This is another in our occasional series of posts wherein we update you on the status of the nonstop schadenfreude express which is the 2008 San Francisco Giants…
As virtually everyone knows by now, $126 million man Barry Zito has been summarily banished to the bullpen after beginning the season 0-6. But what I still don’t get is why the Giants would do this, as it seems like the worst possible option. By all accounts Zito is fully healthy, and given that the Giants have no chance whatsoever of contending this season, the best way to get any return on their investment is to let him eat innings as a starter. Just put him on a 100-pitch count and run him out there, no matter how many runs he gives up. On the other hand, if they want Zito to work on his mechanics in a less pressurized environment, then they should get him to agree to go down to the minor leagues, where he can start every 5th day against AAA hackers and get his confidence back. And if he won’t go down, a third option would be to just do what every other team does and make up an injury so you can DL him and then give him “rehab starts” in the minors. But the last place you want a pitcher with an 80-mph fastball is in your bullpen, where he is going to be useless in anything other than once-a-week mop-up relief, won’t get enough work to work out his mechanics, and will be eating up a spot on the roster.
In other rotation news, Kevin Correia has gone down with an oblique strain which will sideline him until at least the end of May, and Noah Lowry’s recovery from a nerve injury in his forearm is going much slower than expected. Originally he was expected back in mid-April, but now Giants athletic trainer Dave Groeschner is saying, “We’re probably going to have to shut him down for a significant amount of time,” and his return date is indefinite. Pat Misch has been called up to replace Correia, but it is uncertain who will replace Zito.
Meanwhile, lone rotational standout Tim Lincecum was handed what should be the first of many losses this year, losing to the Rockies despite a strong 7-inning, 3 ER performance, because his offense could only muster 2 runs behind him.
As for that Giants offense, they remain last in the Major Leagues at 3.2 runs scored per game. Although they have somehow been able to compile a record of 13-16 so far, good for third place in the NL West, their run differential would produce an expected 19 losses, tied for worst in the game with the Padres, so the Giants have been lucky so far to do as well (?) as they have.
The bloom is off the rose for emergency minor-league call-up John Bowker. After a blistering major league debut in which he batted .364 with 3 homers and 9 RBI in his first 9 games, inspiring hope in Giants fans that they might have secretly had a hitting prospect they never knew about, the guy who had never played above AA before this year fell off a cliff, going 3 for his next 31, and is now batting .193/.217/.404 as reality reasserts itself.
Your obligatory Brian Bocock batting update – .157/.280/.171 for a mind-bogglingly low .452 OPS.
In steroid-related news, one of the lone bright spots in the Giants organization this season – catcher Eliezer Alfonzo – who had been on the verge of a call-up after batting .306 with 3 homers and 14 RBI for AAA Fresno, was suspended by MLB for 50 games for testing positive for taking a banned substance, which Alfonzo has admitted doing.