When Aaron Rowand has to leave a game, you know that he's hurting bad. When he doesn't show up in the lineup the next day, it's a good sign there's something really wrong.
Rowand is a gamer, and has shown that since he started his career. He doesn't rub it when he gets hit, and he flies around the outfield with reckless abandon, once breaking his nose on the centerfield wall in Philadelphia while hanging on to the ball.
That being said, you can't exactly shake off a fastball to the face.
And San Francisco can't exactly shake off losing Aaron Rowand for two weeks either. The Giants have prided themselves so far this season on their versatility. The ability to get veterans off the field late in games is definitely an advantage, as we've seen with a fresh Bengie Molina, and will help down the line in September.
The fact that the Giants have been able to be so liberal with their substitutions without losing integral offensive or defensive strength has also helped their cause. Eli Whiteside came in and had a day batting for Molina, knocking a three-run home-run and a double against the Pirates earlier this week.
Travis Ishikawa is always a stellar late-inning defensive replacement, and Nate Schierholtz and Andres Torres are proving their worth as fourth and fifth outfielders.
All of this changes with Rowand going on the DL.
The Giants are already in a little bit of trouble on their bench. Freddy Sanchez is on the DL, and Juan Uribe has been taking his place at second, while also spelling Renteria at short.
Eugenio Velez is on the roster, and he has been backing up at second base as well as in the outfield. He'll assume the starting role, with Torres and Schierholtz continuing as the fourth and fifth outfielders.
But without him in the middle of the infield, the Giants are even more short-handed, and have called up Matt Downs, who had a pretty good spring and was swinging the stick well at AAA Fresno.
The situation got a little more dicey when Mark DeRosa pulled up lame in the fourth inning yesterday. DeRosa, aside from Uribe, is the only one who can spell Pablo Sandoval at third. And, without DeRosa healthy in the outfield, San Francisco will only have one reserve outfielder at full strength.
With the trade of Fred Lewis to the Blue Jays last week, the Giants are without any truly major league ready outfielders on their 40-man roster. And although DeRosa's injury is day-to-day, hamstring injuries, especially in a 35-year-old body, can linger.
That means that this fast start will soon be tested by the most woeful of foes: Fatigue. Rowand has taken a whole new approach to the plate, and he's only the leadoff man because there isn't a clear-cut top of the lineup guy on the roster. With him on the DL, the top of the lineup is totally different.
If Rowand and DeRosa are out for a little bit, and Bowker continues to struggle as he has, there's no real backup plan that has the pop to make up for it. DeRosa may not be hitting for the average, but he's been getting on base and providing some great patience in the middle of the lineup.
Lastly, it all comes down to chemistry. The Giants have had great chemistry in these first 11 games and that has led to their fast start. If you start tinkering with the lineup, that camaraderie can get disrupted and the whole rhythm of the team gets out of whack.
With this important first big road trip of the year a good indicator of the Giants versus their NL West opponents, it will be very interesting to see how it pans out with DeRosa going day to day. Rowand is out at least a couple weeks, so DeRosa is the more immediate problem.
Look for Nate Schierholtz to possibly step up and make his presence known like he has in the past. Bowker, Torres, and Velez will also have to make an impact for this strong start to continue.
The positive is that this is happening early in the season. There are still a lot of games left, and if the Giants can pull through this rough patch without losing too much, they'll know what their options are later down the road.