the Cactus League. He was penciled into the lineup for the first game of spring training, but was a late scratch. It was later reported that he was dealing with an elbow injury. For now, the right-handed bat will be shut down as he recovers from elbow neuritis according to Danny Emerman of KNBR.
SF Giants News: Outfielder Austin Slater dealing with elbow injury
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle previously reported that Slater deals with the ailment every spring and is not overly concerned. However, the goal is for him to be ready for Opening Day, so shutting him down seems like a precaution at the moment.
That said, this will be something to monitor as the spring progresses. He will not engage in baseball activities for another week, but if this is something that continues to linger, it could affect his chances of being ready when the season begins.
It would be a tough blow as Slater has become a consistent contributor since he debuted with the club in 2017. Fun fact: Slater is currently the second-longest tenured Giants player behind only Brandon Crawford.
It took a couple of years for the right-handed bat to find his footing in the majors, which is not uncommon at all. Over the past three seasons, in particular, Slater has emerged as a useful role player.
Since the start of 2020, the 30-year-old has slashed .256/.353/.428 (116 OPS+) with an 11.4 percent walk rate against a 26.5 percent strikeout rate. This includes a solid .781 OPS against left-handed pitching.
Slater has found a niche against lefties and Giants manager Gabe Kapler has typically used him in the leadoff spot against in those matchups. He fills the role of a leadoff hitter by offering a nice combination of speed and on-base skills.
Of course, the Giants also have Slater penciled in as one of the two center field options along with Mike Yastrzemski. San Francisco is relatively light on depth at premium positions like center field, so they do not have many fallback options behind Slater. Hopefully, the elbow issue is minor, so that Slater can return and get some game reps before Opening Day.