The Giants' hopes of a major bounce-back this season have taken a major blow in the past few days, specifically to the rotation. Earlier this week, we learned No. 3 starter Jeff Samardzija will begin the season on the disabled list due to a strained pec muscle.
That news was nothing compared to this: Madison Bumgarner has a fractured left hand.
Bruce Bochy on Bumgarner fracture: “It’s just horrible news for us. It happened. There’s nothing we can do but push on.”— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) March 23, 2018
The ace lefty was hit by a line drive off the bat of Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield in spring action Friday and immediately exited the game.
Bochy didn't beat around the bush and there was no reason to treat the news otherwise. This is huge. The Giants were coming off a disaster of a season, but several players missed time with injury -- including a huge chunk of the season missed by Bumgarner -- and others underperformed. They went out this offseason and added Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, Austin Jackson and Tony Watson in hopes of solidifying the roster around core players Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Johnny Cueto et al. Many believed the moves got them right back in contention.
Now, Bumgarner is looking at a long road back. The Giants haven't yet set a timetable, likely because no one knows just yet. It just happened. It will be a big chunk of the season, though.
This is Bumgarner's pitching hand, after all. As long as there's a fracture, he can't throw. Further, it's a displaced fracture and Bumgarner will need pins in his hand for four weeks.
Bottom line: The bone will take a long time to heal. Once it's healed, Bumgarner will need to start building back up his pitching strength. Then he'll need a minor-league rehab assignment before coming back. An educated guess says this is at least two months and might even put Bumgarner out until the All-Star break. Maybe even later.
The timing couldn't be much worse for Bumgarner, either. He and the Giants haven't come to terms on an extension yet and he's only signed through this season with a $12 million club option for 2019. Surely they'll pick up that option, but the Giants won't likely want to think about a long-term extension until they can be sure how well he pitches once his fractured hand is healed.
Bumgarner, 28, had been incredibly durable through the first part of his career. In 2011-2016, he pitched at least 201 1/3 innings in each season, including 102 1/3 total playoff innings. He was a workhorse with top-flight results, one of the better pitchers in the game.
Last season, though, Bumgarner suffered a dirt bike accident and ended up making just 17 starts (111 innings). Now the fractured hand will start off his 2018 campaign on a sour note.
As for the Giants, Cueto now sits alone atop the rotation -- coming off a pretty terrible year, too -- with the likes of Derek Holland, Chris Stratton and Ty Blach behind him until Samardzija and then Bumgarner can return. With those two down, the rotation doesn't even look close to that of a contender.
Predictably, projections have worsened for the Giants. Stephen Oh of SportsLine reports that the Giants were pegged to win 81 games before Bumgarner's injury, giving them a 24.5 percent shot at the postseason. If Bumgarner is out until late May, those numbers dip to 79 wins and an 18.6 percent chance at October.
The season doesn't start for another six days, but the Giants just had one of their worst days of the year.