Taxed SF Giants bullpen loses reliever to elbow inflammation

SAN DIEGO — Staring down a bullpen game Friday, the Giants lost one relief option to the injured list before their series opener here with the Padres.

Left-hander José Álvarez was placed on the 15-day IL with inflammation in his throwing elbow and replaced on the roster with right-hander Zack Littell, who spent the first two months of the season in San Francisco’s bullpen but had recently been optioned to Triple-A.

Álvarez, who has a 5.28 ERA in 21 appearances this season, had just returned from a separate IL stint on Tuesday but hadn’t appeared in a game. He was initially placed on the IL with lower back tightness, retroactive to June 18, and pitched in three games on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento before returning to the big club.

The move was announced shortly before first pitch Thursday night.

Addressing reporters an hour or so earlier, manager Gabe Kapler admitted the club’s bullpen situation was “not great” after a taxing series against the D-backs. Álvarez and fellow lefty Jake McGee were the Giants’ only relievers not to appear in one of the past two games, and their highest-leverage options — Camilo Doval, Dominic Leone, Tyler Rogers and John Brebbia — had all worked in at least two of the past three.

With only four starters on their roster because of injuries to Anthony DeSclafani and Jakob Junis, the Giants are planning to rely on their relievers to cover all nine innings Friday. Sean Hjelle, who helped out the last time through DeSclafani’s rotation spot, was optioned back to Triple-A and hasn’t spent the required 10 days there before he is eligible to be called up again.

Littell, who had a 4.97 ERA in 25 appearances before being optioned June 24, initially met the team in San Diego on a taxi squad basis. Right-hander Gregory Santos is also here in case the Giants need another arm.

Contributed by local news sources

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