AT&T PARK — San Francisco Giants closer Hunter Strickland faced the media Thursday, two days after breaking his finger by punching a door — an act that followed a blown save against the Miami Marlins.
He apologized, calling the incident a “stupid decision” that’s led to introspection about whether he should seek professional guidance for his emotions.
“I’ve not only hurt myself,” Strickland said, “but a lot of people, and that’s what hurts the most,”
It was Strickland’s second anger-fueled outburst of his Giants tenure. The first was when he intentionally drilled Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper in the hip with a 98 mph fastball last season, prompting a brawl that ended teammate Mike Morse’s career due to a concussion.
This time, Strickland was the only one physically impacted by his actions. But his teammates — left to fill his closer’s role for the next 6-8 weeks — will have to manage a shorthanded bullpen, which could still take a toll.
That hasn’t started off well. On Wednesday, new closer Sam Dyson struggled in his first post-incident save opportunity, allowing four hits and two runs before being pulled. Reyes Moronta finished the job with the tying run in scoring position.
Strickland said he often struggles to keep his energy in check following intense outings. Even when he converts saves, he said he sometimes is too amped up when he gets back to the locker room.
So, he’s talked with people in the Giants organization about the potential of taking anger management classes. He’s open to anything that might help curb the problem.
“I don’t feel like I’m just this angry person all the time,” Strickland said. “But when I’m out there competing, it’s a different ball game.”
Strickland said he would apologize individually to teammates later Thursday night, emphasizing the importance of being held accountable.
For manager Bruce Bochy, even a well-handled apology tour doesn’t negate the fallout of losing a key late-inning arm. Strickland sported a 2.84 ERA and had converted 13 saves before injuring his hand.
Right now, Strickland has two pins in his hand. An X-Ray in two weeks will determine his recovery timeline, but he won’t be back soon.
“He feels horrible,” Bochy said. “He’s remorseful for what happened. Obviously if you’re going to miss as much time as he is being the closer, you’re going to be. You’ve got to think before you react. We’ve been talking about a couple of things he can do different to maybe relieve some of that tension or some of that pressure.”
While Strickland appeared initially upset with Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson for celebrating his game-tying single on Tuesday, he backtracked from that position on Thursday. Instead, he acknowledged he was more frustrated with blowing a save in an important series-opener.
What came next worsened the situation.
“I’m sorry,” Strickland said. “I made a mistake.”
He’ll have plenty of time to think about that error in judgment over the next couple of months.
San Francisco is hopeful it can get Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto back from injury soon. Samardzija has a rehab start schedule for Thursday night; Cueto is slated to toss 40 pitches in a rehab outing on Saturday. Bochy said Cueto will likely need three rehab appearances before he pitches for the Giants.
Utility player Alen Hanson left Wednesday’s game in the first inning after fouling a pitch off his knee. But despite postgame talk of a possible DL stint if the contusion was bad enough, he’s in the starting lineup Thursday night against the San Diego Padres. He’ll play left field.
That’s good news for the Giants considering the way he’s hit in recent weeks. Hanson is batting .314 with five home runs 19 RBIs.
Infielder Kelby Tomlinson, meanwhile, was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento with Brandon Crawford returning from paternity leave.