San Francisco Giants closer Hunter Strickland breaks hand, out 6-8 weeks

AT&T Park — After blowing his fourth save in 17 opportunities on Monday night against the Miami Marlins, allowing three runs in the ninth, San Francisco Giants closer Hunter Strickland punched a door.

Manager Bruce Bochy didn’t find out about that punch until he got home following the game. The diagnosis: A broken hand.

“I think he did it when he came out of the game, but he didn’t know about it; I didn’t know about it until I got home,” Bochy said.

Strickland fractured the fifth metacarpal on his right hand (the right pinky)  — the same bone that benched starter Madison Bumgarner after a spring training line drive — and was scheduled to be operated on Tuesday by team hand specialist Dr. Scott Hansen. He’s projected to be out six to eight weeks.

It’s the latest in a string of injury misfortunes that have befallen the Giants, including elbow issues with starter Johnny Cueto, shoulder issues with starter Jeff Samardzija, two other broken pinkies that have sidelined Evan Longoria and Madison Bumgarner, a thumb injury to Joe Panik and an emergency appendectomy undergone by Brandon Belt.

“We’re going to get a pitcher up here, and Pierce Johnson’s on his way, but I don’t know if he’ll get here in time,” Bochy said. “We’re going to talk to the bullpen and talk about what we’re going to do until then.”

Since getting into a fight in the top of the eighth inning of a game last May with polarizing Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, Strickland had seemed to settle in to the closer role after Mark Melancon started 2018 on the disabled list.

“As he became our closer, he really grew as a pitcher, handling his emotions well in tight situations, which you have to,” Bochy said. “… He’s got to have emotional control. We all get frustrated. That was a tough loss, a gut-wrenching loss, which I’m sure he felt full responsibility for.”

Bochy, who described Strickland’s punch as a “snap,” has not spoken with Strickland since the incident. Strickland punched the door after he was removed following a disastrous ninth inning in which he gave up two walks and three hits against a Marlins team that’s firmly in the rebuilding/tanking stage of franchise development. It was the second time in a week he’d blown a save against Miami.

“He didn’t think before he acted,” Bochy said. “I’m thoroughly disappointed, trust me. I’m crushed. This guy was just growing as a pitcher, a player and a person.”

The Giants have several late-game options to replace Strickland, including left-hander Tony Watson, and right-handers Melancon and Sam Dyson. After being down on Monday night, lefty Will Smith will be available late in Tuesday night’s game, and is another option late in games since he can get both left-handers and right-handers out.

Dyson has 55 saves to his name, with 38 coming during 2016 with the Texas Rangers. He also had 14 last season for San Francisco. Watson has 30 career saves, with 15 for Pittsburgh in 2016, and 10 for the Giants in 2017. Melancon — who was injured to start the year — has four seasons of 30 or more saves, peaking at 51 in his All-Star 2015 campaign with the Pirates. Melancon has thrown just 5.2 innings since returning from the disabled list on June 3.

“The guys that we have, your closer is somebody who has to be resilient,” Bochy said. “I’m not sure that Mark’s at that stage right now. He can be used in that role at times.”

The plan is for one of Watson (1-2, 1.87 ERA, 0 saves, 33.2 IP) or Dyson (2-1, 2.51 ERA, 1 save, 32.1 IP) to take the lion’s share of ninth-inning reps, but Bochy wouldn’t share the breakdown until he’d spoken with his staff.

*****

In somewhat more encouraging news, Johnny Cueto is feeling fine after throwing a 40-pitch simulated game on Monday. l He’ll likely make his next outing in a minor league game, Bochy said.

“He’s doing well,” Bochy said. “I don’t have a day when he’s going to pitch, but he’s doing well.”

*****

Third baseman Evan Longoria underwent hand surgery on Tuesday, and all went well, according to Bochy.

“He’s headed to Arizona, he’ll be in the cast for a couple days, so he can’t do anything right now,” Bochy said. “He’s going to fly back and start his rehab. Friday or Saturday, he’ll join us with the cast off.”

Ryan Gorcey
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Ryan Gorcey

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