Friday afternoon Will Smith announced via iPhone note-screengrab-tweet he will undergo Tommy John surgery. The surgery will sideline him for 2017, but the timing could have him back for the 2018 season. The surgery is scheduled for next week.
This worst-case situation came crashing down just days before Smith would embark on his full season as a Giant. The lefty missed the first few weeks with elbow soreness and retreated again after his Cactus League debut with the same issue. Another MRI showed damage, a sprain and strain, to his ulnar collateral ligament not previously seen in the first; two doctors’ opinions sought convinced Smith that Tommy John was the best path forward.
This turn of events kind of throws a wrench into what looked like a shored-up system. Smith was slated to be the go-to late LHP, capable of taking on full innings, effective against righties and lefties.
Fortunately for the Giants, a couple of lefties stand ready in the wings. Steven Okert has had a spring more than worthy of a roster spot: eight innings, two hits, zero earned runs and four strikeouts. His spring numbers don’t seem to be flukey, either.
Okert’s been a perennially solid LHP option; the rookie had an outstanding 2016. In 16 appearances, he gave up just two home runs — one walk-off with inherited with runners on — and struck out 24 percent of batters faced (with a 9 K/9, a number expected to rise in 2017), walking just seven percent, according to FanGraphs.
Josh Osich is another viable LHP option, despite a rocky spring start. He’s allowed one run in his last five appearances, stumbling recently against the White Sox after allowing three walks.
Osich is bouncing back from offseason knee surgery, which might explain an inconsistent 2016 season in which he gathered a 4.71 ERA, allowing seven home runs walked 19 and struck out 25.
The Giants will also have Ty Blach, who spent spring vying fifth spot in a competition that wasn’t necessarily in his control. Blach will be with the team in some capacity — long relief or short.