A visit to renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews’ office in Gulf Breeze, Fla. yesterday by Dan Runzler confirmed that the Giants’ left-handed reliever has indeed aggravated his strained lat and it will take 4-6 weeks to heal.
Runzler, who turns 27 on Mar. 30, originally injured the muscle on the last day of the 2011 season and was hoping it would heal on its own during the off-season.
It could have been a lot worse for the <a title="MLB.com: "Runzler easy Reliever of the Year pick"" href="http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091221&content_id=7838298&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb" target="_blank">2010 MLB.com Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Had he torn the latissimus dorsi muscle (which connects the spine to the humerus), Runzler would have probably missed most, if not all, of the entire 2012 season.
Runzler was a favorite to win the last spot in the Giants’ bullpen this spring, but that all changes now as he will start the season on the disabled list.
Manager Bruce Bochy has not indicated who might fill Runzler’s spot, but it could come down to LHP Eric Surkamp, RHP Steve Edlefsen, LHP Brian Burres, or RHP Ramon Ortiz.
Edlefsen and Surkamp are already on the Giants’ 40-man roster, so the team would not have to make a corresponding move if it were to decide on either of them.
The 24-year-old Surkamp (who went 2-2 with a 5.74 ERA and 1.838 WHIP in six late-season starts last season) is being groomed as a starter, so I’m not sure the Giants will want to convert him to a reliever (however brief) at this point.
Edlefsen, 26, also has big league experience, and—although he didn’t fare well in his brief stint with the Giants last year (0-0, 9.53 ERA, 2.382 WHIP in 13 games)—I like his arm. His fastball tops out at only 92-93 mph, but he’s got a funky delivery style that confuses hitters into thinking it’s faster. He also throws a pretty good sinker and can be counted on to coax a ground ball out. (He’s terrible against lefties, though.)
The Giants could open a spot on the 40-man roster for a non-roster invitee or minor league pitcher.
Catchers Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart are both on the 40-man and I really don’t see the Giants breaking camp with both of them backing up Buster Posey, especially if Posey’s surgically-repaired ankle responds well to the rigors of playing behind the plate this spring. (Buster is reportedly making his first start on Friday.)
If the Giants give Whiteside or Stewart the axe, that could then open the door for Burres or Ortiz, a couple of veteran pitchers who are in camp as non-roster invitees.
It’s too soon to know who’s going to grab Runzler’s spot at this point. But I think it’s safe to say, the guy who performs the best, has the best shot.
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