Hunter Pence hasn't missed a game in more than two years, but he's primed to miss quite a few over the next couple months.
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Pence suffered a nondisplaced fracture of the ulna just above the wrist after being hit by a pitch in Thursday's Cactus League game, an injury that will keep him out six to eight weeks. X-rays after the game confirmed the diagnosis.
The injury, and subsequent missed time, is rare for the outfielder. Pence is one of the most durable and reliable players in the game, having played at least 154 games in every season since 2008. He hasn't missed a game since 2012.
The silver lining, then, is the same reason the injury is so disappointing -- that it happened in just the Giants' second game of spring. Teams still have a month of exhibition games before the real competition starts, a month Pence can use to heal and rehabilitate. Even at the maximum end of the projected recovery, Pence will likely miss around a month of the regular season.
Still, it's a big hole in the Giants' lineup the team will need to fill. Gregor Blanco is an admirable, likely better, defensive replacement, but Blanco offers little in the way of offense. With Pablo Sandoval leaving over the winter, Pence's absence has an even more profound impact on the offense.
Bochy said he'll have a conversation with general manager Brian Sabean about Pence's replacement -- suggesting the team may look outside to find it -- but an interesting name could be non-roster invite Justin Maxwell. Maxwell has a combination of power and speed that has kept him on the periphery of the game, but contact issues have long been his downfall. If he can hit enough to make an impression in camp, the 31-year-old could grab hold of the job until Pence returns.
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Darvish Exits Early
Before the Pence injury, the biggest news of the day happened roughly 30 miles northwest.
Yu Darvish, making the start for the Rangers against the Royals, left Thursday's game after one inning with right triceps tightness. Darvish allowed one hit, striking out one in his inning of work.
Unlike with Pence, the Rangers said Darvish's situation is "not serious."
“I don’t really think it’s anything to worry about,” Darvish said, through an interpreter, shortly after the outing. “I commanded my pitches. I didn’t throw hard. I worked on my location. It reminded me that location is more important than velocity.”
The Rangers said the move was "precautionary" and that Darvish will be re-evaluated Friday.
Even so, it's a bad start to the year given Darvish's end to 2014. The right-hander missed the final seven weeks of last season with right elbow inflammation, and he was looking forward to a healthy 2015 season.
When on the mound, the 28-year-old has been nothing short of an ace. Darvish is a three-time All-Star and he led the league with 277 strikeouts in 2013. The forearm scare may actually lower Darvish's price slightly on draft day, so owners who live dangerously will enjoy the small discount. But all owners need to be aware of the risk involved with Darvish at this point as well.
Major Minor Issues?
Mike Minor's injury woes continue as well.
After shoulder issues limited Minor to 145 1/3 innings last season -- and contributed to his 4.77 ERA -- the southpaw is once again dealing with left shoulder tightness. Minor was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday as a result of the tightness.
Now, the 27-year-old is set to see Dr. James Andrews early next week. Andrews is famous for performing Tommy John surgery on pitchers, but any visit to the good doctor is bad news for a hurler. That it's the same shoulder that gave Minor trouble last season is doubling down on the problem. Stay tuned.
On Olivera's Elbow
Conflicting reports on Cuban import Hector Olivera's elbow surfaced Thursday.
Yahoo's Jeff Passan reported "serious concern exists" that Olivera could need Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Such a surgery would force the 29-year-old to miss the entire 2015 season.
But Olivera's camp was quick to dispel that notion, telling Baseball America's Ben Badler that the report is "absolutely not true." MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez also contradicted the idea that Olivera's elbow was an issue. Badler relayed word from Olivera's side that the infielder has taken four physicals and passed them all.
Either way, the truth should be out soon. If healthy, Olivera could command a substantial contract on the market.