Jon Garland’s strained oblique muscle was confirmed today by an MRI exam and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports that he’ll be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks, meaning he’ll begin the season on the disabled list.
Coming into spring training the Dodgers had impressive pitching depth, but now Garland is out until at least late April and his would-be replacement, Vicente Padilla, is recovering from forearm surgery and may be out even longer.
Garland joined the Dodgers on a one-year, $5 million deal this offseason. Not only will the oblique injury hurt his chances of reaching the $3.5 million in incentives based on innings, his contract also includes an $8 million option for 2012 that vests if he throws 190 innings and is not on the disabled list in September.
Garland has been one of the most durable pitchers in baseball, topping 190 innings in nine straight seasons, but even a few missed starts would make reaching that mark (and triggering the option) in a 10th consecutive year unlikely. Gurnick points to John Ely and Tim Redding as the most likely options to replace Garland in the Opening Day rotation.
Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area hints that the Giants may be done with outfielder Hunter Pence. It’s not clear just how seriously the club is contemplating such a decision, but there are six days remaining on Pence’s rehab assignment, at which point they’ll be able to recall him, reassign him to the minors or release him.
The 35-year-old outfielder has struggled to make a full recovery after spraining his right thumb during the first week of the season. Pence bounced back for a 17-game run with the Giants in April, during which he slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 with one double and one stolen base in 61 plate appearances, but was eventually placed on the disabled list with recurring soreness in his finger. He currently sports a promising .318/.359/.388 batting line with four extra-base hits (including a grand slam) over 92 PA in Triple-A Sacramento.
Despite his recent resurgence in Triple-A, the Giants may not need the additional outfield depth just yet. Mac Williamson, who was recalled in the wake of Pence’s DL assignment, has already cemented the starting role in left field and is off to a strong start at the plate as well. Of course, if the Giants decide to say a premature goodbye to their veteran outfielder (who, it should be said, helped them to two World Series championships over the last seven seasons), it’ll cost them the remaining balance on his $18.5 million salary for 2018.