San Francisco’s updated roster is beginning to take a smooth, streamlined shape that in many ways is closer to the one the team imagined last winter.
Friday will mark Gold Glove second baseman Joe Panik‘s first start since he was placed on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb on April 27. The injury required a surgical repair of the ligament.
Over the five weeks that followed, the hole at second base was filled by a variety of players with mixed outcomes.
Among the cast of characters was Alen Hanson, who signed as a free agent with the Giants in January after being granted free agency by the Chicago White Sox. Hanson had the most success, though he wasn’t especially flashy defensively. His upside was that in 14 games he was batting .298 with four doubles, four homers, three stolen bases and an OPS of .984 before he, too, was shelved for a left hamstring strain on May 14.
Among other plugs were Pablo Sandoval and Kelby Tomlinson. Sandoval played a total of seven innings at second without incident, thus adding to his mystique. He proved he had chops on the mound in an April 28 blowout against the Dodgers in which he pitched a flawless ninth inning, and his versatility seems to know no end as he took grounders at shortstop ahead of Friday’s game as well.
Meanwhile, in 26 games at second base, Tomlinson has committed five errors, three of which came in one game at Coors Field on Tuesday. And at the plate, he was batting .226 with 28 strikeouts. He’s tied with Jonathan Villar of the Milwaukee Brewers for the second-most errors at second base, though Villar has played in 17 more games than Tomlinson. In light of this, it was Tomlinson who was sent packing to make room for Panik Friday.
To make a long story short, the Giants are very glad to reunite Brandon Crawford with his double-play partner and continue the Panik leadoff experiment that was ongoing before it was rudely interrupted at the end of April.
Another big piece to the puzzle, closer Mark Melancon, who has been struggling with a right elbow flexor strain since Spring Training, was activated from the disabled list minutes before Friday’s game. Right-handed pitcher Jose Valdez was activated and designated for assignment to clear space on the 40-man roster for Melancon.
Among the other major moves the Giants made Friday was the decision to give Dereck Rodriquez his first major league start which will come Sunday, just two days before his 26th birthday. Rodriguez made his major league debut in Colorado Tuesday, appearing in relief and striking out four while giving up just one earned run in 3-1/3 innings. He is the son of Hall of Fame catcher Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez.
Bochy also confirmed that ace Madison Bumgarner is still on track to make his first big league start of the season next Tuesday against Arizona. His last rehab start was in San Jose Thursday where he pitched 3-2/3 innings giving up no hits and striking out eight.
Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 6.56 ERA) joined the ranks on the disabled list Wednesday after his last outing in Colorado in which he struggled through just one inning giving up three hits and two runs before being pulled for right shoulder tightness.
In a final move, the Giants announced Friday that Hunter Pence (right thumb) is set to be activated Saturday. Pence, who has been working to rehabilitate both his thumb and his swing in Sacramento, will fill the role of fourth outfielder while Mac Williamson will remain the Giants everyday left fielder.