SF Giants facing tough choices with three players on injured list

SAN FRANCISCO — A Giants team that has won nine consecutive games is facing tough choices with three players hoping to return from the injured list in the near future.

Starter Alex Wood, who has been out since August 30 after testing positive for COVID-19, threw a 21-pitch live batting practice on Wednesday at Oracle Park and showed good command of his sinker, slider and changeup. The left-hander would likely benefit from making at least one rehab start before returning to the Giants’ rotation, but manager Gabe Kapler said the club will consider activating Wood as soon as Saturday.

“My body feels good, my arm feels good, I just still have a little cough and congestion and the fatigue part of it,” said Wood, who declined to disclose his vaccination status. “I’m getting better each day and I was really pleasantly surprised with how I felt on Monday in my bullpen as far as how I felt throughout and post-recovery.”

With right-hander Johnny Cueto (right flexor strain) on the 10-day injured list, the Giants have had two holes in their rotation for the last two weeks. The club has asked its bullpen to cover every inning of games Cueto and Wood were projected to pitch and doing so has pushed an exhausted pitching staff to the brink with the playoffs rapidly approaching.

“I think we could see him in a game as early as Saturday, although I wouldn’t be married on it or count on it by any stretch,” Kapler said. “We’ll see how he comes out tomorrow, but that’s a possibility at this point.”

Sending Wood on a minor league rehab start might allow him to build up his stamina, but given the state of the Giants’ rotation, Kapler indicated the club can benefit from inserting Wood right back into a starting role with the big league club.

The prospect of helping the Giants continue their push for a National League West title thrills Wood.

“September, being in the hunt, to have clinched a playoff berth and be right in the hunt for a division title, there’s just nothing better than that time of year,” Wood said. “Our season is so long and it’s longer than any season in professional sports and to get to this point and be where we are is really special.”

One of the hitters Wood faced on Wednesday, infielder Donovan Solano, is also nearing a return from the COVID-19 injured list and could be activated as soon as Thursday. Solano tested positive for COVID-19 on August 26 and has missed nearly three weeks of games, but began working out at Oracle Park again during the Giants’ last road trip before starting a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Friday.

Activating Solano will require the Giants to clear a roster spot and while infielder Thairo Estrada has options and is a candidate to be sent down to Triple-A, the front office may prefer to keep Estrada active and move forward for the time being with 15 position players and 13 pitchers.

The other hitter Wood matched up with during his live batting practice was outfielder Alex Dickerson, who has been sidelined since September 4 with a right hamstring strain. Dickerson began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Friday, going 3-for-13 with a walk in four games.

Kapler said the Giants will likely have Dickerson extend his rehab assignment, in part because he’s still experiencing some hamstring tightness. Activating Dickerson over the next few days isn’t out of the question if the club loses another player to injury, but the Giants don’t necessarily have room for the left-handed slugger on their roster right now.

“Some of this is going to be based on our roster needs,” Kapler said. “If something happens in the next couple of days where we have to push Alex, we will. But as of this moment, I don’t think we need to do that and there’s at least some lingering tightness so I don’t think it makes sense to push too hard.”

With Steven Duggar, another left-handed hitting outfielder, performing well at the plate since being recalled on September 5 and capable of playing outstanding defense in center field, the Giants likely believe their current roster configuration is superior with Duggar receiving playing time ahead of Dickerson.

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Author: Kerry Crowley