The Giants announced a series of roster moves before tonight’s matchup with the Nationals. First baseman Brandon Belt and reliever Dominic Leone have each tested positive for COVID-19 and were placed on the injured list. Outfielders Jason Krizan and Ka’ai Tom and reliever Mauricio Llovera have each been selected onto the major league roster. Additionally, San Francisco released recently-claimed southpaw Darien Núñez.
Under the league’s 2022 health-and-safety protocols, players who test positive are subject to a 10-day absence from the club, though it’s possible to be reinstated in less time if the player has gone 24 or more hours without a fever, received a pair of negative PCR tests, and been given approval from a team physician and the MLB/MLBPA joint committee (a panel of one league-appointed and one union-appointed physician). Belt and Leone join outfielder Mike Yastrzemski and reliever Zack Littell on the Giants’ COVID list.
San Francisco is down two notable pieces to both the lineup and the bullpen. Belt, one of the game’s best hitters from 2020-21, has again gotten off to an excellent start. The 34-year-old is hitting .242/.367/.470 with four homers through 79 plate appearances. Leone, meanwhile, has fired seven innings of three-run ball with eight strikeouts and one walk through the season’s first few weeks.
The Giants didn’t specify whether the three players selected today are designated COVID “substitutes,” although it seems likely that’ll be the case. This season, the commissioner’s office has sole discretion to determine whether a team’s “ability to field a competitive team” has been sufficiently impacted by the virus to warrant temporary replacements. In that event, those “substitute” players could be removed from the 40-man roster and returned to the minor leagues without having to clear waivers as the team gets back to health. Given that the Giants have lost four players to positive tests in fairly rapid succession, it seems likely the league would afford them that luxury.
While it may not be under ideal circumstances, it’s no doubt a rewarding day for Krizan. Selected by the Tigers out of Dallas Baptist in 2011, the left-handed hitting corner outfielder has spent 11 years in the minor leagues. That includes parts of seven seasons at Triple-A, where Krizan has a career .276/.347/.412 line in more than 400 games. He had an impressive .316/.367/.492 showing with the Giants’ top affiliate in Sacramento last year. Krizan hasn’t gotten off to a great start with the River Cats this season, but his established track record in the minors earns him his first big league call a couple months shy of his 33rd birthday.
Tom and Llovera both joined the organization on minor league deals. The former is a left-handed hitter who tallied his first 133 MLB plate appearances as a Rule 5 pick of the Pirates last year. Tom struggled to a .139/.278/.231 line and was eventually let go by Pittsburgh, but he’s generally been an excellent offensive player in the minors. He’s off to a .327/.387/.509 start at Sacramento.
Llovera pitched in seven big league games with the Phillies between 2020-21. He allowed 11 runs in just 7 2/3 innings, although he did average north of 94 MPH on his fastball. The 26-year-old is off to an excellent start with his new organization, having tossed 10 2/3 scoreless innings in Triple-A. Llovera has fanned 14 batters while issuing just a pair of walks.
The Giants’ decision to release Núñez comes as a surprise. San Francisco just grabbed him off waivers from the Dodgers on Wednesday. Núñez had recently undergone Tommy John surgery, and it seemed as if the Giants were content to stash him on the 60-day injured list while he recovered in hopes of hanging onto his long-term contractual rights.
For whatever reason, San Francisco has decided to go in a different direction. Injured players can’t be outrighted, so San Francisco had to release Núñez to take him off the 40-man roster if they weren’t going to keep him on the IL. If he passes through release waivers unclaimed, he’ll be a free agent.