Where Marco Luciano fits in SF Giants’ shortstop picture

Where Marco Luciano fits in SF Giants’ shortstop picture

SAN FRANCISCO — The song has paused in the game of musical shortstops and Marco Luciano doesn’t have a seat.

When the Giants signed Nick Ahmed, they always intended the veteran shortstop to serve as a stopgap. But instead of handing the keys to their top prospect after another half-season of seasoning at Triple-A, when the club cut ties with Ahmed this week it was prompted by the emergence of other young players.

“We’re pretty comfortable with what we have at shortstop right now,” manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday, referring to Brett Wisely, 25 and Tyler Fitzgerald, 26, who are expected to share the duties moving forward. “Wisely’s just done a fantastic job moving from second to short. He’s swinging the bat well, too, and an infusion of energy.”

Luciano, who turns 23 in September, remains at Triple-A Sacramento, where he has been since a hamstring strain ended his tumultuous first tenure in the big leagues this season. He is no longer playing exclusively shortstop, spending time at second base since being activated off the injured list on June 13.

Despite being passed over for a promotion and moved off his primary position, Luciano’s stock hasn’t taken a hit in the Giants’ eyes.

“Nobody’s jumping to conclusions based on a short stretch and a handful of tough plays that didn’t go his way,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Tuesday. “Some of this is just his philosophy of finding different spots to get guys to the big leagues when we have opportunities. Diversifying things a little bit for him has made some sense. But we’re not giving up on the shortstop role for him.”

With Ahmed sidelined earlier this season, the Giants handed the reins to Luciano, who according to Zaidi’s frank assessment, “had one of the roughest weeks defensively that a lot of us have seen.” He committed five errors in five games, four in the ninth inning or later, prompting Melvin to shift Wisely from his natural second base to short.

Over many more games in the minor leagues, defensive metrics the Giants look at rate Luciano’s play at shortstop more favorably, Zaidi said.

“So over big samples he’s done a nice job,” Zaidi said. “It’s always going to be different when you come up here, the pressure and expectations and being able to do it on a night-in, night-out basis on a big stage. That’ll be a hurdle for him, but we’re going to continue to get him reps (at shortstop).”

Luciano has made nine appearances this season at second base, compared to 44 at shortstop. While it hasn’t been the smoothest season from an offensive perspective, batting .230 with a .681 OPS in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, the Giants don’t have any doubts about his potential at the plate.

When he gets his next chance in the majors, and what position he’ll be playing, are the more pressing questions.

“You never know where injuries are going to go,” Melvin said. “I know he’s working hard down there. Things can flip pretty quickly, just like it has here multiple times during the course of the season.”

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Injured starting pitchers Robbie Ray and Alex Cobb started back-to-back games the past two days for the Single-A San Jose Giants. On Tuesday, Ray threw four innings, allowing four runs on a pair of first-inning homers, and Cobb followed Wednesday afternoon with four innings of his own, allowing three runs in his final frame.

Ray will make his next rehab start for Triple-A Sacramento in Las Vegas and could be an option for the major-league rotation not long after the All-Star break, while Cobb remains slightly behind his pace.

“We’re not going to rush these things,” Melvin said. “The outings where you get up to four or five innings, those are the ones that you really have to monitor and make sure he’s feeling good. Make sure the command’s there. You just don’t want to jam him back in.”