Sarah's Take: Giants hope to overcome injuries
Club gears up for big series against Dodgers with Scutaro back in fold
This weekend the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers will face off for a three-game series. This series could be crucial for deciding the National League West Division title as the Giants take a 1 1/2-game lead into Friday's action.
Both teams have been affected by injuries this season. But going into the series, the Giants have more health concerns than the Dodgers. On Sunday they had to place Brandon Belt with a concussion on the seven-day disabled list. The Giants' offense missed Belt earlier this season when he missed 50 games with a broken left thumb. Belt can return to the active roster soon, but the recovery from head injuries can take much longer than expected.
Just before the All-Star break, the Giants activated Marco Scutaro from the disabled list. Since early Spring Training, Scutaro could not play because of a back problem, leaving his future in doubt. In Scutaro's absence, the Giants struggled to find a second baseman who could contribute to the offense.
For now, Scutaro can play even though his back problem has sapped his speed that will affect his defensive range. Back problems can reoccur at any time, so general manager Brian Sabean wanted to have a major league quality backup for second base. Hence, the Giants signed Dan Uggla after the former All-Star was released by the Atlanta Braves.
Uggla began his Major League career with the Florida Marlins in 2006. He was third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Uggla's offensive production earned him three trips to the Midsummer Classic. Defensively, Uggla was ordinary. In 2010, the Marlins traded Uggla, a traditional power hitter who strikes out frequently, to the Braves. For the first couple years, the Braves enjoyed Uggla's power and didn't mind his strikeouts. But Atlanta acquired more power hitters who constantly failed to make contact. A team can't win relying only on the long ball and the rest of the time their hitters striking out.
Uggla, as his batting average declined, became a scapegoat for the Braves' offensive shortcomings. Last season the Braves left him off the postseason roster, and this year when his offensive production continued to be problematic, the Braves released him just before the All-Star break.
Signing Uggla to a Minor League contract has no risk for the Giants. If Uggla can regain his batting stroke, the Giants can promote him.
Also on Monday, the Giants placed Matt Cain on the 15-day disabled list. For the entire season he has battled elbow inflammation, but now the pain has become too severe. The Giants hope giving him some rest will take care of the problem.
Cain, the projected ace of the Giants' starting rotation, has a 4.18 ERA and seven losses. Twice this season cain has been on the disabled list. Once while making a sandwich, he cut his finger, which made him unable to grip the ball. The second time Cain pulled a hamstring. The extra rest didn't help his performance.
During Spring Training of 2012, the Giants signed Cain to a six-year deal, the second most lucrative contract for a pitcher at the time. During the 2012 season, Cain, pitched a perfect game and played a vital role in the Giants' World Series championship. Since then, Cain has shown signs of struggle. Despite Monday's MRI revealing no structural damage, after nine years in the Majors, a serious arm injury for Cain can occur at any time unless the Giants use him carefully.
Pitching is important to any team who wants to go to the postseason. Playing half of their games in a stadium that favors the pitching, the Giants must have a strong starting rotation in order to go to the playoffs. Madison Bumgarner is the clear ace of the starting rotation. Ryan Vogelsong, despite having a poor outing Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies, has done well. Tim Lincecum, pitching a no-hitter in June against the San Diego Padres, has rebounded nicely from two disappointing seasons. Tim Hudson, arguably the best offseason free agent signing, has kept the Giants' starting rotation as one of the elite rotations in baseball.
Losing Cain is difficult for the Giants as they try to distance themselves from the Dodgers. But, the rest of their starting rotation has performed admirably this season. The return of Scutaro has strengthened the team, but signing Uggla to a Minor League contract as an insurance policy for Scutaro is brilliant. The upcoming weekend series with the Dodgers should be interesting and help to determine who's the best in the West.