- Giants right-hander Sergio Romo has had a setback in his rehab from a flexor strain in his right elbow, manager Bruce Bochy told reporters (Twitter links via Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle). Romo has been experiencing tenderness in his right elbow, which prompted the Giants to order an MRI on their longtime late-inning reliever. On the positive side, Schulman notes that the MRI didn’t reveal any structural damage. However, he’ll still be backed off for four to five days, making it unlikely that he’ll be back with the team anytime soon.
Baseball America’s Matt Eddy runs down the week’s minor moves. Among those that haven’t yet appeared here at MLBTR:
- Minor league infielder Ryan Dent has been released by the Cubs. Now 27, Dent was taken 62nd overall in the 2007 draft by the Red Sox. He’s never managed to show a consistent bat in the minors, but caught on with a Chicago organization that’s now run by former Boston GM Theo Epstein. Dent was unable to effect a turnaround, however, and now finds himself looking for a new opportunity.
- The Giants released southpaw Mike Kickham, per Eddy. Kickham, 27, made three starts and 11 relief appearances with San Francisco between 2013 and 2014, though he was hit hard in the big leagues. He’s bounced around since and has not recovered the promise that he showed at times in the minors. This year, Kickham had thrown 10 2/3 innings at Double-A, allowing eight earned runs on twenty hits and four walks to go with just seven strikeouts.
- The Giants released southpaw Mike Kickham, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports. Kickham was originally drafted by San Francisco in 2010 and appeared in 14 games with the Giants in 2013-14, which were thus far his only tastes of the major leagues. The lefty spent 2015 bouncing between the Cubs, Mariners and Rangers organizations before signing a minor league deal with the Giants this past winter. Kickham has a 4.17 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 1.83 K/BB over 561 1/3 innings in the minors, with 100 of his 117 career games coming as a starting pitcher.
- Earlier this week, the Tigers released outfielder Nate Schierholtz. The veteran signed a minor league contract with Detroit last winter. Schierholtz has a .253/.302/.405 slash line over 2275 career PA with the Giants, Phillies, Cubs and Nationals from 2007-14. He spent the 2015 season playing in Japan, an experience Schierholtz discussed with MLBTR’s Zach Links during Spring Training.
Despite signing a six-year, $130MM deal with the Giants in the offseason, right-hander Johnny Cueto’s excellence in San Francisco has somehow flown under the radar, writes Sarah Langs of ESPN.com. Not only has Cueto pitched to a 2.38 ERA across 75 2/3 innings this year, but he has done it while giving the Giants length, as Langs writes. Cueto is tied for the league lead with superstars Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale in complete games (three), and he’s second to Kershaw in seven-inning starts (nine). His changeup has been particularly dominant, as Cueto has induced swings and misses a career-best 44 percent of the time with it. Batters have hit a paltry .175 against the pitch and Cueto has fanned 29 hitters while deploying it with two strikes, which ranks behind only Stephen Strasburg. When batters have put Cueto’s changeup in play, they’ve hit it on the ground 74 percent of the time.
- The Giants have announced that they’ve placed starter Matt Cain on the 15-day DL with a hamstring strain and recalled fellow righty Chris Stratton to take his place on the active roster. 2016 has proven to be yet another frustrating season for Cain, who currently has a 5.20 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 53 2/3 innings this year after struggling through an injury-riddled 2015 campaign. For now, Stratton will likely serve as a long reliever, as Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News suggests. Stratton, the 20th overall pick in the 2012 draft, was pitching in the rotation at Triple-A Sacramento, where he’d posted a 6.02 ERA, 6.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 52 1/3 innings.
The Giants announced today that left fielder Angel Pagan has been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a left hamstring strain — the same issue which already cost him nearly two weeks of action earlier this season. In his place, the team has recalled outfielder Jarrett Parker from Triple-A. Pagan has had a productive start to the season, batting .275/.338/.383 with a pair of homers and five stolen bases. That’s a notable improvement over last year’s production in 133 games, though this also marks the fourth DL stint for Pagan since 2013 — the start of his current four-year, $40MM contract. The 27-year-old Parker is hitting .281/.366/.615 with 13 homers at the Triple-A level this season and slashed an impressive .347/.407/.755 in a brief 54-plate-appearance promotion last September, with the bulk of that damage coming in a three-homer game in Oakland on Sept. 26.
- Giants manager Bruce Bochy tells Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area that he doesn’t have a leash on Jake Peavy despite the right-hander’s considerable struggles in 2016. There was some hope that Peavy may have turned a corner after a solid start in Arizona last weekend, but he lasted just 1 2/3 innings and surrendered five runs on Friday, causing his ERA to balloon to 8.21. “I think he’s close,” said Bochy. “The stuff is fine. He’s healthy and he’s close. He’s just got to be a little more consistent with execution.” The Giants have maintained that stance on Peavy and fellow right-hander Matt Cain throughout the duo’s problems this year. Cain has indeed turned a corner over his past three starts, but it’s hard not to wonder how long the Giants will stick with Peavy if he cannot undergo a similar resurgence in the very near future.
- The Hill-to-Boston scenario is also explored by ESPN’s Buster Olney in his latest subscription-only column, and he also opines that Yankees setup man Andrew Miller would be a great fit for the Giants. Miller is signed through 2018 so San Francisco would gain a long-term bullpen piece to guard against any of all of their top relievers (Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo) leaving in free agency this winter. Miller’s availability could depend on whether or not the Yankees are still in a pennant race themselves, though Olney notes that New York has enough elite bullpen depth to shop Miller or Aroldis Chapman even if the club is in contention.
MAY 19: Lincecum is taking a physical for the Angels today and, if and when he passes, his deal with the team will be complete, reports Passan (Twitter link). Lincecum will head to the minors to build up endurance, per Passan, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds that the expectation is that he’ll need about 25 days to do so (links to Twitter). Also, per Sherman, the deal will not be official for another 48 to 72 hours, which aligns well with the fact that he’s getting his medical work done now.
MAY 18: The sides are still moving toward a deal, but likely won’t finalize things today, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link).
MAY 17, 3:46pm: The two sides are indeed moving closer to a deal, but they’re “still working through a few issues” and the deal isn’t quite finished, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
2:39pm: Right-hander Tim Lincecum is “leaning toward” signing with the Angels and could wrap up a deal today, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Meanwhile, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the two sides are “closing in” on a deal, adding that the White Sox and Giants are out of the mix (links to Twitter). Passan adds that the dollars remain unknown, but the deal being discussed is a Major League pact. Lincecum is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
Lincecum, 32 in a month, underwent season-ending hip surgery early last September and spent the offseason recovering from the procedure. Initial reports pegged his first showcase for teams in late January to early February, but the audition was ultimately pushed back until early May. More than 20 clubs were said to have watched Lincecum throw back on May 6, though the three clubs listed by Passan above were the primary clubs said to have interest. ESPN’s Eric Longenhagen wrote following the showcase that Lincecum sat in the upper 80s to low 90s with his fastball and displaying a slider that looked above-average at times, a “generally average” curveball and a more inconsistent changeup.
Whether Lincecum can succeed as a starter in the Majors following the operation remains to be seen. While he was, of course, one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball shortly after his arrival on the scene in the Majors (back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008-09 and a 2.81 ERA in 881 2/3 innings from 2008-11), his production has deteriorated since his velocity began to drop off in 2012. Since that time, Lincecum has a 4.68 ERA in 615 2/3 innings of work, and his most recent big league action, last season, came with a fastball that averaged 87.2 mph in his 76 1/3 innings of work. Lincecum did have a very successful 2011 season sitting at about 92 mph with his fastball, so he doesn’t necessarily need the heater that averaged 94+ mph when he first broke into the Majors in order to succeed. However, the upper 80s and low 90s have been where he’s struggled for much of the past four seasons, so it’d be nice for the Halos if the velocity he showed at his audition continued to tick upward as he gets into game action.
Lincecum was said to be throwing about 90 pitches per outing in simulated games, though I’d imagine that he’ll still require some time in the minor leagues to re-acclimate with a game setting at the professional level. His preference all along has seemingly been to return to a rotation, and of the listed clubs, the injury-ravaged Angels present the clearest opportunity for him to do just that. The Angels have lost ace Garrett Richards to a significant elbow issue, while left-hander Andrew Heaney is on the DL indefinitely and is said to have some damage to his own UCL. Fellow left-hander C.J. Wilson has yet to pitch in 2016 and isn’t expected back for another month or so, and former ace Jered Weaver is sporting a 6.10 ERA with a fastball that is averaging just north of 82 mph this season. Meanwhile, rehabbing southpaw Tyler Skaggs has seen his return from Tommy John surgery slowed by other arm difficulties and hasn’t been pitching in game settings recently.
Suffice it to say, the Halos could use all the rotation depth they can get. A trade for Jhoulys Chacin last week helped to address the need to some extent, but with what figures to be a fairly reasonable price tag and an enormously attractive pedigree, Lincecum makes sense for the Angels as an upside play. Even in the event that he simply pitches more like a capable fourth starter than the ace he once was, Lincecum would be a dramatic improvement to the club’s rotation picture. And, if he continues to exhibit the same struggles he’s had in recent seasons, it’ll be easier for the Halos to move on than it would have been for a club like the Giants, with whom Lincecum has a storied history that could make a split between the two sides difficult from a public relations standpoiint.
- The Giants added righty Preston Claiborne on a minor league deal, Eddy further notes. Claiborne, 28, has provided the Yankees with some useful innings, but hasn’t pitched competitively since 2014. He’s battled shoulder issues and was cut loose by the Marlins this spring.