Programming note: Giants Insider Andrew Baggarly is in Arizona; check back for his coverage throughout spring training and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s MLB news.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy is calling it “a 50-50 shot” that second baseman Marco Scutaro will play on Opening Day.
The actual odds are less than a coin flip, though. Much, much less. And here’s why:
--Scutaro has played just two innings all spring because of a chronic back injury that isn’t getting any better despite an offseason of rest and weeks of focused rehab work. He just had another epidural injection earlier this week.
--If Scutaro plays in a Cactus League exhibition from this point forward, the Giants won’t be able to backdate him the maximum 10 days should he begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. So it’s likely that any pitching he sees in Arizona, if he’s up to it, will be on the minor league side. That’s no way to get ready for big league arms.
--Even if he can get back on the field, there’s no guarantee Scutaro can withstand the pounding of playing back-to-back games. You don’t want to start the season with a player when that’s a question mark. Better they send him on a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Fresno when he’s ready.
--Putting Scutaro on the DL would give the Giants another roster spot that would be valuable. They have other infielders they’d like to keep, and both Ehire Adrianza and Tony Abreu are out of options. Abreu hasn’t impressed this spring and maybe could be snuck through waivers. The expectation is that Adrianza definitely would get claimed, though -- and they can’t let him get away, especially since they have no other shortstop depth should an injury befall Brandon Crawford. Non-roster invitee Brandon Hicks has deserves a longer look as well, and while he has holes in his swing (especially on breaking balls), his pop might be nice to have off the bench. With Scutaro on the DL, the Giants could carry two reserve infielders besides Joaquin Arias, who would become the Opening Day starter at second base. And they’d still have roster space to keep a No. 5 outfielder (either Juan Perez or Tyler Colvin), which is a good idea given nagging injuries to Michael Morse and Angel Pagan this spring.
So given all of the above, why the “50-50” talk? Well, if Bochy is consistent about one thing, it’s respecting his veterans. Scutaro still aspires to be ready in time, and Bochy doesn’t want to undercut those efforts with his public comments.
Still, you can bet that Bochy and GM Brian Sabean are being realistic as they assess Scutaro’s situation and their roster needs. And although there’s still five days before camp breaks, it’s becoming clear that the most sensible course is to start Scutaro on the disabled list and hope he can get himself into position to play five days a week at some point this year.
This much is certain: The Giants aren’t giving up on Scutaro. After all, it wasn’t long ago that Edgar Renteria looked physically done and he had enough left in the tank to become a World Series MVP.