Ryan Vogelsong, Shane Loux and roster decision the San Francisco Giants need to make

Thursday was a day off for the San Francisco Giants, but does mean there wasn’t news to report.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Henry Schulman reported that Ryan Vogelsong’s sore back — which caused the pitcher to get a late start to spring training and to the started of the season — flared up in the days before his most recent start.

It did not prevent him from pitching Tuesday in Los Angeles. In fact, Vogey’s seven-plus inning, one-run outing was his best of the season.

The Giants had Vogelsong leave LA early to avoid subjecting his back to a late-night flight after Wednesday’s game. It also allowed him to get a “maintainence shot” to his back in Arizona. The Giants say they don’t expect Vogelsong to miss his next start Monday at home against the Rockies.

Then came another piece of news. The Giants reportedly called on Fresno Grizzlies pitcher Shane Loux to join the team in Arizona. Loux was not activated. According to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com, teams have a short grace period in which they can bring a player in without calling him up.

The Loux summons could mean a couple of things:

The Giants could see Loux as insurance in the event Vogelsong’s back tightens up again. Loux started 28 games for Fresno in 2011 with a 4.67 ERA. But he’s worked exclusively out of the pen, with success, this season — 21 IP in 13 innings with a 3-1 record and an 0.43 ERA. So using Loux as a spot starter for Vogey doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Baggarly said it’s possible that Loux is being brought in simply to familiarize himself with the big league routine to prepare him for a future call-up. But Loux is no spring chicken. He’s 32 with two previous big-league stints — in 2002-03 with the Tigers and 2008-09 with the Angels.

It’s also likely the Giants are preparing to return to a seven-man bullpen. We knew that the Giants decision to go with a six-man pen in the wake of Guillermo Mota’s suspension and Aubrey Huff’s activation from the DL would not be permanent. The day off following the Dodgers series offered the Giants some flexibility.

But that flexibility ends Friday when the Giants start a stretch in which they play 20 games in 20 days. Loux’s call-up may be the first step toward the Giants returning to a seven-man pen. But with Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, who both have the ability to pitch deep into games, going in the first two games, the Giants may simply be holding Loux in reserve, allowing them to keep the deeper bench at least to open the Arizona series.

And there’s another factor at play. Jeremy Affeldt (sprained knee) is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday and may well be available to do so. But even if he is ready to come off the DL, that doesn’t mean Loux won’t be needed.

The Giants normally keep two lefties in the pen (Javier Lopez and Affeldt). When Affeldt went on the DL, lefty Travis Blackley was called upon. So when Affeldt comes off the DL, Blackley could be sent back to Fresno and Loux is activated to give the Giants a seven-man pen.

This appears to be the mostly likely scenario to MoreSplashHits, given Thursday’s news.

Of course, if that does happen, the Giants would need to demote, DL or DFA a position player.

But we’ll deal with that decision in a later post.


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