On Friday night, San Francisco Giants lefthanded reliever Jeremy Affeldt threw in his first game since straining his MCL late in spring training, participating in a rehab assignment at Triple-A Fresno. Affeldt pitched the first inning, and the results were by no means pretty. After recording his first out on his first batter, the 34-year-old imploded, hitting a batter, walking two straight, and then allowing three straight singles to the outfield. He was pulled after recording just one out and throwing 33 pitches.
Affeldt is scheduled to make another rehab appearance for Fresno on Sunday, so he could certainly check off all the boxes for his recovery then. If Affeldt continues to struggle, however, the Giants should feel no need to rush him back. They want him to be effective in crucial late-season games, and there’s no need to jeopardize that by having him pitching in the majors before he’s fully recovered.
The Giants’ bullpen hasn’t seen a huge drop-off in quality during Affeldt’s absence. Former starter David Huff has assumed Affeldt’s role, and though he was charged with an earned run on Thursday without giving up a hit, Huff was dominant on Friday, picking up the win over 1.2 scoreless innings. And while the pitcher who took Affeldt’s roster spot, Juan Gutierrez, struggled in his first appearance, he was also very effective in Friday’s victory, allowing only one hit over 1.1 innings.
Of course, Affeldt may feel some extra pressure to make a timely return after suffering his injury because he didn’t wear the knee brace he had used for the previous two years. This was particularly upsetting after Affeldt vowed in spring training that he wanted to move away from the “injury-prone” label he had created for himself over the past several years. As upsetting as it may be for him, though, hopefully he can realize that he needs to take his time if necessary for the best of the team.