It’s possible Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has played his last game with the team, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports California observes. The Giants have to make a decision on Pence’s future within the next six days, when his minor league rehab assignment will end. In the event San Francisco releases Pence, who helped the club to two World Series titles as a younger player, it’ll have to eat the remainder of his $18.5MM salary. But if Pence gets another shot with the Giants, he’ll return having undergone some offensive adjustments with the help of private instructor Doug Latta – whose students also include Mac Williamson and the Dodgers’ Justin Turner – Pavlocic details. Pence feels “way better” after working with Latta, and has hit well in the minors since making the changes. The respected veteran got off to a rough start in the majors this year (.172/.197/.190 in 61 plate appearances) before going on the disabled list April 19 with a thumb issue.
- Giants second baseman Joe Panik is on track to come off the DL next weekend, Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group suggests. In the meantime, he’ll open a four- or five-game rehab assignment on Monday. Panik will end up missing upward of a month after undergoing left thumb surgery in late April. He hasn’t played since April 27, and fill-in Alen Hanson has been out for two weeks, leaving the Giants with the underwhelming duo of Kelby Tomlinson and Miguel Gomez as their options at the keystone.
- Madison Bumgarner threw 30 pitches in a simulated game today, and is on track to make his first rehab start on Saturday. (MLB.com’s Richard Dean was one of several reporters with the info.) The Giants ace will likely make three rehab outings before returning to the 25-man roster in June to make his season debut, after fracturing a finger in Spring Training.
- The Giants, meanwhile, could soon face some interesting calls on their late-inning mix. As Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area writes, the club could welcome Mark Melancon back within two weeks or so, as the veteran reliever is set to begin a rehab assignment after opening the year on the shelf due to ongoing pronator issues. Skipper Bruce Bochy says the team will “let him get settled” rather than thrusting Melancon back into the closer’s role. Melancon, 33, is certainly being paid to handle the ninth. But Hunter Strickland has performed quite well in his absence, working to a 2.18 ERA with 9.6 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9. Just how that situation will be navigated over the course of the season remains to be seen.
- The Giants are considering using big-bodied corner infielder Pablo Sandoval at second base, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle relays. Sandoval has been taking grounders recently at the keystone with guidance from infield coach Ron Wotus, who said that the longtime third baseman “looks good. He has quick feet and good hands. So far, so good.” San Francisco’s in position to ponder this experiment because second basemen Joe Panik and Alen Hanson are on the disabled list. Moreover, Kelby Tomlinson and Miguel Gomez haven’t been particularly effective at the plate, while the 31-year-old Sandoval has hit a solid .270/.329/.429 in 70 PAs. That represents Sandoval’s best production in several years, though it’s obviously too soon to determine whether the Panda’s truly turning back into a useful hitter.
Things got even worse for the Nationals today; Howie Kendrick appeared to sustain a serious injury while chasing down a Max Muncy fly ball. Kendrick was carted off the field, and was seen pointing to his ankle area. Jamal Collier of MLB.com reports that he’s off to get an MRI. The Nationals are already dealing with injuries to a number of other key players, including Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Eaton, Matt Wieters and Brian Goodwin, and can ill afford to lose another player from their outfield for an extended period of time. They’ll likely be anxious as they await further news on Kendrick.
More injury news from around MLB today…
- Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner considers his fractured left hand to be “95% or more” healed, according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Chris Haft. He’s on track to throw live batting practice on Tuesday and begin a rehab assignment on Saturday. Meanwhile, Haft says, Johnny Cueto will head to the club’s rehab facility in Arizona. The Giants will hope for the best-case scenarios as far as the timetables of these two players; their depleted rotation is a chief factor in the club’s sub-.500 record on the season.
- Joe Mauer is headed to the Twins’ DL with concussion symptoms once again, according to LaVelle E. Neal of the Star Tribute. He reportedly did well in regards to concussion tests last night, but is apparently experiencing some sensitivity to light along with some balance issues. Mauer, who has dealt with concussion issues in years past, is walking at a 16.8% clip so far this season en route to a .404 OBP. According to chief baseball officer Derek Falvey (via MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger), the club is “not saying at this time that Joe has a concussion.”
- The Rangers have placed lefty Matt Moore on the 10-day disabled list with what the club is calling right knee soreness. The move will make room for fellow righty Ariel Jurado, who will make the jump from Double-A to debut in the majors tonight. Jurado has a 2.57 ERA in 35 minor league innings this year, but with a 5.31 FIP that strongly disagrees with those results. He posted a 4.59 ERA at Double-A last season, with 5.45 K/9.
- Diamondbacks outfielder Steven Souza will avoid the DL for the time being, says Zach Buchanan of The Athletic. A key offseason acquisition by the Dbacks, Souza has already spent the bulk of the season on the DL after suffering a pectoral strain upon diving for a ball in the outfield. Fortunately, it seems as though some minor pec soreness will not require a second DL stint for the time being.
- The Royals have placed Cheslor Cuthbert on the 10-day DL with a lower back strain, recalling fellow infielder Ramon Torres from Triple-A Omaha in a corresponding move. Cuthbert is a career .252/.308/.383 hitter, and is performing especially poorly this season, as evidenced by his -0.5 fWAR for 2018. However, Torres seems unlikely to provide any significant upgrade; he’s hitting just .229/.280/.307 at the Triple-A level so far this season.
The A’s announced this morning that Brett Anderson has been placed on the 10-day DL with a left shoulder strain. Anderson was removed from yesterday’s game before the second inning even began. He’d had an ugly showing so far this season at the MLB level, pitching to a 7.63 ERA with just eight strikeouts across four starts. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle notes, it’s the 11th time in the 30-year-old lefty’s career that he’s gone on the disabled list. Anderson has only pitched more than 100 innings once in the past eight seasons; it was a 2015 campaign with the Dodgers in which he worked to a 3.69 ERA and 3.94 FIP. In a corresponding move, the A’s have recalled Ryan Dull, who was technically optioned to Triple-A Nashville yesterday but never left Toronto.
Other injury notes from around baseball…
- Yesterday, the Diamondbacks officially announced the activation of slugging third baseman Jake Lamb from the disabled list. After hitting the 10-day DL with a sprained right AC joint and subsequently having his return delayed by elbow tendinitis, has finally completed a rehab assignment and is ready to return. It’s a welcome sight for the Diamondbacks, who recently lost team WAR leader A.J. Pollock to the DL. They’ll hope Lamb can repeat the 30-homer power he showed last year and help propel an offense that currently ranks 27th of 30 MLB teams with a wRC+ of just 83.
- Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports provides a pair Giants injury updates via Twitter. Joe Panik is reportedly doing well in his recovery from left thumb surgery, and could begin a rehab assignment as soon as the end of this month. Meanwhile, Mac Williamson served as a DH in Triple-A last night. None of the rehabbing Giants, however, will be called upon at the major league level for at least another week, a group that includes rookie Alen Hanson and veteran outfielder Hunter Pence.
- There’s still no real answer to the nerve issue in Matt Shoemaker’s forearm, according to Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times. The Angels right-hander reportedly visited a specialist in St. Louis earlier this week, and the next move in his recovery isn’t quite clear at this time. The oft-injured Shoemaker landed on the DL after just one start this season; he allowed three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings while striking out four.
- Mark Melancon threw 20 pitches to live hitters today and could begin a rehab assignment as soon as Sunday, tweets Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. He’ll likely need about two weeks’ worth of rehab games, putting him on target for a return to the Giants in early June if all goes well. Meanwhile, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets that Madison Bumgarner could make his first rehab start on May 26.
- Meanwhile, the Giants have sent infielder Alen Hanson onto the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain while bringing back Austin Slater, who may need to see a bit of time in the infield. That’s a tough break for Hanson, a minor-league signee who had impressed in his 14 games of action after previously failing to gain traction in the majors. He has produced at a healthy .298/.346/.638 clip in 52 trips to the plate. As for Slater, the 25-year-old has demolished Triple-A pitching thus far, with a .386/.456/.670 batting line in 103 plate appearances. He has spent most of his career in the outfield, but does have a bit of experience under his belt at second base.
- The Giants are taking an aggressive approach in ace Madison Bumgarner’s recovery from a fractured pinky finger, Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group relays. Manager Bruce Bochy indicated that Bumgarner may only need one rehab start and could return shortly after May 25, when he’s eligible to come off the 60-day DL. Bumgarner hasn’t pitched yet this year, and his debut will be an especially timely one for a San Francisco team that just lost fellow front-of-the-rotation starter Johnny Cueto for up to two months with an elbow strain.