The injury bug has continued to attack Giants pitching, as manager Bruce Bochy told reporters (including NBCSports.com’s Alex Pavlovic and Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group) that right-hander Julian Fernandez has suffered a UCL sprain and is headed to the disabled list. Furthermore, closer Mark Melancon’s availability for Opening Day could be in question, as his arm is still bothering him after making back-to-back appearances last Thursday and Friday.
Fernandez was selected out of the Rockies’ farm system in last December’s Rule 5 Draft, and would’ve had to remain on San Francisco’s 25-man roster all season or else be offered back to Colorado. Placing Fernandez on the DL would keep him in the Giants organization for now, though the larger concern is the 22-year-old’s health status. The timeline for such UCL injuries vary greatly due to the severity of the sprain, though Fernandez will likely be sidelined for at least a few months.
If Fernandez did require Tommy John surgery, that procedure would have an interesting big-picture impact on the Giants. As The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly observes, Fernandez would be placed on the Major League disabled list and clock a year of service time while recovering from a TJ procedure, and he would also earn the $545K minimum salary. Even that small payroll addition would be an added stress for a Giants team that has very little space under the $197MM luxury tax threshold, after the team made a point this offseason of somewhat limiting its spending to get under the threshold and reset its tax overage counter. That $545K would be an expense that the Giants weren’t planning to make at all for Fernandez, as he struggled (13.50 ERA) over 7 1/3 spring innings and potentially could’ve been considered not worthy of a 25-man spot.
Melancon’s back-to-back outings marked the first time he’d pitched in consecutive days this spring, as the veteran reliever continues his recovery from forearm surgery last September. Needless to say, any further soreness is a red flag for both he and the team, though Bochy said that Melancon’s roster status wouldn’t be determined until after he tests his arm further by playing catch over the next day or two. Melancon has been bothered by some arm fatigue throughout camp and pitched in just five games throughout Spring Training as the team tried to bring him along slowly.
The closer is trying to rebound after a disappointing and injury-marred first season in San Francisco that saw him post a 4.50 ERA over 30 innings. If Melancon does go on the disabled list, the Giants could turn to setup men Hunter Strickland or Tony Watson for save situations, or potentially again use Sam Dyson as closer as they did in 2017. Dyson, however, has struggled through a very rough spring.
It has already been a brutal spring health-wise for the Giants, with Madison Bumgarner (fractured finger) and Jeff Samardzija (strained pec) both going down with injuries that have badly stretched the team’s pitching depth. GM Bobby Evans told Baggarly and other reporters that “I anticipate we will remain internal” in regards to finding replacements, though Evans is open to the idea of potentially adding new pitchers.