Why Giants made tough call to send red-hot Gonzalez to minors


Through his first 21 games as a Giant, Luis Gonzalez was batting .349 with an OPS+ that put him 55 points better than league average as a hitter. By any definition, he has been an impact player for the Giants.

On Monday, he was sent back to Triple-A. 

That's just part of life when you're a young player with minor league options remaining, but Gabe Kapler admitted that telling Gonzalez he was heading back to the minors was "one of the more challenging discussions that I've had." The Giants sent Gonzalez out to clear a spot for Tommy La Stella, who will make his season debut Monday night at Coors Field.

"It's going to come as a surprise, even if you are very in-tune with what's happening with the roster, even if you're in Luis' position and you know that Tommy La Stella is coming back, in your brain you're performing really well, you feel like you're making contributions to the team," Kapler told reporters in Denver.

"Those are always going to be challenging conversations. It is part of breaking into the league and establishing yourself as a Major League player and being a player with options. Of course I explained that to Luis, and of course he was a pro and understood it, and of course there was some natural disappointment because he's a human being that played really well and was having a great time."

The swap came as part of a flurry of moves before the opener against the Colorado Rockies. The Giants also selected the contract of right-hander Mauricio Llovera to add bullpen depth and optioned righty Yunior Marte to Triple-A. To clear a 40-man spot for Llovera, the Giants put Anthony DeSclafani on the 60-day IL, meaning he won't be back until late June at the earliest. Kapler said DeSclafani did not have a setback with his ankle, instead calling it part of a long, slow ramp-up process for the veteran starter. 

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La Stella had a long, slow recovery from offseason Achilles surgery, but he was 9-for-29 on a rehab assignment with a couple of homers. He was in the lineup Monday night as the DH, batting eighth. Even with Gonzalez gone, Kapler was still able to run out three left-handed hitting outfielders -- LaMonte Wade Jr., Joc Pederson and Mike Yastrzemski -- at the top of his lineup against righty Antonio Senzatela. It was a challenging day, but Kapler was all smiles when he saw his full lineup.

"Tommy is one of the better plate appearances in baseball, it's as simple as that," he said. "He has great discipline, fouls pitches off, (is) extremely competitive in the batter's box. Kind of the epitome of what we want our hitters to do: Make a lot of contact, drive the baseball occasionally, draw a walk here and there and keep the line moving, which Tommy does exceptionally well."

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