Why Giants optioned Schmitt to Triple-A, called up Mathias

Why Giants optioned Schmitt to Triple-A, called up Mathias originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

OAKLAND — When Casey Schmitt was called up from Triple-A on May 9, manager Gabe Kapler insisted the young infielder would get a real shot to show what he could do.

“Casey is here to play for us,” Kapler said back then. “He’s here to help the Giants win and continue his development.”

For as much as they have platooned and leaned on older hitters the last four years, the Giants really did commit to that plan initially. Schmitt kicked off his big league career by starting 13 consecutive games, joining Thairo Estrada and Mike Yastrzemski as the only Giants to reach double-digit consecutive starts this season.

On Sunday, he was optioned back to Triple-A, a move that was surprising only in that it didn’t happen earlier.

Schmitt was batting .120 with no homers since the start of June and there isn’t a path to playing time anytime soon, with Brandon Crawford back and playing well at shortstop and Thairo Estrada back as the everyday starter at second base. The Giants swapped Schmitt out for utility man Mark Mathias, who was acquired along with AJ Pollock earlier this week.

“You could see a scenario unfolding where Casey just wasn’t getting consistent at-bats,” Kapler said on Sunday morning. “What I mentioned to him was that we need him to go play. He knows that there’s an element of performance that’s going to keep you at the major league level that he’s capable of, and it just hasn’t been there over the course of the last calendar month or more.”

Schmitt will continue to move around in Triple-A, playing second, short and third alongside Marco Luciano, who will split time between second and short. The Giants are hopeful that one of them can get hot and provide more upside off the bench down the stretch, and they also feel comfortable with either if an injury pops up at the big league level.

That versatility kept Schmitt around despite the offensive struggles. The Giants did feel he was having much better at-bats over the last couple of weeks and being more patient at the plate, but he was still having trouble driving the ball.

Mathias, 29, has big league experience with the Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers. He’s viewed as a solid defender up the middle who has good plate appearances.

Mathias’ debut was well-timed, as he grew up in Fremont and had plenty of family members and friends at the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday. Mathias grew up a Giants fan, and for now, he’ll be the backup at second and short.

“(He’s) maybe somebody who right now can give us a quality, dependable at-bat, which Casey was struggling to provide, to be open. I think Casey knows that, as well,” Kapler said. “The one thing Casey did remarkably well while he was here was move around the diamond and play good, quality defense.

“But Thairo is back and is good to go, so he’ll be our regular second baseman and Craw is doing a great job out there and obviously is going to be our regular shortstop for the time being. For all of those reasons, it made sense to make this roster move.”

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