SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Avoiding a season-opening scramble for qualified starting pitching, the Giants received good news Thursday night about Jeff Samardzija, who was found to have a strained right pectoral muscle instead of a shoulder injury.
Samardzija, the Giants' projected No. 3 starter, might still have to go on the disabled list, manager Bruce Bochy indicated after the Giants' 4-3 Cactus League victory over the Chicago Cubs.
At least the Giants received an explanation for Samardzija's downturn. He underwent an MRI on Thursday, one day after he lasted 3 1/3 innings in an exhibition game against the Chicago Cubs' Triple-A Iowa affiliate. He allowed three runs and seven hits -- including two home runs, which maintained a pattern. Samardzija allowed three home runs in each of his past two Cactus League starts, March 9 against Seattle and March 15 against San Diego.
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The Giants' suspicions about Samardzija's health grew when his fastball hovered around 89 and 90 miles per hour and occasionally reached 92 mph during spring games. His average fastball in 2017 was 92.9 mph, according to Statcast™.
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"I think he's been dealing with it," Bochy said. "He hasn't said anything, but that's who he is. He's such a tough guy and a strong man that he kept pitching with it."
An All-America wide receiver as a collegian at the University of Notre Dame, the rugged Samardzija never has endured a major arm injury. Nor has he ever gone on the disabled list with any sort of malady. In fact, Samardzija is the only current Major Leaguer to reach the 200-inning mark for five consecutive seasons, other than Washington's Max Scherzer.
If the 33-year-old Samardzija goes on the DL, Bochy said that the Giants will consider only in-house candidates as potential replacements. The Giants have steadfastly refused to pursue free agents or players available through trade who would push the team's payroll past the competitive balance tax and potentially hamper future efforts to upgrade the roster.
The Giants are expected to reinforce the rotation with a pair of pitchers who probably would have been part of it anyway, right-hander Chris Stratton and left-hander Ty Blach. They began Spring Training as the leading candidates for the fourth and fifth starters' spots and will simply move up a notch apiece.
That leaves rookies Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez, along with veteran Derek Holland, as candidates to join the rotation in the No. 5 spot. The Giants' desire to return to contender status might lead them to summon Holland, a non-roster invitee who's 69-64 in nine Major League seasons. Holland compiled a 4.20 ERA in five Cactus League appearances. Beede, the right-hander who was the Giants' No. 1 selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, recorded a 10.80 ERA in four Cactus League outings. The left-handed Suarez had a 7.62 ERA in five spring appearances.