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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Giants monitoring veteran's health closely

The Cactus League is well underway, and so far the theme of things for the Giants and Bruce Bochy is to bring some of the veterans, especially those coming off injury or large work-loads in 2015, nice and slowly.

It's been a couple weeks since our last post here as I've been on vacation for the last 10 days, but I've been keeping an eye on the happenings in Arizona and finally got to tune into my first game of the spring today (Saturday vs. Arizona). First and foremost, the goal for every club's spring training is to break north (east or west) with your full projected 25-man roster in-tact, because it doesn't get a whole lot tougher than losing a key player for any extended period of regular season time caused by a spring injury. So far on the Giants' side, there's been a few guys batting a few small-scale injuries and guys returning form injury last season who Bruce Bochy and Co. will continue to bring along slowly over the new few weeks as Opening Day approaches. Some of the more key players on that "caution" list are Matt Cain, Hunter Pence, Joe Panik as well newcomers Johnny Cueto and Denard Span. The concern levels for Panik (back),  Pence (Achilles), and Span (hip) aren't really all that significant (at the moment at least), but certainly worth monitoring. Bruce Bochy will likely use the first few weeks of spring to bring those guys along slowly to ensure all are a go and avoid any set-backs.

Johnny Cueto and Matt Cain pose a bit of a different obstacle. Cueto passed the physical and has come in healthy and ready to go, but he's had so many little health issues over his career and then tailed down the stretch in '15 for his worst stretch of his career. The issue he ran into last summer and one of the main reason he didn't get that big contract upwards of $200M (a la Zach Grienke and David Price) was some elbow issues, obviously a major red flag pitchers, and the fear that the elbow contributed to his sub-par second half. On the positive side, the injury was never considered serious, didn't cause him any DL time and he proved that he can still dominate deep into the playoffs with that outstanding Game 2 of the 2015 Fall Classic in which he 2-hit/shutout  the Mets.

The Giants' prized signee from this winter had his spring debut pushed back a few days but did take the mound Friday and didn't quite put forth the performance he was likely hoping to for his new squad.It was the plan all along to bring the Giants prized free-agent signee, Johnny Cueto, along slower than the rest because of that huge work load last season, pitching deep into the fall with the World Champion Kansas City Royals. So, the dread-locked ace did make his Giants spring debut Friday afternoon vs. the Rockies and it was a rough one for the right-hander. Cueto wasn't fooling Rockie' hitters, giving up 4 hits (including a CarGo 2-run jack), 5 runs and a couple of walks in just an 1.1 innings. After the game some of the Rockies hitters even mentioned how Cueto didn't have his A-stuff out there and it was no secret as he was giving up some loud contact. With that being said, it was his first start of the spring and I'm taking it with a complete grain of salt. Something tells me he's gonna work on some stuff over the next  few days and I'd expect a much better outing next week.

As for the man who will follow MadBum and Cueto in the rotation in that three spot, Jeff Samardzija, "The Shark" had a decent first two outings for his new squad, combining to go 5 innings allowing a run on 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5 in two starts. The Mariners got to him a little bit in his last start scoring 3 runs and collecting 6 hits in just 4 innings off of the big right-hander but so far the big right-hander's stuff has looked pretty good according to Rags and Boch. With him kinda flying under the radar behind the two bigger names ahead of him, it wouldn't surprise me to see Samardzija really bust out of the gate strong this season.

Then we have Matt Cain, who's coming off a different situation than any other Giants' starter and is a guy who I really have no idea what to expect out of in 2016. Cainer's work load over the last 12 months has been at a minimal as the former horse of the staff has run into some injury issues for the first time in his rock-solid career. Everything was looking on the up and up for Cain as he arrived in Scottsdale in great shape and ready to return to that sub-4 ERA, 200+ inning/season workhorse Giants' fans have become accustomed to but early on in Spring a cyst was removed from the the veterans right shoulder. Immediately upon hearing that news I feared that the Giants would once again be without Cainer for an extended period of time. However, the surgery wasn't a major one and there is some outside hope that Cain will be able to avoid starting the season on the DL. I personally would play it safe and let Clayton Blackburn take that first start of the year in the fifth spot, then the Giants theoretically won't need a fifth man until April 18th which would give Cain maybe a start or two in extended spring or low-A before making his debut. I guess we'll see what Boch and Rags decide to do but I would be semi-surprised if Cain is out there for his first scheduled start (assuming he's the 5th guy) vs. LA on April 8th.

Up Next: Now, we've kinda ran down the injury/health situations that have sprung up early on in spring, so next post (which we've already begun) will focus more on the actual play and some of the guys that have really stood out as we approach the halfway mark of the Cactus League.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Damn, the last thing they need is madbum getting injured. Cueto's debut was piss poor. I think people are over-rating the Giants rotation way too much.

  • At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Jason Billingsley said…

    I dissagree with the first comment. I think the Giants staff can be the best in the game. Remember Samardzija and Cueto have never gotten to pitch a full year in a pitchers park in their career's. Cueto got to pitch in KC for 2 months last year when he struggled but I attribute that to the change of leagues as much as anything else. That game two of the WS took away any concern I had.

    People just need to be patient. I think things will be fine with the pitching. I'm just hoping Cainer can get back healthy and be that work horse again. If that happens they look out.

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