Eduardo Nunez is getting treatment for his right shoulder. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Eduardo Nunez is getting treatment for his right shoulder. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Giants’ spring hits injury snags while fifth-starter dilemma looms

If the goal of spring training is to stay healthy, the San Francisco Giants are struggling to finish strong.

Third baseman Eduardo Nunez joined Will Smith when the reliever flew back to San Francisco from Arizona for medical attention, according to media reports.

Nunez has been dealing with an inflamed right shoulder for which he got a cortisone shot and he’ll be absent from on-field activity until at least the weekend.

If Nunez is going to miss a significant amount of time, it could open a door for non-roster invitees Jae-gyun Hwang (hit a two-run homer on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers), Aaron Hill or longshots Gordon Beckham and Jimmy Rollins.

Smith, in the meantime, plans to see Los Angeles-based Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan-Jobe, according to the Bay Area News Group, which specializes in alternatives to Tommy John surgery, usually the answer to a UCL sprain.

A candidate to replace Smith as the go-to lefty out of the bullpen, Steven Okert, continued his solid spring against the Brewers, pitching his seventh scoreless outing in Arizona this year. Okert will be 25 this season. In 14 major-league appearances in 2016, Okert allowed five earned runs on 14 hits.

The ripples from Smith’s injury won’t be contained to the bullpen as it may have an effect on the starting rotation — more specifically, on what the Giants are going to do with that pesky fifth spot.

Matt Cain’s struggles continued in the first inning on Wednesday, when the 32-year old allowed three runs on four hits. His shaky play over the last few years makes his spot in the rotation as insecure.

Ty Blach is a possible replacement, but with Smith’s injury, it’s reasonable to wonder if manager Bruce Bochy would prefer to keep him in the bullpen. He also hasn’t thrown enough pitches in one outing this spring to be expected to start in the regular season — although the team has indicated it has intentions on getting his experience up.

Either way, the Giants will have to commit to a clear-cut role for him at some point. (And for the fans hoping they keep Blach in the pen and put the organization’s top pitching prospect, Tyler Beede, in the fifth spot: That seems unlikely to happen by the end of April with the Giants reassigned Beede to Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday.)

But, according to Bochy’s comments Wednesday, the Giants are in no rush to make a decision on the fifth spot thanks to how the schedule plays out in April. With two days off during the third week of the season, the team doesn’t need a fifth starter from April 7 (when Cain is scheduled to throw) until April 25.

“We’ll see once we get a little closer how guys are doing, but it certainly gives you some options,” Bochy told reporters, according to CSN Bay Area.

During spring training, there are a few major developments you want to avoid. Making treatment plans and adjusting the rotation to avoid a fifth starter in April are on the short list.

—————

Change of heart?

The Oakland Athletics announced on Wednesday their Spirit Week, which will run from March 27 to 31. And if you’re looking to move your fanship, the team is offering a free A’s hat in exchange for an unwanted Giants hat at any of the events, including the Bay Bridge game at the Coliseum.

Bruce BochyMatt CainMLBOakland AthleticsSan Francisco Giants

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