Injury Bug Takes Another Bite Out of Giants’ Season

Injuries continue to pile up for the San Francisco Giants, who haven't been able to catch a break amidst a hard-luck 2024 season.

Blake Snell (7) of the San Francisco Giants throws a bullpen session at Scottsdale Stadium.
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 21: Blake Snell (7) of the San Francisco Giants throws a bullpen session at Scottsdale Stadium on March 21, 2024 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images)

If it wasn’t for bad luck, San Francisco wouldn’t have any luck at all.

When Bob Melvin sat down on the bench to address the traveling media at Coors Field last week, the first piece of business was updating reporters on the injury status of a large handful of players.

No one — not even their worst enemy — could have expected the injury woes were about to get a lot worse. 

At the time, San Francisco was in the midst of a horrible road trip. Eight different members of the club’s roster are on the injured list. Blake Snell, eligible to be activated during the series in Denver, could have dropped that number to seven.

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Like with so many things this season with the Bay Area’s oldest franchise, it never came to plan. Snell eventually made a rehab start with Low-A San Jose, but Melvin is still awaiting the return of his prized left-hander. 

If that wasn’t frustrating enough, the injury bug has continued to take bite after bite out of the San Francisco Giants in the following week. Six more were added to the IL in a seven-day span. Eight over the course of 11 days.

It all came during the longest stretch of consecutive games this season for the Giants without an off-day. Though a majority of the losses in their 6-10 record during this string came during a three-city road trip, Melvin’s squad managed to finish 5-4 over the final nine.

Are the 20-25 (.444) Giants set to become a bit more fortunate? If not, who’s the next man up? Will anyone be returning soon?

MASH Overcrowding

Things got so bad last week that the Orange and Black were unable to put the final nail in the coffin of the National League’s worst club. Instead of polishing off a three-game sweep, the Rockies banished the broom to reel off seven straight wins and leave the Giants as the only team in baseball without a winning streak of at least three. 

Jorge Soler was placed on the injury list with a right shoulder strain during the series in Denver after sitting out three games. He started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento, but not before suffering further misfortunate when he took a ricocheted ball off the top of his head while taking batting practice.

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Nick Ahmed exited in the series finale with the Rockies with left wrist discomfort before he was placed on the 10-day IL. He’s been participating in light baseball activities this week.

Then came the nastiest spell of 2024 after the Giants returned home on May 10. A trio of outfielders suffered injuries in subsequent games, including two who were on the wrong side of a crash with Oracle Park’s outfield wall.

First, Austin Slater was diagnosed with a concussion after colliding with the metal fencing in center on Friday night. On Saturday it was Michael Conforto, who had been their most consistent hitter this season after batting seventh in the Opening Day lineup, pulling up with a hamstring strain. 

The next day, Jung Hoo Lee dislocated his left shoulder when crashing into the center field wall whilst trying to make a catch on a Jeimer Candelario fly ball. Thursday’s visit with Dr. Neal ElAttrache will give San Francisco a timeline for their center fielder: either 6-7 weeks of rest or corrective surgery followed by 4-6 months of recovery.

Perhaps worst of all is the state of Patrick Bailey. Initially placed on the concussion protocol when he took a foul ball to the face mask on May 3, he was activated for one game on May 11 before going back on the 7-day IL for blurry vision.

The Replacement

The rash of injuries has forced GM Pete Putila to reach into the upper level of the minors for reinforcements.

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Youngsters like Casey Schmitt, Heliot Ramos and Luis Matos have been thrust into starting roles. Even top prospect Marco Luciano has been promoted.

Schmitt fared well at the plate in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, batting .276 with five home runs and 31 RBI. He spent the majority of his time playing third base there. Since Matt Chapman is one of the few Giants who has not hit the IL, Schmitt has slid over to shortstop with San Francisco, a position he played only three times in 33 contests with the River Cats.

The promotion of Luciano suggests Melvin might turn the keys to shortstop over to him following the day off, but don’t be so sure. The 22-year-old posted a .742 OPS in Triple-A (league average was .805) with only one home run. Going 3-for-6 in stolen base opportunities and making seven errors in 32 games could be another indicator as to why Luciano could be back in Sacramento once Ahmed returns.

Both Ramos and Matos have spent regular time in the outfield with the starting three banged up. Ramos, 24, is batting .310 with five runs batted in over eight games. Matos, 22, also has 5 RBI and is 4-for-12 (.333) with a home run since getting called up following Slater’s concussion. He had his moment in center when robbing a homer from Teoscar Hernández in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Dodgers.

Blake Sabol, effectively deemed the fourth option after spring training when he was not one of three catchers on the Opening Day roster, has been receiving the bulk of starts since May 4. A Rule 5 selection last season, Sabol leads the club with a .357 batting average since his promotion. 

While Jackson Reetz provided coverage as the backup backstop for a week, he was optioned to Triple-A when San Francisco reunited with Curt Casali on Wednesday when the veteran was released by the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. His addition was critical as Tom Murphy has moved to the 60-day IL with a left knee sprain.

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There are replacements throughout the lineup as well. Mike Yastrzemski is batting leadoff with Lee gone for the foreseeable future. Thairo Estrada is hitting second with regularity as LaMonte Wade Jr. slides back to third or fourth, depending on the pitching matchup.  

To have so many players added to the IL in the past two weeks and zero pitchers on that list is a pure anomaly. Snell has one more rehab start scheduled with the River Cats before rejoining the club in Pittsburgh, should all go well.

During the 16-game stretch where nearly half the roster was deemed incapacitated to play, San Francisco used 38 different players, with 21 receiving at least one plate appearance. By comparison to the other NL West clubs, the Dodgers used the next most players during that span with 31 while the Rockies used the minimum 26 players since April 30.

Giants Injury Updates

Though six pitchers are on the IL for the Giants, the club started with five when the season began on March 28.

Austin Warren and Robbie Ray are both in Arizona recovering from Tommy John surgery, throwing bullpens twice a week and mixing in all their pitches. There’s no timetable yet for either man, but a sizable stint in the minors will be required first before a second-half return.

Alex Cobb (left hip surgery) continues his throwing program on flat ground and Tristan Beck (vascular injury surgery, right arm) is throwing out to 60 feet this week. 

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Ethan Small (right oblique strain) is continuing his rehab at the team’s facility in Scottsdale. He’s eligible to come off the 60-day IL on May 27.

If the Giants want to reach .500, they’ll have to put in work over their next nine games as they’ll take on three NL clubs — Rockies, Pirates and Mets — with losing records. After that, it’s a pair of East Coast juggernauts in the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees on the road.

The next three days could provide San Francisco a reprieve as they have dominated Colorado at Oracle Park. Since 2021, the Giants are 20-5 against the Rockies at home, including a five-game winning streak.

Reprieves, unfortunately, are not always granted.

The last time the two clubs met, it was Colorado on top, thwarting San Francisco’s three-game sweep on May 9. The Rockies haven’t lost since and the Giants haven’t caught a break since.