After briefly returning to a fully healthy bullpen contingent, the San Francisco Giants will potentially have to fill another roster spot following left-hander Jeremy Affeldt‘s early exit on Saturday night. The 34-year-old reliever came in during the sixth inning to face the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ Cliff Pennington and retired him, but left the game in the middle of an at-bat versus pinch-hitter A.J. Pollock. Reports soon revealed that Affeldt had suffered a groin strain.
While things certainly could have been worse for the injury-prone Affeldt, injuries of this type almost always lead to a disabled list stint. For the short term, the lefty’s on-field performance should not be missed too much — he has a 5.63 ERA since the beginning of June — but his presence as a leader in the clubhouse and an anchor in the bullpen will be hard to make up for.
Though they can fill his spot with a Major League-capable pitcher such as Jean Machi in the short term, this injury makes it more likely that the Giants will go after a reliever at the trade deadline. Though Machi and fellow rookie right-handers Jake Dunning and Sandy Rosario have generally been effective this year, it would make sense for the Giants to try to get a more seasoned reliever who could offset those pitchers’ inexperience.
In addition, Affeldt’s injury would seem to eliminate the possibility of lefty specialist Javier Lopez being traded. Lopez, who has a 1.59 ERA and is holding lefty hitters to a .193 average this year, was seen as a possible candidate to be moved because of his impending free agency and the Giants’ ability to pass his duties off to Affeldt and fellow left-hander Jose Mijares. But if Affeldt does indeed need to go on the DL, it would be too risky for the Giants to navigate though August with Mijares as their only reliable left-handed option.
If Affeldt’s injury does extend into mid-August, another option to consider may already exist on the Giants’ Major League roster. With starter Ryan Vogelsong expected to return to the Giants in the first week of August, left-hander Barry Zito would seem to be the prime candidate to be removed from the rotation. Zito has not been effective overall versus left-handers, possessing an ERA of 5.60 and a WHIP of 2.04, along with a .373 batters average against in 17.2 innings pitched. But when Zito has struggled, he’s done it against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. His numbers during home games, highlighted by a 2.45 ERA, give hope to the possibility that he could be successful against lefty hitters.
The potential loss of Affeldt could be a bump in the road for the Giants, who are now 4.5 games out of first place following their defeat of the division-leading Diamondbacks Saturday. However, plenty of options exist to offset his loss. It’s worth noting that in 2010, Affeldt hurt his oblique on July 23. Eight days later, the Giants traded for Lopez and went on to win their first World Series in San Francisco. If they are as confident in their chances this year, it would not be at all surprising to see general manager Brian Sabean making a similar move.