According to CSNBayArea.com, San Francisco Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez is almost certain to start the 2012 season on the disabled list. Not surprising, given his slow progress in regaining full health following surgery for his season-ending shoulder injury last year.
The crux of the issue in Sanchez’s road to recovery is indeed his arm strength. Having sustained a ruptured labrum in his right shoulder, the rehabilitation to recapturing his throwing velocity is indeed taking longer than anticipated. But it’s not entirely unexpected, considering the severity of the injury.
As a result, the Giants have found themselves at a minor fork in the road, and will likely take the route of placing Sanchez on the DL to start the season, according to MercuryNews.com.
This is debilitating news for San Francisco, who had hoped that Sanchez would be able to take the field at second base sometime sooner rather than later. Alas, Sanchez has yet to find the confidence in his right shoulder to play second base in a spring game, and he’s been fairly limited when it comes to taking infield practice.
As such, there remains no timetable to get him some action at second. Says manager Bruce Bochy, “…if he can’t go out there and play defense, the best thing to do is start him on the DL.”
Nothing is set in stone, and it’s possible that through some magic healing powers he could be ready by Opening Day. Realistically, the Giants are anticipating being without their starting second baseman for a decent amount of time.
In the event that Sanchez does not make the Opening Day roster, Bochy has clouded vision for which player could be his Sanchez’ replacement. Who would start in Sanchez’s stead?
According to Owen Perkins of MLB.com, San Francisco has fielded six different second basemen this spring, with Emmanuel Burris, Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot leading the way in appearances and innings played. Theriot and Fontenot have the upper hand in big league exposure—Theriot is in his eighth season in the majors, and Fontenot is in his seventh.
Should the San Francisco Giants Keep Burriss, Fontenot and Theriot all on the roster?
Placing Burriss towards the top of the order behind Angel Pagan could provide a dynamic 1-2 punch. Plus, his versatility as a switch-hitter is an added bonus.
However, based on past experience, it would appear that Theriot or Fontenot would get the nod over Burriss. The Giants are keen on keeping one of them as a backup middle infielder—at least one of them. Now, with Sanchez destined for the DL, the likelihood that both are on the Opening Day roster increases.
It’s hard to pick which of the two would be a better candidate to start at second base. Theriot has a career .987 fielding percentage at second base. Meanwhile, Fontenot owns a .981 career fielding percentage at the position. Both are fundamentally more sound on defense than Burriss, who produced a .972 overall fielding percentage last season.
Yet it is Theriot whose job security is undetermined. The 32-year-old is in a precarious situation. If he remains on the roster on March 29th, San Francisco will owe him his full $1.25 million contract that he signed as a free agent this past winter. However, if the Giants release him prior, they only have to pay him one fourth of that amount.
Still, with Sanchez’s indefinite recovery, it’s almost necessary that the Giants keep all three infielders—Burriss, Fontenot and Theriot. Especially when considering that penciled-in starting shortstop Brandon Crawford is only in his second big-league season, and, as a left-handed hitter, will likely sit out against left-handed pitching.
Which bodes well for the right-handed hitting Theriot.
Who will be the Giants' Opening Day starting second baseman?
But it’s becoming more evident that San Francisco will have to have that many able-bodied infielders to man the middle for the time being—or at least until Sanchez is ready to resume the full-time role.
Which could be a while.
With all that said, the Giants should insert Burriss, who's wielding a sizzling bat this spring, into the Opening Day lineup as the starting second baseman. Should he falter in any way, Fontenot and Theriot are formidable options to platoon.
Follow me on Twitter: @nathanieljue