SAN FRANCISCO — Just as the Giants’ starting rotation returned to full force, another starter was forced back to the shelf Friday in a move that raises both short- and long-term concerns.
The inflammation in Anthony DeSclafani’s right ankle that flared up late last season and already cost him two months this season will force him to miss more time. The Giants placed him on the 15-day injured list Friday after two disappointing starts since returning from the 60-day injured list.
DeSclafani, who has a 9.95 ERA in five starts this season and hadn’t pitched past the third inning since being activated, never fully healed from inflammation in the ankle he uses to push off with in his delivery. In the two starts he made since returning to the Giants, manager Gabe Kapler described DeSclafani “hitting a wall.”
“When you’re trying to build up to be a starting pitching, hitting a wall with something as important as your drive ankle is not conducive to success going forward,” Kapler said. “I think there’s real concern there. He’s battled through this for a really long time. He’s pushed himself. He’s rehabbed. He’s done everything he possibly can and he’s still hitting the wall.
“It’s not the best takeaway when you’re not able to get over the hump and feel like your best and most effective version of yourself as a pitcher. I think we’ve gotten to a place now where we need to protect him and consider all options, but the first thing is not having him go out and make another start.”
Asked if surgery was an option, Kapler responded that “everything’s on the table.”
The Giants must take DeSclafani’s long-term health into consideration because they signed him to a three-year, $36 million contract before this season. After posting a 3.17 ERA in 31 starts last season, the Giants rewarded him with the longest contract handed out to a pitcher by president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.
In the short-term, though, DeSclafani’s absence presents problems for the Giants’ pitching depth.
Beginning Friday night against the White Sox, the Giants face a stretch of 17 games in 17 days before the All-Star break. And without DeSclafani, they only have four healthy starters.
“You would like to have off days spliced in there. It just makes things easier,” Kapler said. “But we’re no different than any other team that doesn’t have a perfectly healthy rotation. Right now we’ve got four healthy starters and that’s not the worst position to be in.”
DeSclafani, who was also working on the shapes of his two-seamer and his slider while recovering from the ankle injury, was slated to make three more starts before the All-Star break.
Jakob Junis, who filled in brilliantly the last time DeScalfani was shelved (2.63 ERA in 48 IP), is still recovering from the hamstring strain he suffered a little more than three weeks ago. He threw a two-inning bullpen session Friday but won’t be an option for the Giants for at least another week or two.
Another free-agent addition, Matthew Boyd, was expected to provide reinforcements around this time. Signed to a $5.2 million, one-year contract while recovering from offseason elbow surgery, Boyd was on track to return sometime around late June or early July until he suffered a setback that makes it unlikely he will contribute until August, at the earliest.
The most likely option to fill those might be lanky right-hander Sean Hjelle, who was in the Giants’ clubhouse Friday but not activated for their series opener with the White Sox. Hjelle, 25, has gotten two brief call-ups this season and just turned in his most effective outing of the season at Triple-A, going five shutout innings while striking out six with no walks on Sunday.
The Giants also have left-hander Sam Long, who is capable of giving them some bulk innings in a potential bullpen game.
Contributed by local news sources