The San Francisco Giants began Spring Training with the seeming luxury of facing minimal concern over injury, but starting second baseman Marco Scutaro has yet to make his exhibition debut, spurring the possibility of a prolonged absence. The Giants remain optimistic that Scutaro will get at least 30-to-35 at-bats before the regular season starts, although the health of his glove hand is becoming a serious problem.
Scutaro has been excellent for the Giants since being acquired in a midseason trade in 2012. He was an integral proponent of the Giants’ most recent World Series title run and must be productive this season in order for the team to contend. Scutaro is a table-setter. He owns a career .341 on-base percentage and has exceeded that figure by a landslide in nearly two seasons with the Giants.
He played in just 127 games last season, in part because of regular rest, but also because of a bent pinkie finger on this glove hand that hampered his ability to wrap his bottom hand around the bat. His nagging hand injury also proved to be crippling in the field, as Scutaro noticeably struggled transferring ground balls from his glove to his throwing hand.
The Giants need Scutaro to play as close to full health as possible. His lack of baseball activity at this point of camp is alarming, though. Scutaro isn’t close to taking batting practice and remains distant from seeing action in live competition. The fact that Scutaro’s pinkie problem has extended this far into camp indicates that it’s an issue of which isn’t going to suddenly disappear. It’s a lingering problem that could potentially prove detrimental to Scutaro’s ability to sustain a high level of productivity on the field, assuming he is indeed able to begin the season on the active roster.
The Giants haven’t signified a clear-cut concern over possibly having to rely on a backup plan, like Nick Noonan, at second base, but it’s becoming an increasing likelihood that Scutaro might not be easy to rely upon. The Giants are in trouble if they’re forced to slot Noonan in the lineup as a frequent regular. At 24 years old, Noonan still has time to develop, but he managed a microscopic .219 batting average in 105 official at-bats last season, and hasn’t flashed serious signs of competency at the plate in camp.
The best alternative option for the Giants is perhaps Ehire Adrianza, although he has little experience at second base. Adrianza has been impressive at shortstop in Spring Training, recording a 1.048 OPS with three extra-base hits and four RBIs in 15 plate appearances. He’s a more intriguing stopgap in the infield than Tony Abreu, who is also competing for a bench spot.
Scutaro’s injury ultimately reveals a recurring problem for the Giants: bench depth. For whatever inconceivable reason, the Giants’ front office failed to address the problem over the offseason. San Francisco’s glaring lack of depth was exposed in 2013 when a few key starters, namely Scutaro and Angel Pagan, suffered injuries. The Giants have already been forced to deal with what-if scenarios and the calendar doesn’t even read “April” yet. Scutaro’s nagging hand injury is going to wreak havoc on the Giants’ ability to contend if he’s unable to gain a sufficient level of health before Opening Day.