Cody Ross making a sliding catch in last year's World Series
An injury to a starter before the season even starts is never a good sign.
However, the 2011 San Francisco Giants are one of the few teams this year that can absorb the blow.
Blessed with incredible outfield depth and player versatility, there is no reason to believe that the current personnel can't hold down the fort for the first two weeks of the season.
Right now, the Giants have options for starting right fielders—in reality, an absurd number of options. Aubrey Huff, Mark DeRosa, Andres Torres, Aaron Rowand or Nate Schierholtz could all man the position.
Travis Ishikawa has been playing left field in spring training and Brandon Belt has experience in the outfield, so they theoretically could be in contention as well for the spot.
However, it is more likely that they would take over first or left for Huff or DeRosa should he slide to the other corner.
Regardless of who actually plays right, somebody who was going to be playing left bench will now be on the field. Rowand, Ishikawa, Schierholtz, DeRosa and Belt, who are all currently without a starting spot, get another shot, this time in real big-league games.
Which Giant is most likely to take advantage of Cody Ross' absence?
Bruce Bochy already seems to pride himself on the way he can fit the same 13 players in the same eight positions in as many variations as possible, so he should have no problem getting all his bench players at-bats.
Most likely, Belt will not be in the mix. Although he certainly has the skills, his presence on Opening Day would be an economic burden for the franchise. If he plays only three weeks in the minor leagues, the organization can delay his option for free agency by a full year, securing him until through at least the 2017 season, at which point he would be eligible for free agency.
If Belt begins the year in Fresno, the Giants also solve another problem: Rowand, Schierholtz and Ishikawa all can have spots on the 25-man roster. Both Ishikawa and Schierholtz are out of minor-league options, meaning that if one did not make the roster, he would have to be released, unless traded before March 31, the deadline to reduce rosters to 25 players.
Even in a tough division like the NL West, the loss of one player for a couple weeks will not derail a team’s playoff hopes, especially in April. As a result, the extra playing time for bench players has minimal risk and can only bode well for all parties involved.
If Schierholtz or Ishikawa utterly fails to produce when given a spot in the lineup, the organization can release him to make space for Ross when he recovers from his injury, which they may have had to do anyway had Ross not been injured.
And if one of them, or DeRosa or Rowand, goes on a tear to start the year, the Giants would have gained an asset they otherwise would not have. They could either be looking at this year’s Andres Torres or simply have a player with enhanced trade value.
They already have plenty of outfielders; if one off the bench can get himself traded, then the Giants gain a prospect for absolutely no cost.
Either way, the Giants have only something to gain.
As these very same Giants saw last year, players step up from obscure corners of the roster to make an impact. Why not see if some other guys take advantage of their chance this year?
The injury to Ross is definitely a concern. The Giants have much less hope of repeating without him. But players get hurt and miss time; it's part of the game. As long as he is out only three weeks as the doctors think he will be, there's nothing to worry about.
Luckily, the Giants can turn this setback into an opportunity. Ross' absence can temporarily take away the need to cut a player and allow some fringe players a chance to grab hold of the spotlight.
Baseball is a funny game; crazy things can happen.
That couldn't be more true than with these San Francisco Giants.