Season hasn’t even started, and Giants suffer first big injury blow — Samardzija

Mariners Giants Spring Baseball

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija throws against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning of a spring baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Friday, March 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Every year, we reach a point in Spring Training when you just want to say “Can Spring Training be over before something bad happens?”

Too late.

Word broke Thursday afternoon that Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija had an MRI on his shoulder, and the Giants were awaiting results.

But it can’t be good that the Giants’ No. 3 starting pitcher is getting an MRI this late in Spring Training.

UPDATE: Results of Samardzija’s MRI came in late Thursday, and they weren’t so bad — a strained pectoral muscle. Samardzija will rest of a week, and “crank it back up” as Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Given that timeline, the righty could be back with the Giants by the latter half of April if all goes well.

The announcement of the MRI came one day after Samardzija looked very good for three innings against the Cubs’ Triple-A lineup, and then gave up two home runs in an inning, a common occurrence all spring for the big right-hander.

Apparently on Thursday, the Giants had a heart-to-heart with Samardzija and he admitted pain in his shoulder.

“I think he’s been dealing with it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday. “He hasn’t said anything. That’s who he is. He kept pitching with it.”

But the results, and some lost velocity on his fastball, tipped the Giants that something was amiss.

Now we wait on word of the depth of what is ailing Samardzija, and how long it will keep him sidelined.

But it’s all but certain with the season set to open in a week that Samardzija will start the season on the DL.

While there are some outside options, Bochy said Thursday the team is likely to fill the void from within. It make sense, since Derek Holland, Chris Stratton and Ty Blach had been battling for the remaining two spots in the rotation.

Now all three figure to secure spots in the rotation. However, the Giants had been considering the option of keeping the loser of the rotation battle to head to the bullpen to provide long relief. If all three are in the rotation, it may lead the Giants to carry 13 pitchers to open the season.

That would come at the expense of keeping five outfielders. That could be bad news for the likes of Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker, both of whom were fighting for a job as a reserve outfielder.

With a couple of scheduled off-days early in the season, the Giants won’t need a No. 5 starter until April 10. So the Giants could open with a four-man rotation, which would buy them almost two weeks before needing to make a decision about 12 or 13 pitchers on the roster.

The Giants are also debating keeping Rule 5 flamethrower Julian Fernandez, who would have to be returned to the Rockies if he doesn’t make the Giants’ 25-man roster.

If the Giants go with the four-man rotation at the start of the season, they could keep Fernandez in the pen and still keep five reserve position players. But Bochy may still want to bolster the pen with another arm.

That’s the decision the staff has to make, and the fact Bochy will have Brandon Belt start in left field for the Giants’ Cactus League finale on Friday hints that it’s something they are seriously considering.

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