ATLANTA — It’s not as if Giants manager Gabe Kapler wore a CIA-approved disguise. It’s not as if he brazenly walked up the stairs to the dugout at any point after he had been ejected from Tuesday night’s home game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
But cameras caught Kapler, still in uniform, at the bottom of the stairs that connect the dugout to the indoor cage. Kapler had said publicly that he watched the rest of the game from the cage and not from the clubhouse. And on Friday, after Major League Baseball suspended him for one game and fined him an undisclosed amount for “returning to the dugout” following his ejection, Kapler acknowledged the discipline was warranted.
“I violated the spirit of the rule,” Kapler said. “The spirit of the rule is the manager goes up to the clubhouse, gets in street clothes. I violated that by being around the dugout in that area. I mentioned to you guys that I was watching (in the cage) from the monitors. So it’s a warranted move, the suspension, and I’ll serve it tonight.”
And no, MLB officials didn’t mistake quality control coach Nick Ortiz for Kapler.
When Gabe Kapler goes out to make a pitching change, he knows the pitcher might get mad and invoke a clause requiring a vote, so he brings a second Gabe Kapler with him (to get double votes) pic.twitter.com/SxSeZWFZ3M
— Levi Weaver (@ThreeTwoEephus) August 13, 2023
Bench coach Kai Correa will manage the game alongside pitching coach Andrew Bailey as the Giants open a three-game series at Truist Park against the National League’s top team. Alex Cobb will take the mound for the Giants against the Atlanta Braves and strikeout artist Spencer Strider.
“I’ll be in the office with the door shut, make sure that no temptation sneaks in,” Kapler said. “Lock the door from the inside perhaps. It’s just the competitor in me that made me want to be a part of the game, still chat with coaches and chat with players and I’ve got to take responsibility for it.”
Kapler appeared to be in an upbeat mood despite a challenging stretch for him that included last weekend’s home series against the Texas Rangers and the inevitable comparisons that would be made upon the return of Bruce Bochy to the visiting dugout. Then several pinch hitting moves or non-moves were questioned in a series of losses as the Giants lost four of six on the homestand and got buried by the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West standings. Kapler also got booed loudly by the home crowd on Sunday when he made the otherwise well-justified move to lift Logan Webb with two outs in the ninth inning. The Rangers tied it with a fluky groundball single off Camilo Doval before the Giants won in the 10th inning. When Kapler drew a rare ejection on last Tuesday’s 10-2 loss to the Rays, he was coming to the defense of Wade Meckler after the rookie had several questionable strikes called against him.
Kapler has made it clear that he sees no value in a manager getting ejected to prove a point or make a statement. In his view, it’s like volunteering a piece off the chess board. But he wanted to send a message to Meckler, who was playing in his second major-league game. He wanted Meckler to be rewarded for the plate discipline and zone awareness he exhibited in the minor leagues, not discouraged to deviate from it.
The Giants find themselves in a similar space when it comes to their persistent offensive struggles, especially as they attempt to keep pace with the high-powered Braves and Philadelphia Phillies on this road trip. Do they stick to their perceived strengths and trust that their fortunes will change? Or do they deviate?
They made one tweak to the lineup against Strider, moving Thairo Estrada to ninth for just the third time this season, both to forecast potential late-inning matchups and to give the Giants an action guy and above-average base runner who could essentially serve as a second leadoff batter when the lineup turns around.
However they order their hitters, they’ll need more right-handed production from someone other than Wilmer Flores. At least Mitch Haniger is getting closer to a return. He’s due to start a rehab assignment on Tuesday at a level to be determined, the Giants said.
The Giants also announced that they reversed the optional assignment of infielder Mark Mathias, who reported shoulder soreness upon arriving at Triple-A Sacramento. Because he apparently sustained the injury in a major-league game, he was placed back on the active roster and immediately transferred to the 10-day Injured List.
(Top photo of Gabe Kapler and home plate umpire Chad Whitson: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)