LOS ANGELES–Injuries forced five Giants’ pitchers to start the year on the disabled list, and Saturday, manager Bruce Bochy announced that’s where reliever Julian Fernández will spend his entire 2018 season.
Fernández will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his pitching arm Thursday in Arizona. Dr. Gary Waslewski will perform the surgery.
The Giants selected Fernández from the Colorado Rockies’ organization in the Rule 5 draft during the offseason, which allowed the team to take an extended look at a promising young pitcher with a 100-mile per hour fastball this spring. Fernández had an opportunity to crack the Giants’ Opening Day roster, but a late-spring injury diagnosis doomed his chances.
Fernández, 22, appeared in eight games this spring, posting a 13.50 ERA over 7.1 innings pitched. Despite unimpressive numbers, the Giants were considering Fernández for one of the team’s final bullpen spots because they could not send him to the Minor Leagues for more seasoning. Rule 5 draft choices must spend the entire season on a 25-man roster or be offered back to their previous franchise at a price of $50,000, so San Francisco was preparing to make a difficult decision before news of Fernández’s injury came down.
Because Fernández is on the Major League 60-day disabled list, he will be paid a full salary for the 2018 season. That’s significant because the Giants don’t have much wiggle room under the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold, so each player on the 25-man roster that suffers a season-ending injury must be replaced on the roster by an addition who will also make a Major League salary.
Fernández will not be active at any point during the 2018 season, and it’s highly unlikely he’ll be available by Opening Day in 2019. Rule 5 draft criteria states that if a player is not active for 90 days in his first year with a club due to an extended injury, whatever remains of the 90-day obligation must be met the following year, his second season with the drafting franchise.
Outside of Fernández, the Giants have four other pitchers including Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Will Smith and Mark Melancon on the disabled list. Bochy said Samardzija threw on Saturday at Dodger Stadium and is making steady progress in his effort to return from a right pectoral strain.
“He threw off the mound, he threw 20 pitches and he feels great,” Bochy said. “He’ll take another bullpen Tuesday, a full-on bullpen and we’ll decide what we’re going to do.”
The Giants don’t need a fifth starter until April 10, but Bochy said it’s unlikely Samardzija would be ready to rejoin the rotation by that point in the season. The 11th-year Major League veteran is likely headed for at least one rehab start, but Samardzija should be back in the rotation before the end of April provided he doesn’t experience any setbacks.
Saturday night starter
Non-roster invitee Derek Holland began spring training as a dark horse candidate to win a spot in the Giants’ rotation, but due to the team’s various injuries and Holland’s impressive performances, he’ll take the mound Saturday night against the Dodgers.
Bochy said he thought Derek Holland had a chance to make the team as soon as he saw him this spring pic.twitter.com/QSUT3NzxPc
— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) March 31, 2018
Bochy said he thought Holland could help the Giants as soon as he saw him pitch for the first time this spring, and though he was likely headed for a long relief role, Holland is now throwing in the third slot in the team’s rotation.
“He showed a quick arm, a good command, so that was impressive and that’s what you’re looking at to start with,” Bochy said. “Where’s he at with his stuff, the velo, the arm speed, all of that, he showed all of that right off the bat.”
Holland posted a 6.20 ERA in 26 starts last year with the White Sox, but logged a 2.37 ERA over his first 10 starts of the season.