When it comes to Spring Training, no news is good news.
An ideal March is a quiet one in which teams take the field after lunch, quickly and succinctly throw, catch, hit, run for 9 innings before wrapping things up in time for dinner.
Sure, it’s fun to have your Twitter a-flutter with poorly filmed clips of Joey Bart and Joc Pederson going deep in a game — but I’d trade every newsflash homer for a healthy roster come April.
One home run in Scottsdale does not prophesy 25 in the big leagues, but a pulled hammie could come with ramifications. Injuries that crop up now — big or small — could foreshadow more trouble during the season.
After playing in at least 160 games in three consecutive seasons, Hunter Pence fractured his left forearm after a hit-by-pitch in early March and ended up dealing with a myriad of health SNAFUs that kept him off the diamond for two-thirds of the 2015 season.
Though Mike Yastrzemski suffered only a hand contusion after being hit by a pitch in the last spring training game of 2021, his splits against left-handed pitching plummeted (.513 OPS). He recently admitted that the injury in March dogged him mentally the entire season.
The San Francisco Giants have received a fair amount of bad news these past days. Evan Longoria will be out six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his finger. LaMonte Wade Jr. was taken out of Monday’s game and a later MRI revealed bone bruising and knee inflammation. Both will start the season on the Injured List.
Gabe Kapler said the expectation is Evan Longoria will miss six weeks after undergoing right index finger surgery.
– Maria I. Guardado (@mi_guardado) March 30, 2022
Brandon Belt has yet to appear in a game this month because of knee inflammation, while Tommy La Stella is recovering from his offseason Achilles surgery. He made his first spring appearance on Wednesday, appearing as the designated hitter before leaving in the 3rd inning for a pinch runner. Both are questionable for Opening Day.
Though it appears to be out of an abundance of caution, Mike Yastrzemski was pulled from Wednesday’s game after experiencing some quad tightness running the bases.
This flurry of medical setbacks is concerning, but it does not spell disaster for the Giants. LaStella doesn’t feel a hundred percent on his ankle, but it’s not like he’s bed-ridden. In three plate appearances this week, he walked and knocked in 3-runs with a double.
Tommy La Stella went 1-for-2 with a bases-clearing double and a walk in his first Cactus League start at DH today, but he said his status for Opening Day remains questionable.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve necessarily ruled it out at this point, but it’s still up in the air.”
– Maria I. Guardado (@mi_guardado) March 29, 2022
Brandon Belt started running the bases today and will likely see some action this weekend. LaMonte Wade Jr. at 28 years old is the youngest of the aforementioned bunch, and will more likely than not recover quickly.
Knocking on all the wood within reach as I write this, but I do not expect Brandon Crawford to peel out on any desert motorcycle joy rides anytime soon.
Every team in baseball has to do a lineup shuffle these days. Spring brings injuries. It’s inevitable and like an Easter bunny with a basket of hard boiled eggs instead of chocolate, it’s not ideal, it’s not wanted, but you can work with ’em.
As it stands now, the San Francisco Giants position players are a little beat-up but none of them are setting off the alarm bells.
Evan Longoria’s injury is the one I’m most worried about. The surgery stems from a hit by pitch last August that did not quite heal right. The recovery was probably prolonged by the lockout in which Longoria was unable to communicate with team doctors for three months.
Longo is 36 and has played baseball for a long time. He’s been a big league third baseman since 2008. From 2013 to 2017, he played in 156 or more games a season, and that does not count practices, spring training games, off-season workout routines… His body has been through the ringer and will take its sweet time to heal.
But Longoria’s 2022 has always been a question mark for me. The collision with Crawford last June kicked him to the 60-day IL. The HBP on the right hand sent him right back. His return to the plate in September was underwhelming. He supplied one of the great postseason moments in San Francisco history with his wind-parting home run in game 3 of the NLDS (and we are forever in Longo’s debt for it) but we haven’t seen our third baseman man his position enough to dispel any doubts over lingering shoulder problems.
Yes, he’s a veteran, he hits lefties well and is one of the solid right handed bats many of us felt needed to be supplemented in the offseason. There’s no doubt Longo’s absence will be missed but I’m sure his name was circled by the front office last winter as someone who might need a viable contingency plan sooner rather than later.
The Giants have options for third, just as they have options for every other position — what’s scary is when they need to enact those Plan-B’s all at the same time.
Wilmer Flores is best as a DH and occasional first baseman, but he has plenty of experience playing the left side of the infield and filled in for Longoria admirably last season. Mauricio Dubon and Thairo Estrada both have experience playing third, as well as recent pickups like Alex Blandino and Luke Williams.
We’ll probably see all of these players in San Francisco uniforms at one point in 2022, but head for your end-of-the-world bunker if they’re all on the field at the same time.