SAN FRANCISCO — Hunter Strickland’s temper has at times tarnished his reputation, led to a suspension, and ignited a fight that was a low point of the 2017 season and ended Michael Morse's career. Now, it has cost the Giants their closer for a couple of months.
Strickland punched a door after blowing a save Monday night and suffered a fracture in his pitching hand. The right-hander had surgery on his right pinky finger, the fifth metacarpal, Tuesday afternoon and is expected to miss at least six to eight weeks.
Manager Bruce Bochy said he did not find out about Strickland until he got home after a 5-4 loss. He said the news “crushed” him, noting that Strickland had grown as a pitcher and person since taking over the closer role at the end of spring training.
“The closer has got to have emotional control,” Bochy said. “We all get frustrated and that’s a tough loss and a gut-wrenching loss. I’m sure he felt full responsibility. He didn’t think before it happened. I’m thoroughly disappointed, trust me. I’m crushed, because this guy has grown as a pitcher and a person. I know Hunter cares deeply.”
Strickland was not available to the media Tuesday because he left the park early in the afternoon to see a doctor, but he posted a lengthy message to his Instagram page. Strickland apologized to his family, teammates and fans, writing "I am truly sorry that one split second, stupid decision has caused so much harm and now set me back from being out there with my team to pursue our goal."
"This is our life, and we take pride in what we do, so when we fail it hurts," he went on to say. "But that is by no means an excuse because every action has a reaction - which is what I'm seeing now. I've made a mistake and regret it, but I will not give up and will learn from this! I completely understand how this portrays my character, which I will humbly work on areas in my life that need refinement."
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Life has an interesting and sometimes disappointing way of opening up our eyes. Words cannot describe the amount of regret and sorrow I have for my actions. I have let down the ones that care and mean the most, as well as the ones that count on me day in and day out. To my family, my teammates, my coaches, this organization, and our fan base, I am truly sorry that one split second, stupid decision has caused so much harm and now set me back from being out there with my team to pursue our goal. As well as providing for my family. I own all responsibilities and consequences because these were no ones actions but myself. I will work hard to get back with the guys and help contribute to some more wins. This is our life, and we take pride in what we do, so when we fail it hurts. But that is by no means an excuse because every action has a reaction- which is what I’m seeing now. I’ve made a mistake and regret it, but I will not give up and will learn from this! I completely understand how this portrays my character, which I will humbly work on areas in my life that need refinement. I sincerely didn’t do this out of selfishness, but simply because I let down the ones that count on me most and my emotions got the best of me in that moment. So again, I’m sorry, and now I have to move forward.
Strickland had shown signs of growth since a fight with Bryce Harper last season. Members of the staff noticed a change in his demeanor on the mound, and a new, calmer slider led to a start that had him getting All-Star consideration. Strickland had a 2.01 ERA and 13 saves in 16 opportunities before facing the Marlins. They took advantage of a night when Strickland had poor command, scoring three runs to take the lead and steal a win.
Strickland yelled some words at rookie Lewis Brinson as he walked off the field. Brinson had celebrated after getting the game-tying single. Shortly thereafter, Strickland threw an ill-advised punch with his pitching hand.
Without Strickland, Bochy said he will lean on Tony Watson and Sam Dyson for the ninth inning. Mark Melancon, who got a record deal to be the closer, is not viewed as durable enough at this point because of his own injury issues. Watson and Dyson have been having strong seasons, and Bochy said one of them will get the lion’s share of the save opportunities. Rookie Pierce Johnson returned to take Strickland’s roster spot.