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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — No Giants player hit in the leadoff spot last season more often than outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, who batted first in 38 of the team’s 60 games.

Yastrzemski flourished in the role, posting a .400 on-base percentage and .568 slugging percentage, but this year, the Giants seem willing to mess with success.

With the addition of new infielder Tommy La Stella, Yastrzemski could slide back a spot or two in the order, allowing one of baseball’s peskiest hitters to set the table for the rest of the lineup.

“We see them both hitting in the top three spots in the lineup on most days,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “There are some things that could impact those decisions like pitchers, but for the most part, I really like the idea of Tommy spending time in the leadoff role.”

It’s possible the only person who likes the idea more than Kapler is Yastrzemski, who said he’s eager to follow La Stella’s lead.

“I want to learn from him,” Yastrzemski said. “He does a great job of controlling his at-bat and making sure that he gets what he wants out of it. To have a guy like that where the opposing pitchers don’t want to face him, they don’t want to throw 10 pitches, 12 pitches to one guy, putting that frustration on the mound is really good because hopefully at some point they’re going to make a mistake and we’re going to take advantage of it.”

La Stella, who was the hardest everyday player to strike out in the major leagues last season, will be a fixture against right-handed pitchers. He’ll likely spend most of his time at second base, but could play first or third on occasion. Yastrzemski will play against both righties and lefties and when La Stella isn’t in the lineup, he may hit behind a player such as Austin Slater, who had a .500 on-base percentage when leading off innings last season.

LaMonte Wade Jr. in the mix?

When discussing how he envisioned the top of the Giants’ lineup looking this season, Kapler added an unexpected name into the mix: Newly acquired outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr.

The 27-year-old left-handed hitter only has 95 major league at-bats and has never hit more than 11 home runs in a minor league season, but Wade is blessed with a combination of traits the Giants love. He’s incredibly disciplined, as his .389 career minor league OBP indicates, and he has untapped potential to hit for more power.

“LaMonte has great plate discipline and the profile is pretty rare,” Kapler said. “If we can couple that with some power production, but we never want to put any addition pressure on players to produce power. That happens with the work LaMonte is going to do with (hitting coaches) Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind. Once he’s in the game, we want him to have that approach with the little kid with the plastic bat and the wiffle ball on the plastic tee which is, ‘I’m going to try to drive this ball and hit it as hard as I possibly can.’” Related Articles

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Wade’s path to the Opening Day roster isn’t so clear, but if either he or Yastrzemski proves capable of handling center field on a semi-regular basis, the Giants could be intrigued enough to carry him and use Mauricio Dubón more in the infield.

Wade may need to surpass someone like Slater or Darin Ruf on the Giants’ depth chart to have a chance to contribute, but the team is clearly intrigued by his potential.

Shun Yamaguchi a fan of Tim Lincecum

The Giants signed Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training over the weekend and are hopeful he can provide depth for the starting rotation.

Yamaguchi, who spoke to reporters Monday, was released while en route to spring training last week by the Blue Jays as he said the news came shortly after his flight landed in the Toronto area. As a veteran pitcher with 14 years of experience in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, Yamaguchi could have returned to his home country and found work, but explained that he was determined to latch on with a major league club and was excited by the opportunity the Giants provided him.

“The main reason for choosing to come back to the big leagues is because last year I wasn’t satisfied with my results and I want to challenge myself once again,” Yamaguchi said through translator Yuto Sakurai. “During the offseason, I was preparing myself intensively to perform better this year.”

Yamaguchi will be stretched out as a starter despite making all 17 of his appearances with the Blue Jays in relief last year. The Giants were not discouraged by the 8.06 ERA he compiled with Toronto and think his splitter can be a plus pitch.

So does Yamaguchi, who pointed out the similarity between his best offering to the one that helped make Tim Lincecum a fan favorite in San Francisco.

“He’s a special pitcher in my eyes.”

Yamaguchi has an opt-out clause in his contract that will allow him to be released if he isn’t added to the Giants’ 40-man roster by Opening Day.

Batting practice shouldn’t mean much, but…

When asked if he had any impressions from his position players’ first day of on-field batting practice, Kapler admitted he doesn’t put much stock in those kinds of swings.

He’d rather see how hitters fare when they’re up against a slider machine, doing rigorous work in the cage or facing live pitching in a simulated game setting. That’s understandable, but after a long winter and uncertainty over when spring training would start, I found it enjoyable to sit in the press box at Scottsdale Stadium and watch major league hitters crush pitches.

No duo hit more home runs during Monday’s session than outfielders Alex Dickerson and Jaylin Davis, who both possess mammoth power and the ability to blast balls well beyond the outfield fence. Dickerson has always put on a show during batting practice and for the most part, he’s translated his success into games in a Giants uniform.

Davis, however, has a different story.

The former Twins prospect hit the first home run of the 2020 Giants’ season, but only had 12 major league at-bats last year because he struggled to make consistent contact. Kapler spoke Monday about his excitement seeing Davis back in camp with some of the adjustments he’s made in his swing, pointing out that he has “an engine” worth watching.

There are a lot of Giants fans rooting for Davis to regain the form he showed in 2019, when he launched 35 home runs at the Triple-A level. If he’s able to catch up to fastballs and keep the ball in the air, the sky is the limit. And during Monday’s batting practice, he sent baseballs into the sky quite often.

News and notes

–The Giants will hold their first live batting practices of the spring on Tuesday with some players slated to hit at Scottsdale Stadium and others expected to practice over at the team’s Indian School minor league complex.

–Kapler addressed the team before Monday’s workout as managers traditionally do before the first full-squad workout of the year, but kept his message brief. With the pandemic ongoing and the Giants looking to do as much work as possible outdoors, one of his main points of emphasis was keeping meetings to a minimum this spring.

–Outfield prospect Heliot Ramos is in major league camp for the first time and the Giants are remaining optimistic Ramos can stick in center field defensively: “He’s fast enough, he’s athletic enough to handle center field,” Kapler said. “I think what we want to do from a development perspective is give our players a chance to develop at that premium position and ultimately at some point, if they need to move to one of the corners, they will. He shows all of the tools needed to be a center fielder at the major league level.”

–Mike Yastrzemski was asked when he got over the disappointment of missing the playoffs by one game last season and dealing with an injury during the final week of the schedule. Here’s what he said: “It’s still frustrating. We haven’t had the chance to redeem ourselves yet. Until we get a chance to get out on the field, it’s still a little thorn in the side and we’re not satisfied. Having another chance to go back out there and compete is going to bring us the time to heal and get over it.”

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MANCHESTER CITY begin their Champions League quest again this week as they take on Borussia Monchengladbach in the last-16.

But the away tie won't be played in Germany as City will instead have to travel to Budapest in Hungary for it.

2Pep Guardiola's side have been brilliant in the Champions League this seasonCredit: PA:Press Association Why is Monchengladbach vs Man City in Budapest?

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The German government have banned entry from countries which carry variants of Covid-19, so a neutral venue has been decided upon instead.

2Man City will face Monchengladbach in BudapestCredit: AFP or Licensors

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