Posted on March 24, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Less than a week before opening day, the San Francisco Giants have suffered their first loss of the season. Ace Madison Bumgarner will be out for an undetermined amount of time after breaking his left hand. Bumgarner suffered the injury Friday when he was struck by a line drive off the bat of Royals infielder Whit Merrifield during a Cactus League game. The four-time all-star will start the season on the DL and miss the early portion of the 2018 season.
“I feel awful, this coming in his last start of the spring. Obviously, there was no intent,” said Merrifield. “I just feel terrible. He’s my kind of player, my kind of pitcher. He goes out there and grinds and does whatever it takes to win. I loved watching him pitch.”
For the Giants, losing Bumgarner must feel like deja vu. San Francisco lost Bumgarner last April after he hurt his shoulder in a dirt biking accident. The lefty ended up missing nearly three months. By the time he returned from the DL, the Giants were miles from contention and their season was a wash. There is no doubt fear that losing Bumgarner could have a similar impact this year.
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“It’s just a downer, we know what we means to us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters Friday evening. “It’s just terrible news for us.”
A pitcher breaking his throwing hand figures to be more complicated than most injuries. Most position players would likely be able to come back from this injury in six weeks or less. But a pitcher may require more time for the injury to heal and then additional time to get stretched out after a long layoff.
The Giants shouldn’t expect to get Bumgarner back on the mound until at least May. The calendar may be closing in on June by the time the lefty returns. Unfortunately, the Giants may not be able to survive an extended period of time without Bumgarner. He’s a bonafide ace and one of the most dominant pitchers in the game when he’s going right.
To make matters worse, the loss of Bumgarner comes on the heels of the Giants also losing Jeff Samardzija to injury. Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle and could end up missing the first few weeks of the season. The Giants are now poised to begin the season with two of their top three starters on the DL.
Johnny Cueto could be the only established big league pitcher in San Francisco’s rotation at the start of the season. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton were expected to fill out the back end of the rotation. Instead, they will be the team’s no. 2 and 3 starters. Veteran Derek Holland and prospects Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez are now the top candidates for the final two spots in San Francisco’s rotation. It may be time for the Giants to consider free agents such as John Lackey, Jake Peavy, or Matt Garza.
Whoever ends up taking the empty spots in San Francisco’s rotation, there will be a huge drop-off from Bumgarner and Samardzija. Based on how the Giants fared last season while Bumgarner was out, they have a monumental task ahead of them. Considering how competitive the NL West looks like on paper, the injury to Bumgarner could potentially end San Francisco’s 2018 season before it begins.