In the months without baseball this summer, Giants officials spent much of their free time focusing on an area where they have little control. They knew a short spring training and shortened season could be harmful for players, and they spent countless hours discussing ways they could mitigate the risk, studying everything from prior baseball seasons to the European soccer teams that returned to the field earlier in the summer.
The Giants, like every team, had some losses early, but they were perhaps the kind they could have predicted. Jeff Samardzija's shoulder issues returned and Drew Smyly, who has had a promising career derailed by injuries, lost a month to a finger strain. Austin Slater's elbow became a problem for the second time in his young career.
For the most part, though, the Giants have stayed pretty healthy. But at the worst possible time, the wheels are now threatening to fly off.
The Giants lost 7-2 to the Rockies on Monday and might have lost another key bat. Alex Dickerson had three hits, including a homer, in his return from the paternity list, but he took a 90 mph slider off his right elbow in the ninth inning. Dickerson looked uncomfortable on the bases and his elbow swelled enough that the red welt was visible on TV just a couple minutes later.
He went for an X-ray after the loss, which came back negative. Even with that good news, Dickerson figures to be somewhat hampered for a couple of days given the location of the injury.
The Giants still remain without Mike Yastrzemski, who has a strained calf and hasn't yet tried to run on it. Even their healthier stars aren't all humming along.
Johnny Cueto entered his second-to-last start with concerns about his hip, but he said it didn't impact him on Monday. Something went wrong, though, as Cueto allowed seven runs -- his high as a Giant -- in 4 1/3 innings.
"He didn't have his best stuff and his command was off," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Against a team like the Rockies, who are free swingers up and down the lineup, if you're missing in the zone they can punish you for that, and that's really what was happening with Johnny. He was missing in the zone with all of his pitches, and with the lack of his best stuff he wasn't missing bats today."
Cueto has allowed 20 earned runs on 33 hits in his last five starts, the type of run the Giants can't afford right now. He even got called for a balk with a runner on third while doing his patented start-and-stop move, but that run didn't matter. The Giants didn't do much against German Marquez, and the task Tuesday isn't any easier.
Kyle Freeland, the Rockies' best starter, is looming, which ordinarily would be a bit of a break for Dickerson. He doesn't face many lefties anyway, but right now, with the way the Giants are going, Kapler might not have had much of a choice.