Giants closer Hunter Strickland will miss the next six to eight weeks following surgery to repair a fractured right hand, manager Bruce Bochy told reporters Tuesday (Twitter links via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area).
The injury occurred in rather embarrassing and regrettable fashion, it seems, as Strickland punched a door out of frustration after blowing a save and surrendering three runs in last night’s loss. In the absence of Strickland, the Giants will turn to either Tony Watson or Sam Dyson to serve as the primary closer, according to Bochy. Right-hander Pierce Johnson will be recalled back to the big leagues to take Strickland’s roster spot.
Needless to say, the ninth-inning situation in San Francisco over the past season and a half hasn’t panned out the way the Giants had hoped. The Giants signed Mark Melancon to a then-record-setting four-year, $62MM contract to handle closing duties, but he’s managed to throw just 35 2/3 innings in the Majors dating back to Opening Day 2017, as he’s been hampered by pronator and flexor strains in his right arm. Melancon joined the club for his 2018 debut earlier this month, but it seems that in spite of his considerable experience in the ninth inning, he won’t be immediately considered for closing opportunities.
To Strickland’s credit, the 29-year-old stepped up early this season to fill in for Melancon and enjoyed immediate success. Despite last night’s three-run hiccup, he’s sitting on a strong 2.84 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9. Strickland’s 28 games finished are the most in the National League, and 13 of those games finished have resulted in a save.
A full year of ninth-inning work would’ve poised Strickland for a healthy raise on this year’s $1.55MM salary in arbitration this offseason, but his earning power will undoubtedly be hindered by the missed time — especially if he doesn’t regain the closer’s role when he eventually returns from the disabled list. The Giants control Strickland, a Super Two player, through the 2021 season. He’ll be arbitration-eligible three more times before reaching free agency.