After having the best record in baseball near the beginning of the season, the San Francisco Giants are stuck in a serious downturn right now. The Giants’ struggles started on June 9th, and since then, they’ve lost 20 of their last 27 games.
Heading into the 2014 season, the Giants’ projected starting lineup was supposed to be something like this: Angel Pagan CF, Marco Scutaro 2B, Brandon Belt 1B, Buster Posey C, Hunter Pence RF, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Michael Morse LF, and Brandon Crawford SS. At first glance, this looks like a playoff-worthy starting lineup. However, some of these key players have suffered injuries this season, which has led to some of the Giants’ struggles.
Pagan has had a few nagging injuries this season, Belt broke his thumb, Morse and Sandoval have had minor injuries, and Scutaro has been out all season with recurring back issues that have completely immobilized him at times.
However, the good news for the Giants is that Scutaro might be coming back soon.
Last month, Sctuaro started a rehab assignment with the Giants’ rookie league in Arizona. He was able to play on a fairly regular basis, which is good since his lower back strain had been preventing him from doing that since last season. In six appearances, he went 2-for-12.
This past Sunday, he started another rehab assignment with the Giants’ AAA-affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies. He has played two games so far with them, and the goal is to have him playing a full nine inning game before coming back to the Giants. He played five innings on Monday and will most likely play a full nine innings in the next few days.
He started at second base and played six innings on Tuesday night, and he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. This doesn’t seem like a normal Scutaro stat line, but he’s still probably getting his timing back.
It’s great news for Giants fans though that his back condition is improving. According to Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group, Bruce Bochy is very pleased with Scutaro’s progress.
“We see the light at the end of the tunnel with him,” Bochy said. “Hopefully this continues to go well. It’s been a long road for Marco. You don’t lose hope, but he did get down there. I think there’s a little more hope that he can play more than two or three games a week. I saw the reports (from Triple-A), and he’s moving well at second. He’s comfortable diving for balls and he seems to be letting it go with the bat. This is all good news. Really good news.”
At certain points in spring training, it seemed like Scutaro would be out the whole season or at least for most of the season. He isn’t 100 percent healthy, but he could provide the Giants with a big boost.
Scutaro most likely won’t be able to come back and be the everyday second baseman, but he could certainly provide some much-needed depth on the bench. He could also give the Giants another steady, reliable bat near the top of the batting order, and he brings some veteran leadership and a calming presence that is extremely valuable to the Giants’ clubhouse.
Bochy reiterated these points in another report by Pavlovic.
“If it’s not where he can go out there every day, and it’s just 2-3 times a week, I think that works,” manager Bruce Bochy said last week. “I think he would improve our bench. He has a short swing, a swing that’ll work as a pinch-hitter. He has experience, which will help the other guys, too. He’s a popular guy in the clubhouse, too. I think the guys would like have him around here.”
As of now, the Giants are struggling in so many different areas. The return of their leadoff man, Pagan, will certainly boost the Giants’ offense, but the return of Scutaro could provide a big boost too, on and off the field. Based on his calm demeanor, his presence in the clubhouse, his patient at-bats, and his approach, offensively, Scutaro could be that spark that the Giants really need.
Scutaro provides a lot of elements that the Giants are severely lacking right now: patience at the plate, smart at-bats, clutch hitting, etc. Even if Scutaro comes back and isn’t able to start, Scutaro’s presence every day in the dugout could greatly benefit the Giants, especially right now.