San Francisco Giants: Ranking the Injured Players They Need Most

Zack Ruskin@@frozentoothContributor IIMay 14, 2012

San Francisco Giants: Ranking the Injured Players They Need Most

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    Lately, the San Francisco Giants bench has looked more like a hospital waiting room. 

    Injuries are a part of the game. Most teams have one or two players on the disabled list at any given time.

    How a team copes without key players is often a defining attribute in their season. Health equates to success, in both quantifiable and less concrete ways.

    A look at the current Giants active roster makes one wonder who it is they have left to play games for their San Jose and Fresno farm teams. Travis Blackley, Steve Edlefsen, Clay Hensley, Shane Loux, Hector Sanchez, Joaquin Arias, Brandon Belt, Emmanuel Burriss, Brandon Crawford, Conor Gillaspie, Brett Pill and Gregor Blanco are all unproven and inexperienced.

    They also account for half of the Giants 25-man roster.

    The Giants are no doubt praying for speedy recoveries from all of their ailing players. In reality, their wishes will only be partially granted.

    In deciding how to rank the need for each hurt Giants player, I factored in the severity of the injury, the player's performance before they were injured, the success of the player's substitute and the depth of the position.

    Here, in order from lowest to highest priority, are the seven injured players the Giants need back from the disabled list.

(Dis)honorable Mention: Guillermo Mota

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    Being suspended for 100 games isn't the same as an injury, but Guillermo Mota's absence does act as another roster vacancy in need of emergency filling. 

    Mota was suspended after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. The 100-game sentence was handed down because this was Mota's second positive test.

    He joins Manny Ramirez and Eliezer Alfonso as the only players brilliant enough to be suspended for PED use twice. A third positive test is grounds for a lifetime ban.

    Mota was an innings-eater for the Giants. When one of the starters struggled or hit their pitch count early in a game, Mota came in to save the rest of the bullpen for a couple of extra frames.

    Of course my preference would be to have him on the team, but it's not a huge loss. 


    When will he come back?

    Mota's suspension will end in late August. He should return ahead of expanded rosters in September. The important thing is for Mota to keep himself in playing condition. I'd imagine the Giants will give him a chance to earn his bullpen spot back.

7. Brian Wilson

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    Gone are the days of the Beard. At least for this season.

    Brian Wilson went under the scalpel on May 19 for Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his elbow. The procedure marked Wilson's second dance with the Tommy John procedure.

    Pitchers with two Tommy Johns have very rarely made it back to the Majors, let alone succeeded there. Wilson's future is virtually impossible to prognosticate until time affords us a better insight into how his elbow has healed.

    The Giants will be faced with the choice to let Wilson walk or offer him arbitration at about $6.8 million for 2013. If Santiago Casilla distinguishes himself even as an average closer, we've probably seen the last of Wilson.


    When will he come back?

    Never. Even if his career isn't over (and that is a big if) there is simply no way a team drowning in dumb contracts is going to shell out for a product that fragile and unreliable.

    May we never forget this moment after Wilson struck out Ryan Howard in Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS.

6. Dan Runzler

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    There wasn't much fanfare when Dan Runzler hit the disabled list before Opening Day.

    Runzler has suffered from a lack of consistency. He's had flashes, but they always occur in the midst of otherwise unimpressive outings. Runzler was placed on the DL with a strained lat muscle, and he's been slow to overcome his injury.

    CSN Bay Area mentioned last week that Runzler had suffered a setback in the form of tightness in his ribcage. The lefty continues to work on increasing his pitching intensity, and has no timetable to return.

    Given Runzler's 2011 line (6.26 ERA, 29 H, 16 BB and only 25 K in 27.1 IP), it's doubtful he'll be offered a spot in the bullpen without first logging some decent Minor League appearances.


    When will he come back?

    It all depends on Blackley, Edlefsen, Hensley and Loux. Runzler should be healthy enough to join the team in the next four to six weeks.

5. Eric Surkamp

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    You have to plan for bad things to happen.

    Eric Surkamp is "bad things" insurance. While by no means a Major League-caliber starter, Surkamp represents the player most likely to be recalled should any of the starting rotation get hurt.

    In all fairness, Surkamp is on his way. Most will think back to the young lefty's six starts at the end of 2011, which resulted in a 2-2 record, 5.74 ERA and a 0.76 SO/BB ratio.

    Not great, but also not representative of his potential.

    Surkamp is currently working through an elbow strain that's had him sidelined since the spring. A report from Andrew Baggarly concluded that Surkamp would most likely make a few starts in Arizona extended Spring Training before joining a Minor League affiliate.

    Hopefully he'll get plenty of time to polish his mechanics and face an increasingly difficult and diverse array of hitters. However, with the Zito train scheduled for its annual derailing and Tim Lincecum slumping hard, Surkamp may need to get ready quick. 

    When will he come back?

    Surkamp should be pitching with a farm team by June. When he will next get called up to the show is far less certain.

4. Ryan Theriot

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    Ryan Theriot has a lousy poker face.

    The 32-year-old utility infielder was playing hurt out of the gate. Yeah, Ryan, we noticed. The injury explains Theriot's dismal .179 BA and 2 RBI this season—at least we hope it does.

    Manager Bruce Bochy told that the injury dates back to Spring Training. He said they thought Theriot's right elbow was getting better before trainers discovered a sprain on Friday. The front office opted to bring aboard relief pitcher Shane Loux in his place.

    Theriot's necessity to the Giants is akin to a cast on a broken leg. The cast isn't healing your leg—either the leg is going to heal on its own or it won't—but you need to cast to keep the leg from getting worse.

    Ryan Theriot is not a long-term solution to any of the Giants' most pressing problems. However, the team is so thin on infielders that they need Theriot to ensure they don't venture any closer to Keystone Kops territory (35 errors in 32 games, anyone?).

    When will he come back?

    Theriot should be okay by the end of the month, pending any setbacks. With the state of the Giants infield, he's sure to jump into a platoon or starter role as soon as he's back with the club. 

3. Jeremy Affeldt

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    In the case of Jeremy Affeldt, I am most definitely laughing at him, not with him. 

    First he cut his hand trying to separate frozen hamburger patties with a knife last fall. The Giants were already a lost cause, so losing Affeldt for the season seemed like a fitting addition to a miserable few months.

    We all assumed he'd have his $5 million option declined and Affeldt would be forever remembered as a guy who helped the Giants win a World Series and someone to keep out of your kitchen.

    But Affeldt's option was picked-up, which gave him a chance to sprain his knee when his son Walker jumped off a couch into his arms.

    Affeldt hit the disabled list on May 1, prompting the call-up of RHP Travis Blackley. In five innings, Blackley has allowed five earned runs, seven hits and a pair each of walks and strikeouts.

    That's not great, but Affeldt hasn't been much better. In 10 games this season, Affeldt has given up five earned runs, 15 hits, four walks and struck out 10. This is an improvement over Blackley, but is it worth $5 million?

    At this point, it doesn't matter. The bullpen is in shambles, and Bochy will be only too happy to roll the dice on Affeldt returning to form. There is truly nothing to lose.

    When will he come back?

    Jeremy Affeldt fans rejoice! Affeldt rejoined the team May 13, his first day of eligibility to come off the disabled list.

2. Freddy Sanchez

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    Once upon a time, the San Francisco Giants had a second baseman. 

    He turned double plays, didn't accrue errors, improved the infield defense and mentored younger players. Then, one day last June, we lost him.

    Freddy Sanchez's shoulder injury was season-ending. We came to terms with this. At the dawn of this year's Spring Training, Giants fans were giddy for an infield featuring a healthy Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. That infield has yet to exist in 2012. 

    What's going with Freddy? 

    Well, he's playing third base, a position at which the Giants don't need him. He began a rehab assignment in April, but left after three games when he felt a strain in his shoulder.

    Rumors are that Sanchez may return to the Giants lineup before Pablo Sandoval, and yet he seems to have made no progress in the 11 months since his injury. In the words of Winston Churchill, Freddy is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

    The Giants desperately need a true second baseman again. From a morale standpoint, the team would benefit greatly from getting one of the 2010 playoff heroes back on the diamond.

    Freddy Sanchez's return to the San Francisco Giants cannot come soon enough.

    When will he come back?

    Recent articles hint that Sanchez will return before June, but I don't see it. The word "setback" has been used in almost everything I've read about Freddy, dating back to last year. The best fans can reasonably hope for a return before the All-Star break (July 9).

    Prove me wrong, Sanchez. Please, please prove me wrong.

1. Pablo Sandoval

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    When Pablo Sandoval isn't in the lineup, you notice.

    Sitting in the nosebleeds behind home plate during a game between the Giants and Marlins, I stared in disbelief as Sandoval was pulled in the sixth inning. After a wild flurry of text messages, I learned that Sandoval was somehow hurt.

    A day later it would be revealed that the Panda had fractured the hamate bone in his right hand, having done the same to his left in 2011.

    It didn't even take a day for Sandoval's bat to missed, as Ryan Theriot, batting in Sandoval's spot, struck out in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to win the game.

    That should've been Pablo up there, I thought. The sentiment hasn't changed.

    Whatever air was left in the Giants seemed to deflate after Sandoval underwent surgery on Friday, May 4. In eight games without him, the Giants have a record of 3-5. They're also averaging less than three runs a game in the same span.

    No player is needed back on the field more than Sandoval. His 15 RBI and .316 BA cannot be replicated, except perhaps by Buster Posey, who is struggling at the plate so far this month.

    When will he come back?

    The line on a hamate bone surgery is four to six weeks. Given the surgery occurred on Sandoval's non-throwing hand, there is hope that Panda could return closer to the one-month mark.