TEMPE, Ariz. – Pablo Sandoval went for X-rays and a CT scan on his ailing right elbow that showed “no new unexpected findings,” as Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner described it.
But it’s looking more and more likely that Sandoval should be considered a longshot to start at third base on opening day.
Sandoval has a bone spur that might be contributing to an irritated ulnar nerve in his elbow. He tried to play light catch on Saturday but the nerve hadn’t calmed down, putting him back in a holding pattern.
Now that pattern will continue for “a few more days” as he gets rest and treatment, Groeschner said via text message.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said on Saturday that he’d begin to get concerned about Sandoval’s availability for the April 1 opener at Dodger Stadium if the World Series MVP was unable to make progress through the weekend.
Sounds like Sandoval might not try to pick up a baseball again until the middle of next week.
As you probably know, Joaquin Arias is the top candidate to play third base while Sandoval is out. Marco Scutaro filled in at third last year while Sandoval was on the DL. But Bochy said last week that he wanted to limit Scutaro to second base and wouldn’t consider him even a short-time option at third.
Depth is an issue for the Giants at third base. Nick Noonan can play the position and would go from frontrunner for a backup infield spot to a seeming lock if Sandoval has to start the year on the DL.
If Sandoval does not appear in another major league exhibition, the Giants could backdate a potential DL stint to March 22. So in theory, he could begin the year on the DL and be activated as early as April 6. Under those circumstances, he’d miss just the first four games of the regular season.
This is the time when players shake loose on release waivers and Yuniesky Betancourt is out there after the Phillies cut him loose Sunday. (Former Giant and San Jose State legend Kevin Frandsen is now a lock to make the Phils’ roster, by the way.)
Betancourt is not a good hitter and you don’t need to be sabermetrically inclined to notice his on-base percentage is horrific. But he does play serviceable defense at three infield positions.
I’m not sure Betancourt is any more skilled than Noonan, but Giants GM Brian Sabean does value experience in bench roles. And at least one Giants scout who saw Betancourt play a game earlier this spring told me that he did well on that day. So we’ll see.
If Sandoval has to start the year on the DL, I think the Giants would be more likely to take a chance on Betancourt. I’d fully expect them to acquire SOMEONE from outside the organization in that event.
The Giants optioned Dan Runzler to Triple-A Fresno on Sunday morning and the left-hander did not take the news well. He packed hurriedly and didn’t slow down as he speed-walked through a group of reporters.
Runzler had pitched very, very well most of the spring before going completely off the rails in his final two outings. Most of his pitches were splashing short of the plate and he couldn’t throw a strike without laying one in there.
As long as everyone else was healthy, Runzler didn’t really have a shot at making the team anyway. That didn’t make the news any easier to take.
Bochy had a chat with Runzler in which he encouraged the hard-throwing lefty to keep working.
“Hopefully he gets back to work because anything can happen,” Bochy said. “He’s there knocking on the door. If we need to bring someone up, he’s the guy we’re hoping will be ready.”
It’s looking more and more like lefty Jose Mijares (elbow impingement) will be able to start the season in the bullpen. Mijares faced five batters and only retired one of them – on a sacrifice bunt, no less – while getting charged with three runs in a 5-4 victory over the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. But Mijares' stuff appeared firm enough. It was just up in the zone, which is to be expected given the amount of time he missed.
“I like where he is,” Bochy said. “Let’s see how he comes out of this.”
Jean Machi and Scott Proctor remain in camp, but Chad Gaudin remains a clear frontrunner for the final bullpen spot. So here’s your forecasted ‘pen: Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, George Kontos, Javier Lopez, Mijares and Gaudin.
I’ll wager that Giants fans will see right-hander Heath Hembree at some point this season. He had a couple rough ones earlier this spring, notably an outing at Goodyear when Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi took him deep.
But Hembree looked the part of a closer when he protected Sunday's 5-4 lead in the ninth. I was watching from a couple rows behind home plate and Hembree was really bringing heat while throwing a few good breaking balls in counts when they did him some good.
“He’s gotten better and better,” Bochy said. “His delivery is better. He was short-arming it a little earlier in camp. It’s free and easy now.”
Buster Posey provided that one-run lead for Hembree to protect. Serving as the DH, Posey had a couple of RBI hits, including a two-strike single up the middle in the ninth after Hunter Pence had walked and stolen his way into scoring position.
Posey lifted his average to .250 with just one extra-base hit, a double. He acknowledged the other day that he hasn’t found his timing yet, so Bochy liked the fact that the NL MVP got to see a lot of pitches in five at-bats.
Posey will catch again on Monday, Bochy said.
Posey helped the Giants avoid their fifth tie of the spring, since the two clubs agreed to call it quits after nine. And because I know there are people who care about such things ... with three Cactus league games to go, the Giants are 12-13-4 and still have a chance to finish above .500.
Hector Sanchez said he came out of his throwing session with no problems and he thinks his shoulder will be OK to start the season. He should get back behind the plate in a game soon, perhaps Tuesday or Wednesday.
Add Brandon Belt to the list of players nursing nagging injuries. He woke up in the middle of the night with a stiff neck and couldn’t turn his head. (I suppose it qualifies as a nuisance when a giraffe has a neck issue.)
Belt tried to play catch but it didn’t feel good so he was limited to rest and treatment. You’d think the pitchers would be the ones to have neck issues, given the number of home runs Belt has hit this spring.
Belt said he expected to be OK within 24 hours after getting treatment.