Melancon, Samardzija, Fernández open 2018 on disabled list

The Giants announced Thursday that closer Mark Melancon, starter Jeff Samardzija and Rule 5 draft pick Julian Fernández will all start the 2018 season on the disabled list.

Samardzija and Melancon have been placed on the 10-day DL. Samardzija is being benched for a right pectoral strain and Melancon’s shelving, for a right elbow flexor strain, will be retroactive to March 26.

Melancon spent a significant amount of time on the DL last season, appearing in just 32 games with a 4.50 ERA. The team attributed his sub-par 2017 performance to forearm stiffness stemming from pronator syndrome, a condition similar to carpal tunnel that he had surgery to alleviate last September.

In the absence of Melancon, who the Giants signed to a four-year $62 million deal in the wake of a 2015 season plagued by a leaky bullpen, Sam Dyson is a front runner for the closer position. Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland are on Dyson’s heels, though, and employing a closer-by-committee system is another option the Giants might exercise.

The loss of Samardzija from the starting rotation in addition to ace Madison Bumgarner‘s second DL-inducing freak accident in as many years puts pressure on young arms like Ty Blach and Chris Stratton to step up.

The Giants will open up the season with a four-man rotation banking on the the generosity of an April schedule liberal with its off days and the hope that Samardzija will recover within just a handful of pitching staff rotations.

Fernández was placed on the 60-day DL ahead of Opening Day with an ulnar collateral ligament sprain. The UCL runs along the inner elbow and holds the humerus (upper arm bone) and the ulna (forearm bone) together. It’s the ligament surgeons repair or replace in Tommy John surgery.

The Giants have not announced the severity of the sprain or whether Fernández will require the season-ending Tommy John surgery at this time.