Ramos optioned to Giants minor league camp; Matos impressing


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A year ago at this time, the Giants saw enough from Heliot Ramos that they felt comfortable calling him up for their third game of the regular season and giving him a shot to hit left-handers in the big leagues. Friday's roster moves brought a reminder of how much has changed.

Ramos was optioned to minor league camp, which wasn't a surprise, but perhaps happened earlier than the 23-year-old expected. The Giants have held firm that Ramos will have to hit his way back to the big leagues after a disappointing 2022, and his next stop will be Triple-A Sacramento, where he spent most of last season.

"Heliot still has some work to do. I think we saw that last year," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Much more important than what we've seen in spring training so far is what we've seen over the last couple of years. We need to see him perform at the minor league level to earn another opportunity at the major league level."

Ramos got 18 plate appearances over seven spring games, going 3-for-16 with a double, walk and four strikeouts. He made nine appearances in the big leagues last year and went 2-for-20, and also struggled to find his footing in Triple-A, posting a .654 OPS with 11 homers in 108 games. Kapler said Ramos will play all three outfield spots in the minors this year as he looks to reestablish himself.

"He just didn't perform at the minor league level last year," Kapler said when asked what has changed. "We really want to establish a culture in our organization of being promoted to the major leagues based on merit and performance."

--- Ramos wasn't the only high-upside Giants outfield prospect to struggle last season. Luis Matos was the league MVP in Low-A in 2021 but was limited to just 92 games in High-A and hit .211 with a .619 OPS. 

Matos suffered a quad strain while running to first early last season and never felt quite right when he returned. 

"When you have an injury, it gets into your head and it's there all the time," Matos said through interpreter Erwin Higueros earlier in camp. "It was bothering me last year but I'm 100 percent now. I'm very happy to be here and it's a great opportunity."

Matos changed his diet in the offseason and committed to the weight room, reporting to camp at 200 pounds after finishing last season at 184. He has one of the best hit tools in the organization and is a good defensive center fielder. If he flashes more power and gets back to his 2021 form, he should reclaim his standing as a top 100 prospect.

The 21-year-old started in right field on Friday and hit a solo homer to left in his second at-bat. The next time up, Matos smoked a ball to center but was robbed of extra bases by center fielder Cole Tucker. In the ninth, he poked a single into right. 

"(Hitting coach Justin Viele) and I were talking about his batting practice today, in conjunction with the swings he took in the game, and he said it was one of the better batting practices he's ever seen from Luis," Kapler said. "(Viele) actually called it a near-perfect batting practice. Luis' last at-bat, the line drive to right, he said he saw that a lot in his pregame work today. He used the whole field, drove the ball to center field, hit a homer to left and drove the ball to the opposite field, as well."

--- Matos started in right because Mitch Haniger was a late scratch. Haniger felt some oblique tightness and Kapler said he'll be down a couple of days. The Giants haven't scheduled any tests yet.

--- Two-way player Ronald Guzmán had an eye-opening appearance on the mound Thursday and ended his week by dropping some jaws in BP. Guzmán hit a homer on the back field that cleared the tall netting and landed outside of Scottsdale Stadium.

RELATED: How Giants minor leaguers received dream opportunity with Team USA

--- In addition to the Ramos move, the Giants reassigned eight players to minor league camp: Pitchers Trevor Hildenberger, Erik Miller and Nick Duron; infielders Armando Alvarez and Tyler Fitzerald; catcher Ricardo Genoves; and outfielders Vaun Brown and Clint Coulter. 

Brown is the best prospect of the group but he didn't get to build much momentum in his first big league camp. Left patellar tendonitis has sidelined him, but he said he should only miss about a week. After a breakout 2022 season, Brown had a minor procedure on his right knee. He believes the left knee irritation could be the product of overcompensating.

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