San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro was hit on the left hand with a pitch in Tuesday night’s embarrassing loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, immediately leading Giants observers to fear the worst and assume that he would suffer a fate similar to starter Ryan Vogelsong and will miss at least two months.
While postgame x-rays revealed that Scutaro did not suffer a fracture or break of the hand, the 37-year-old infielder fears that he may have suffered tendon damage due to the fact that he could not bend his pinky finger. He is scheduled to visit a hand specialist tomorrow to further examine the injury.
Losing Scutaro, who leads the club with a .332 average, would be a huge blow to the team, as they are already shorthanded following prior injuries to Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval. It would be a struggle to pick a day-to-day lineup for manager Bruce Bochy, and several players would likely be tried at second and third.
The first combination, to be used in Wednesday’s game, will feature Tony Abreu at second base and Joaquis Arias once again manning third. While Abreu is an unknown quantity and Arias is a very good defensive player who has had success with the bat at times, these players probably are not deserving of being in the lineup for an extended stretch.
Other internal options include Juan Perez, Nick Noonan, Brett Pill and Joe Panik. Perez has the most potential, as the recent callup played third primarily while in Fresno and has the ability to hit for power and run the bases very well.
Noonan also could fit, as he has already shown that he is the best defensive second baseman on the team. That being said, he has struggled as a hitter this season off the bench. He would need to prove himself with the bat to become a possibility for the everyday second base spot.
Pill has played both second and third at Triple-A, but the team has been reluctant in the past to try him at these positions in the majors. Though he has a .977 fielding percentage in 57 minor league games at second base, the Giants appear to be concerned about his mobility and the fact that he would be the biggest second baseman in MLB history at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds.
He could be a more realistic option at third, where he started a game with Fresno earlier this year and where Bochy has used him before. Though he has struggled to hit major league breaking balls, Pill probably flashes the most raw power of any Giant other than Hunter Pence and he could offset Sandoval as a big bat.
Many fans will likely call for Panik, the former first rounder, to be recalled from Double-A Richmond. Panik has had a very good season and could be seasoned enough at 22-years old, but he has slumped recently and his average is all the way down to .267. It is highly likely that the Giants want Panik to develop more before they bring him up to the big leagues.
It is a definite possibility that the Giants could also go after a veteran infielder from another club if they do not feel confident in their own depth.
Several possibilities could include the Houston Astros‘ Ronny Cedeno, the Minnesota Twins‘ Jamey Carroll, or the Cleveland Indians‘ Ryan Raburn. While all three have historically been backups and only Raburn is having a great offensive year, they all are experienced and reliable, and probably would not take much to acquire in a year where the Giants do not have any truly elite prospects.
If worst comes to worst and Scutaro is forced to miss a good chunk of time, the scenario which provides the greatest offensive opportunity would be fielding Perez and Pill at the two open spots, at least until Sandoval returns. However, Noonan and Arias are clearly the best two defensive players of the bunch, and Bochy may prefer just to have good fielders behind his pitching staff and hope that they get good offense from better hitters such as Buster Posey, Pence and Brandon Crawford.
Whatever they do, it will be interesting to see how the team deals with adversity and fights for a World Series repeat.