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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When Giants hitters Alex Dickerson and Evan Longoria stepped into the batter’s box at Scottsdale Stadium for the first time this spring, they were blown away.

Literally.

With Cactus League play scheduled to start Sunday when the Giants host the Angels, the team held its first live batting practice of the spring Tuesday.

When right-hander Kevin Gausman was on the mound, there wasn’t much batting and it certainly didn’t look like practice.

Gausman lit up the radar gun, touching 97 miles per hour with his fastball according to Longoria, who said acclimating to velocity is one of the most important aspects of spring training.

“If he was even half of Kevin Gausman, he would have been tough today,” Dickerson said. “He looked unbelievable. If he has any more in the tank than that, that’s crazy. He was locating, he was throwing hard, that wasn’t ideal.”

The veteran Giants hitters were realistic about their chances of making solid contact against Gausman, noting that pitchers are traditionally a step ahead of batters at the beginning of spring training. It’s not often, however, a pitcher looks as if he’s in midseason form.

“Wouldn’t mind if I didn’t have to face another guy throwing 97 until the middle of the spring,” Longoria said with a laugh.

The premium velocity might not even be the most impressive aspect of Gausman’s first live batting practice. The starter, who returned to the Giants after accepting a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer this offseason, didn’t use his best pitch.

Kapler said Gausman threw his fastball, slider and changeup, but didn’t need his splitter Tuesday. It’s the splitter that makes Gausman a potential Opening Day starter for the Giants, but early in the spring, he’ll work on improving the rest of his arsenal.

After leading the Giants’ rotation with a 3.62 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings last year, the organization believes even better days are ahead.

“Gausman also is just kind of looking like knows how good he is,” Kapler said. “And that’s a really good thing for us.”

La Stella makes jobs easier, decisions harder

New Giants infielder Tommy La Stella has only been in camp for a few days, but several teammates have already announced they’re big fans of his.

Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said Monday he can’t wait to pick La Stella’s brain about hitting while Dickerson added Tuesday he’s eager to take advantage of the opportunity to hit behind the former Cubs, Angels and A’s infielder in the lineup.

“Even on his worst day, he’s still a pest for any pitcher out there,” Dickerson said. “You know you’re going to have a guy that’s going to wear out the pitcher.”

Longoria said the club will benefit from having another strong left-handed hitter to grind out at-bats against right-handed pitchers and isn’t at all concerned about potentially losing some at-bats against righties if the Giants want to deploy La Stella at third base.

“I think the addition of a left-handed bat in the lineup and a guy that can get on base like he does, whenever we can put him on the diamond makes our team better,” Longoria said. “The goal is to win any way we can.”

La Stella had the lowest strikeout percentage of any qualifying hitter in the majors last season, set a career-high with a .370 on-base percentage and will be expected to set another career-high in 2021. As president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said shortly after the team announced it had signed La Stella to a three-year deal, the plan is for La Stella to finish the year with more than 400 plate appearances, surpassing his 2014 single-season high of 360.

One of the primary challenge for Kapler and the Giants is determining who will be out of the lineup when La Stella is in it. Donovan Solano won a Silver Slugger at second base last season while Wilmer Flores was one of the team’s most consistent hitters, setting a career-high with a 125 OPS+.

With Longoria starting at third, Brandon Crawford easily the best option at shortstop and first baseman Brandon Belt coming off a career year, dividing reps among La Stella, Solano and Flores and getting primary starters off their feet more often will be a balancing act for Kapler.

Who’s in left?

The Giants waited until moments before the December non-tender deadline to strike a deal with Darin Ruf, who is back in camp after posting an .887 OPS in 87 at-bats with the club in a platoon role last season.

Ruf was one of the big surprises of Cactus League play in 2020 as he returned from a three-year stint in the Korean Baseball Organization to win an Opening Day roster spot by continuing his hot streak during summer camp. When the Giants kept him around this offseason, it was natural he would fill the same role as he did a season ago, but it’s possible Ruf’s job isn’t secure.

When asked if Ruf would again platoon with Dickerson in left field Tuesday this year, Kapler said it was too early to make any determinations about the Giants’ best lineup combinations and indicated it was too soon to know what the team’s outfield depth chart might look like.

“At this time of year, everything is on the table,” Kapler said. “(Dickerson and Ruf) is not a platoon that I’d thought very much about and don’t see that as the most likely outcome to handle reps in left field.”

With roster sizes shrinking from 28 to 26 players in 2021 and the absence of a designated hitter spot in National League lineups this season, Ruf’s lack of defensive versatility may require him to outperform several challengers at the plate for a roster spot this spring.

The Giants could easily move forward with a left field platoon featuring Dickerson and Austin Slater, who also posted impressive numbers against lefties last year and possesses the ability to play all three outfield positions. Jaylin Davis, who only had 12 at-bats last season and has reverse splits in his professional career, is another candidate to see playing time in left field this year.

Early in the spring, the Giants plan to see how Slater, Davis and recent trade acquisition LaMonte Wade Jr. handle center field and it seems clear any member of that group who can provide depth behind Mauricio Dubón and Mike Yastrzemski at the position will have an inside track to winning a roster spot.

Ruf, who also plays first base, is a bat-first player who provides his greatest value against left-handed pitchers, so it could be difficult for him to secure a job this year.

News Source: mercurynews.com

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Investors on the lookout for Eurozone inflation and US jobs.

Madrid, Feb 28 (EFECOM) .- Investors will be watching this week for inflation in February in the euro area and the evolution of unemployment in the same month in the US, without forgetting the progress of vaccination processes against the coronavirus.

Singular Bank highlights that the focus of investors’ attention will be on the evolution of inflation in the euro area in February. This indicator will be released at a time when the rebound in investors’ inflation expectations has boosted long-term sovereign debt yields.

The preliminary data will be published on Tuesday and the consensus of analysts expects it to be at 1% year-on-year, one tenth more than in January.

On Friday, the US employment report for February will be released and the consensus of analysts expects the unemployment rate to remain practically stable at 6.3% of the workforce, according to Singular Bank.

Another point of attention will be on Wednesday in the final purchasing managers’ indices (PMI) for February, both the composite and the component (services and manufacturing), in the eurozone, Germany, France, the Kingdom United States and the United States, Renta4 points out.

This week also highlights, according to Renta4, Thursday’s meeting of OPEC +, which occurs at a time of dissension between Saudi Arabia and Russia, although the former is cautious about the return to a greater supply to the market.

In addition to these main data, on Thursday the unemployment rate and the retail sales index for January will also be released in the European currency zone.

For Susana Felpeto, deputy director of equities at ATL Capital, investors will continue to monitor the evolution of vaccines, with the prospect of having 70% of the European population immunized by the end of the summer.

Regarding economic data, investors will be attentive, according to Felpeto, to inflation data, PMIs and, once the business results period is over, to the evolution of the financial sector in the Stock Market, which will depend on the profitability of public bonds.

(c) EFE Agency

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