The San Francisco Giants were hoping to escape Arizona without having to put anyone on the disabled list.
That hope ended Tuesday when Marco Scutaro revealed he would open the season on the DL after a trip to the doctor didn’t help resolved his lingering back issue.
Then on Wednesday, as the rest of the team headed north for the Bay Bridge Series, Jeremy Affeldt was placed on the DL with a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Affeldt felt discomfort in his knee last Saturday when he gave up four runs against the White Sox.
Bochy seemed frustrated by his left-handed reliever.
“He didn’t have his brace on,” Bochy said.
It’s the brace that Affeldt has been wearing — or supposed to be wearing — ever since hurting his knee way back in May 2012. You’ll recall that’s when Affeldt hurt his knee when his then-four-year-old son jumped into his arms after Affeldt arrived home from a game.
That leaves three pitchers to compete for two spots left in the bullpen, as Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff appear locks as long relievers.
Jean Machi is on the 40-man roster and is out of options, but he has struggled this spring. Non-roster invitees Derek Law and Juan Gutierrez have impressed this spring. But to put them on the opening day roster would require opening a spot on the 40-man roster.
The Giants have one spot open currently, but that is expected to be filled by another non-roster invitee, infielder Brandon Hicks. Hicks is expected to make the team as infield help with Scutaro opening the season on the shelf.
Three other pitchers — Dan Runzler, Heath Hembree and Erik Cordier — will make the trip north with the team this weekend, but Bochy does not view them as candidates to make the opening-day roster.
So the Giants head north, having avoided major injuries like the Tommy John surgeries facing the likes of the Braves’ Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy or the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin. Even Clayton Kershaw had an MRI on his back and will miss his start Sunday.
So by comparison, the Giants are getting off light.
They hope to have Affeldt back by the middle of April. Scutaro’s return date is far less certain. Buster Posey sat out Wednesday with a tight hamstring, and Pablo Sandoval has a sore hand that will sideline him for some of this weekend’s games.
Otherwise, the Giants are marching ahead toward the 2014 season.
When the Giants re-signed Marco Scutaro to a three-year, it would have been a lot to expect the same Scutaro who produced during the last two months of 2012 and into the postseason.
But we’d be happy with something close to that.
As the season start, we saw a Scutaro who struggled. Then we learned he was still battling back issues that plagued him during spring training.
Then he got hot, and things were good. Then he started to scuffle again. And not only scuffle, but strike out, which is something he just didn’t do last year.
Well, those days are over as Scutaro is swinging the bat well, again.
Scutaro extended his hitting streak to 12 games on Sunday with another solid game that included his first home run of the season. He’s batting .479 (23-for-48) during that binge, indicating his relief from back pain.
Over the past week, Scutaro went 14 for 30 (.467) with four doubles, a triple, home run and no runs scored. He did not draw a walk but he also didn’t strike out.
And that make Scutaro MoreSplashHits’ player of the week for the Week of May 6-12. He’s now batting .305 for the season.
Remember when Marco Scutaro got off to a 2-for-23 start and we were wondering what was wrong with the Giants second baseman?
Was it his sore back? Was it bad habits when he battled a sore back in spring training?
Well, whatever it was, it’s gone.
Scutaro got well against Rockies and Cubs pitching, hitting .444 (11 for 25), with four runs, three doubles, 4 RBI and just one strikeout. Now, that’s more Scutaro-like.
For that, Scutaro was MoreSplashHits’ pick as the Giants player of the week for Week 2, over the likes of Brandon Crawford and Santiago Casilla.
Crawford hit .364 (8 for 22) with five runs, one double, one home run, 5 RBI and 5 walks last week. Casilla pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, no runs, on walks, while striking out six. He picked up a six-out save.
I went back to the story posted on SFGiants.com of the Giants’ acquisition of Marco Scutaro on July 27 and looked at the comments.
Here’s a sampling…
“Dodgers get Ramirez….Giants go out and add Scutaro. I guess that’s fair. *cough*not*cough*”
“TURN AROUND AND GO BACK TO COLORADO SCUTERO , WE DONT WANT YOU HERE> unless you’re Hnter pence, this year goes to the dodgers because a 36 year old geezer isnt going to get us anywhere close to the post season”
“Get yourself a real ballplayer…like Hanley Ramirez…not a 36 year old washup player.”
“Looks like the Giants are back to their old ways, trading for a old washed up player. Best they can do before the trading deadline???”
And then there was my personal favorite from a Dodgers fan.
“this is Sabean’s answer to the Hanley Ramirez trade? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I was on a vacation in late July when the Giants made their two deadline deals, acquiring Scutaro and Hunter Pence.
The only Giants news I was getting during my vacation were the scores of the games. I actually didn’t hear of the Scutaro deal until two days later when I checked the score of the game on my phone and noticed Scutaro’s name in the Giants box score.
Not all of the comments to the Scutaro deal were negative. Many fans had the same reaction that I did.
I thought that Scutaro would provide some depth and versatility, especially with Sandoval headed for another DL stint. Plus, one of the Giants’ weaknesses at the time was their bench.
So I liked the deal to an extent. But it wasn’t nearly as splashy as the Dodgers’ get of Hanley Ramirez.
But the most telling comment at the time of the Scutaro deal came from Dodgers’ second baseman Mark Ellis, a teammate of Scutaro in Oakland.
“He’ll help them a lot,” Ellis said. “He can play a lot of different positions and he gets big hits for you. He’ll play a huge role; he always does. Every team he’s on, he has a huge impact on that team.”
Let’s call him “Nostraellis” from here on.
When the Giants acquired Scutaro, he was hitting .271 with 4 HR and 30 RBI in 95 games. And he did that playing in Colorado, the best hitters park in the majors.
In 61 games with the Giants — playing in the WORST hitters park — he hit .362 with 3 HR, 44 RBI. He had just as many doubles (16) with the Giants as he did with the Rockies and almost as many runs (40 in SF, 47 in Colorado).
Scutaro played 15 of his first 17 games with the Giants at third base, while Sandoval mended from a hamstring injury. After Sandoval returned from the DL, Scutaro played exclusively at second base.
The Giants said Scutaro was not acquired to replace Ryan Theriot at second base. But after hitting safely in 14 of his first 17 games with the Giants (batting .294 over that span), there was no getting Scutaro out of the lineup. From Aug. 16, Theriot started just three games at second base.
And Scutaro’s production simply grew from there.
This blogger has long talked about the importance of the Giants making contact in contact situations — i.e. runner on third with fewer than two outs. At Scutaro is the perfect player in that situation. He’s also important in the No. 2 hole, the ideal hit-and-run situation. We saw that in Game 7 Monday.
In the postseason, Scutaro bounced back from a sub-par NLCS vs. the Reds, when he hit .150 (3 for 20). But he didn’t strike out in that series.
In the NLCS, Scutaro’s knocks began finding holes. He hit .500 (14 for 28) with three doubles, six runs, four RBI and two walks. Plus he played a slick second base and showed grittiness in battling back from the Holliday chop block in Game 2.
So for all of you Brian Sabean haters out there, consider this.
The last two Giants to be named MVPs of the National League Championship Series … Cody Ross and Marco Scutaro … two players acquired by Sabean after the All-Star break.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it an illegal play.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny called the play “hard, but within the rules.”
So who’s right? Well, opinions varied Tuesday, a day after the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday injured Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro in an effort to break up a double play in Monday’s Game 2 of the National League championship series.
Scutaro was diagnosed with a strained hip, but expects to play Wednesday in Game 3. So that’s the good news.
Wording of some MLB rules are often vague and open to interpretation. And that’s why opinions on plays like the one Monday are so varied.
In Rule 6.05 (m), pertaining to a batter is out when …
“A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play.”
Seems pretty clear there. And applied to this play, Holliday and batter Allen Craig should have been ruled out, which would have been little consolation for an injured Scutaro. However, if this rule had been enforced in the past, and fines and suspensions were attached to blatant violators, then that would deter runners from doing what Holliday did.
However, it’s the comment on this rule that opens it up to interpretation.
“The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.”
Some interpret “by .. leaving the baseline” to mean that as long as the runner is in the baseline that anything he does there is fair game.
But others would look at “obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man … rather than trying to reach the base” and see that clearly Holliday’s intent was to contact Scutaro and not the base, as he didn’t contact Scutaro until after he passed the base.
This is the issue Billy Ripken took with the play on MLB Network. Ripken said he had no problems with contact on plays that occur in the baseline between first and second base. But Ripken pointed out that Scutaro positioned himself on the far end of the bag for protection, knowing that Holliday would have to slide over the bag to get to him. Holliday solved this problem by not starting his slide (i.e. hitting the ground) until after he passed the bag, and Scutaro got no relief from the umpires.
But another veteran infielder on MLB Network, Larry Bowa, didn’t understand the hub-bub over the play, saying it was just a baseball play. He added that’s the way the game has been played for years. Bowa said “we could put skirts on these guys” showing how old he is and how out-of-date his thinking is.
Baseball is by nature a non-contact sport, and it should be played that way. Any contact should be incidental.
Fans don’t go to the game to see players crash into each other. They go to football games for that.
They go to see players play, and MLB needs to make sure it can do all it can to make sure that happens.
The simple solution is to follow high school rules on sliding into a bag.
High school rules defines that a legal slide “can be either feet first or head first. If a runner slides feet first, at least one leg and buttock shall be on the ground. If a runner slides, he must slide within reach of the base with either a hand or a foot.”
And an illegal slide occurs “when a runner uses a rolling, cross-body or pop-up slide into the fielder; the runner’s raised leg is higher than the fielder’s knee when the fielder is in a standing position; the runner goes beyond the base and makes contact with or alters the play of the fielder; the runner slashes or kicks the fielder with either leg; or the runner tries to injure the infielder.”
Now that’s clear and not open to discussion. An illegal slide equals interference. If the rule is blatantly broken, ejections, fines and suspensions will ensue.
Problem solved, and it allows the best players decide which teams should advance in the postseason.
NL West lead: 5.5
Magic number: 19
How many times have we talked about this: The Giants’ struggles with a runner on third and less than two outs.
Last year, it was a bigger issue when the Giants had one of the most anemic offensive seasons in history. How many times last year did we see a Giant strikeout when the situation calls for contact, contact of any kind.
This year, it’s been a different story. The Giants are hitting .375 with a runner on third and less than two outs. That number not only represents the number of clutch hits the Giants have delivered this season, but it’s also impacted by the Giants’ league-high 53 sacrifice flies. If you added those 53 outs to the Giants’ 267 at-bats with a runner on third with less than two outs (sacrifice flies are not counted as at-bats), their average drops to .313.
But there is an oddity in the numbers. The Giants have hit .287 with runners on second and third (regardless of outs). But that number drops to .210 with the bases loaded.
So when the Giants put runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the seventh on Friday, it was an easy decision to walk Angel Pagan to load the bases, setting up a force at every base.
But it also brought up Marco Scutaro. Scutaro may be the one Giant that fans loved to see up in that situation.
To put it simply, Scutaro has been clutch. Scutaro has hit .273 with runners in scoring position. But if you put a runner on third, his numbers take off.
He’s hit .357 with the bases loaded, and he’s hit a whopping .444 with a runner on third with less than two outs.
And here’s another stat: In 37 plate appearances with a runner on third and less than two outs this season, Scutaro has struck out ZERO TIMES.
That’s because Scutaro makes contact on 94 percent of strikes thrown to him.
The Dodgers can hoot and holler about all the bats they’ve added this season — Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Adrian Gonzalez — but no midseason acquisition has been bigger than the Giants’ addition of Scutaro.
Get this: In 95 games with the Colorado Rockies — playing the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — Scutaro hit 4 HRs, 30 RBI and batted .271. In 39 games with the Giants — playing the least hitter-friendly park in baseball — Scutaro has 2 HRs, 26 RBI and a .331 average.
So then it was no surprise when Scutaro smacked a tiebreaking two-run single to right with the bases loaded in the seventh, sending the Giants to a 5-2 win over the Dodgers.
CSNBayArea’s Andrew Baggarly suggested, given that the Giants will have a vacancy at second base in 2013, that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Scutaro sign a two-year deal with the Giants in the offseason.
Even if he will by 37 in 2013, that doesn’t sound too bad to us.