Did you forget that Tyler Austin exists? You probably forgot that Tyler Austin exists.
It’s okay if you forgot that Tyler Austin exists. It happens to the best of us. It’s happened to me three times already this morning, and I’m writing an article on the guy. You’ve never experienced real writer’s block until you try writing about a subject material that you keep forgetting exists.
But Tyler Austin does, indeed, exist. And not in the way that Connor Joe and Michael Reed exist. Tyler Austin exists on the San Francisco Giants. On these San Francisco Giants.
Tyler Austin is one of the 25 tobacco-spittin’, high-socked fellas at Bruce Bochy’s disposal on any given day.
So how have we managed to forgot about his existence?
Because the Giants, apparently, have forgotten about his existence.
Austin pinch hit on April 12. He then sat out four games and five days. Through the appearance of the infamous taxi squad, it was revealed that Austin was dealing with inflammation in his elbow.
Catcher Aramis Garcia is in #sfgiants clubhouse and on taxi squad in case Tyler Austin (elbow inflammation) is shelved longer, but Austin said he heard good news on his MRI and will see team doctor soon.— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) April 14, 2019
Austin then started on April 18, and pinch hit on April 19. And that was that.
It’s now been a full week (though admittedly just four games) since we last saw Tyler Austin do baseball things for this baseball team.
Whatever is going on is weird, and not ideal.
The initial thought is, as always, that the Giants have horrendously bungled a player’s injury, as they repeatedly do. When Austin last played, there . . . uhh . . . wasn’t a lot of confidence in that being a sound medical decision.
Giants will decide soon whether Tyler Austin will play 1B or LF on Thursday. Depends on how his elbow feels after playing catch. Eric Kratz will catch the day game.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) April 17, 2019
Austin has a total of six plate appearances in the last 15 days, meaning he could have been placed on the IL with no meaningful consequence, and made way for a shirt stint of Aramis Garcia, Austin Slater, or, let’s be realistic, a 14th pitcher because why the hell not.
Or there’s the chance that Austin is fully healthy, and hasn’t played lately because the Giants have only faced two left-handed starters since April 10th, when Austin made his third consecutive start.
The Giants are unlikely to go 15-day stretches with only seeing two lefties again anytime soon, so perhaps we’ll see a lot more Austin in the coming days. He may even start tonight against his former team the New York Yankees and lefty James Paxton.
But it’s kind of odd, and puts on display the inherent limitations of a player who is bad defensively and only capable offensively against one hand. Austin can absolutely mash against lefties, but it feels apparent that the Giants acquired him with hopes of only using him in very specific situations. And given the amount of righties in bullpens, pinch hitting isn’t even one of those specific situations.
That may be the right approach with Austin, but it certainly makes the price - Malique Ziegler and Connor Joe - a little bit steeper.
Anyway, if it feels like the Giants have been playing with an even shorter bench than an 8-man bullpen would already dictate, it’s because they kind of have.
But Tyler Austin exists. Hopefully we’re reminded of that soon.