LaMonte Wade Jr. to take big step in push to Giants lineup return

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Wade Jr. to take big step in push to return to Giants' lineup originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

NEW YORK -- Six of the Giants' first nine games have been decided by two or fewer runs. They should soon benefit from the return of a player who has shown a tendency to come through in close games.

LaMonte Wade Jr. will test his injured left knee by running the bases this week and the Giants are hopeful he can start a rehab assignment this weekend. Wade has been out since the end of March with left knee inflammation, but he exchanged texts with Gabe Kapler over the weekend and told his manager that he's feeling good.

"I think he's optimistic about how his rehab is going," Kapler said Monday. "And just the concept that it's maybe not as far out as we thought is good news."

Wade hurt his knee while running the bases in a spring training game March 28. He had an MRI that revealed inflammation and a bone bruise, and he was held out of most workouts on the team's first homestand. Wade did not make this four-city trip.

Wade had a .808 OPS and 18 homers in his first year with the Giants, and they have missed his presence in the lineup. When healthy, Wade gives Kapler a good option atop the lineup or in the middle of it against right-handed pitching.

Wade got just nine spring at-bats, but he had three hits, including a homer. Kapler said he didn't think Wade would need a lengthy rehab assignment as has traditionally been the case for players who are missing so many at-bats. The Giants have recently watched Brandon Belt get off to a hot start after getting just nine at-bats in exhibition play.

"There's a lot of muscle memory here, there's a lot of being in the batter's box over the course of a player's career at the minor league and major league level, even dating back to their time in the batter's box at the amateur level," Kapler said. "All of those things actually prepare them more than we all think -- and in many cases the player thinks -- they need to be ready to compete. I feel pretty strongly about this one that it's really a psychological thing.

"Sometimes it's helpful to get additional reps if that helps a player psychologically and it helps a group feel more confident in the decision to bring them to the major leagues to get them into major league games."

If Wade is able to return soon after the Giants return home, it will lead to a bit of a roster crunch. Rosters are getting cut from 28 to 26 players at the start of May, and Evan Longoria should return at some point next month. He's set to start taking swings in Arizona this week.

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Tommy La Stella's timeline is murkier. Kapler had previously said that he was the closest of the three to returning, but there's no news on when La Stella might take his own rehab assignment. He is working his way back from Achilles surgery and wasn't moving well at the end of the spring, but Kapler made it clear he'll welcome the veteran second baseman back the second he's ready to contribute.

"Tommy is a badass," Kapler said. "We want Tommy back and ready to play as soon as possible."

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