It was the best at bat, followed by the worst at bat.
Please forgive the Tale of Two Cities allusion, but the feeling in the pit of my stomach when Ryan Vogelsong took that 90 mph fastball to the pitching hand was the same feeling I remember from starting my first Charles Dickens novel back in high school.
It was obvious something was really wrong with Vogelsong the minute he clutched at his broken hand. You know it’s worry time when a professional athlete doesn’t writhe in pain. My theory is that static reaction is a result of the injured player being so scared of serious injury, that the fear overshadows the pain.
The diagnosis: Two breaks around the pinky knuckle – surgery tomorrow – that’s serious. The initial estimate is Vogelsong will miss six weeks. Enough time to read a classic. Let’s hope it proves time enough to only read one.
Vogelsong’s previous plate appearance was probably his best of the year. Executing a safety squeeze on the first pitch after Nationals reliever Craig Stammen entered the game, the picture-perfect sacrifice scored Brandon Belt with the first of three runs in the inning. The rally gave the Giants a 5-0 lead. Vogelsong was dealing, and having entered the game with an 8.06 ERA, the former All-Star seemed poised for an uplifting night.
The Giants went on to win 8-0, while the pitching staff combined for a three-hit shutout. Vogelsong allowed all three hits over five innings, while Javier Lopez, Jean Machi, Santiago Casilla, and Jeremy Affeldt followed with four combined no-hit innings.
So let’s weigh the starting pitching options. The names bandied around on the television postgame broadcast were Triple-A starters Mike Kickham and Chris Heston, while manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that long-reliever Chad Gaudin will be considered as well.
Kickham is a big Missouri-born left-hander who owns a 4.72 ERA through nine starts at Fresno. A major red flag, however, is that right-handers are hitting .301 against him. Heston is a rudimentary right-hander coming off his best start of the year, holding Marlins Triple-A affiliate New Orleans to three hits over seven shutout innings on May 16. However, opposing hitters have hit .320 against Heston.
Gaudin has plenty of starting pitching experience, having gone wire-to-wire in the starting roation for the A’s in 2007. He hasn’t started a major league game since 2009 though. And Bochy expressed reluctance at shaking up the Giants’ bullpen, stating that Gaudin is capable of eating up valuable innings as a reliever.
However, moving the veteran right-hander Gaudin into the rotation would give the Giants the opportunity to promote their best Triple-A pitcher, Fresno closer Heath Hembree. Regarded as the best relief prospect in the organization, Hembree has notched 12 saves in 19 appearances this season, tabbing a 2.70 ERA while striking out 21 against five walks through 20 innings of work.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read some Alexandre Dumas.