Giants recall Joe Nathan to bolster bullpen

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The Giants have purchased the contract of reliever Joe Nathan prior to Saturday’s matinee, according to MLB.com’s Chris Haft. The right-hander is expected to fill some holes in the bullpen as the Giants finish off a three-game set against the Cubs this weekend.

Nathan signed a minor league deal with the Giants in August after making a handful of appearances with the Cubs earlier this season. During a two-week stint in Double-A Richmond, the 41-year-old closed out six games for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, giving up three hits and a walk and striking out seven en route to a pair of saves.

At first glance, it might make more sense to utilize that roster spot for a third catcher, which the Giants currently lack, but there’s no question that their bullpen could use the extra support. Right-handed reliever Hunter Strickland looked overtaxed during a 2-1 loss on Friday night, failing to record an out for the first time since June 5, and even with Josh Osich’s scoreless inning and Matt Cain bolstering a 12-man ‘pen, there isn’t much to get excited about as the team prepares for another stretch run.

Nathan is no stranger to the Giants or the bullpen, but after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in 2015, it would be unrealistic to expect the veteran righty to produce the 1.39 ERA, 2.3 fWAR levels of dominance he flashed during his last successful season in the major leagues. Still, with 12 other relievers vying for time on the mound, it’s unlikely that he’ll see substantial playing time heading into September.

With Nathan on the 40-man roster, the Giants recalled right-hander Ray Black, who will be placed on the 60-day disabled list with a right elbow bone spur.

Astros star Altuve has surgery on broken thumb, a WBC injury

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Houston Astros star Jose Altuve had surgery Wednesday on his broken right thumb, an injury that occurred in the World Baseball Classic and will significantly delay the second baseman’s 2023 debut.

The Astros announced that the 32-year-old Altuve had the procedure done in Houston and will stay there to begin his rehabilitation, with only one week left in spring training. The Astros will fly there on Sunday following their final Grapefruit League game in Florida, before playing a pair of exhibitions against their Triple-A team, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, in Texas.

Altuve was hit by a pitch on Saturday while playing for Venezuela in the WBC. He might not be ready to return to the lineup until at least late May. The eight-time All-Star and 2017 American League MVP batted .300 with 103 runs, 28 homers and 18 steals for the World Series champion Astros last season. Mauricio Dubón and David Hensley are the leading candidates to fill in for Altuve at second base.

Altuve isn’t the only Major League Baseball star who was hurt in WBC play, of course. Mets closer Edwin Díaz will miss the 2023 season because of a torn patellar tendon in his right knee as the freak result of an on-field celebration following a WBC win by the Puerto Rico national team.

BROWN DOWN

The Astros also scratched right-hander Hunter Brown from his scheduled start Wednesday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Manager Dusty Baker told reporters that Brown, who is ranked by MLB as the organization’s top prospect and competing for the last spot in the rotation, has discomfort in his lower back.

NOT QUITE READY

The New York Mets sent catcher Francisco Álvarez to Triple-A Syracuse, quashing for now the possibility of putting the prized 21-year-old on the opening day roster.

Álvarez, who made his major league debut with the Mets near the end of last season, had just three hits in 28 at-bats in Grapefruit League exhibition games. Ranked by MLB as the third-best prospect in baseball, Álvarez batted .260 with 27 homers and 78 RBIs in a combined 112 minor league games in 2022 at Double-A and Triple-A.

The Mets have newcomer Omar Narváez, a 2021 All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers, as their primary catcher with Tomás Nido likely to play mostly against left-handed pitchers.

Speaking of the Mets, Díaz turned 29 on Wednesday – a rather subdued milestone for the right-hander considering his situation. Diaz nonetheless posted in Spanish an upbeat message on his Twitter account, thanking God for another year of life and describing his health as good and his outlook as positive in this initial stage of the roughly eight-month rehabilitation process.