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Which position player is Gabe Kapler most excited to see?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Most Giants players have been coming and going from the team facilities here for weeks now, but Sunday marked the deadline for the last stragglers from the position player group.

Manager Gabe Kapler said there were no unexpected absences from the first official report dates for Giants position players.

The player he was most excited to see?

LaMonte Wade Jr., who walked into the home clubhouse here around 9 a.m. Sunday in a gray Nike tracksuit.

“LaMonte has had a very focused offseason,” Kapler said. “He’s been very driven. Self-motivated. He’s been locked up on his own. Nobody’s pushing him. He’s just done the right things without much fanfare.”

After an injury-plagued 2022, the Giants have signed Wade as their primary first baseman. He will take some reps in the outfield this spring, but not much. The Giants play an excellent offensive position and are counting on Wade to rediscover his “Late Night” 2021 form and avoid a repeat of 2022, when he hit .207 with eight homers — none after the sixth inning — in 77 games.

Wade’s 2022 suffered a knee injury in spring training and went off the rails before it started. While returning in May, he was quickly placed back on the injured list and Kapler said on Sunday that Wade “never felt like he was 100%.”

“LaMonte’s most notable struggles last year were just that he wasn’t as healthy as he wanted to be,” Kapler said. “I think fine-tuning his health and physical fitness will immediately make him a better baseball player.”

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So far, so good.

“I don’t think anything is more confidence-inspiring than a good off-season,” Kapler said. “You get all the way into camp and it’s hard to feel really good about the season because you don’t even feel healthy right now. So it’s hard to get yourself in the mood for Opening Day at Yankee Stadium if you’re not feeling well right now. That’s why the off-season creates so much confidence. You come across as strong, healthy, athletic, explosive, which gives you a good feeling when visualizing Opening Day.”

Stripling’s first live BP

Like Alex Cobb the day before, newcomer Ross Stripling got his first taste of the pitch clock—and called his own game—while facing live hitters on Sunday morning. Complicating matters: The PitchCom device on pitchers’ waistband has six buttons. Stripling already throws out the sink – he has six places – and experiments with a different style of change that would earn him seven unique offers.

“I think some of us hit it harder than others,” Stripling said. “Cobb really likes (fooling around with the ball). I think it felt fast to him. To me, (the clock) didn’t seem to be much of a problem. … Today was a good step forward in not being as concerned (about the changes) as I thought.”

Stripling, who likes to experiment, spoke enthusiastically about working with the Giants’ pitching coaches during his opening press conference. Less than a week in camp, he said he’s already reaping the rewards.

That new change? It was suggested by Brian Bannister (who is back with the team in person after coaching remotely last season due to vaccine requirements) during Stripling’s first bullpen. By using the same hold but releasing differently, Stripling said, he turned the field into a swing-and-miss offering rather than one he used to generate weak contact.

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“Literally physics,” Stripling said. “Which is new to me. That’s what I’m talking about. Just getting new coaching and learning things I’ve never learned before can make me better and different than what I’ve been before.

Kapler cooks

You may have missed Kapler’s off-season excursions to Mexico and Vancouver, BC if you don’t follow the Giants manager on Instagram.

You also miss what is becoming one of his favorite hobbies: cooking, which he often showed off during the off-season in videos posted to his profile.

It came up on Sunday in connection with Cobb and others experimenting with naming their own games.



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