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Another IL stint for Anthony DeSclafani raises ‘real concern’

© D. Ross Cameron | 2022 Jun 26

Two starts after leaving the 60-day injured list for his inflamed right ankle, starter Anthony DeSclafani is getting shut down for the same issue.

DeSclafani hit the 15-day IL Friday for right ankle inflammation. The 32-year-old starter, who signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the Giants last winter, has made five starts this season and posted a 9.95 ERA.

The IL stint is retroactive to June 28. That makes a return before the July 19 All-Star Break possible, but manager Gabe Kapler’s tone didn’t inspire confidence.

“I think there’s real concern there,” Kapler said. “He’s battled through this for a really long time. He’s pushed himself. He’s rehabbed. He’s done everything he possibly can and he’s still kind of hitting the wall. That’s not the best signal, right? When you’re not able to get over the hump and feel like the most athletic, effective version of yourself as a pitcher. And I think we’ve gotten to a place now where we have to protect him.”

San Francisco will explore all options, including surgery, for the Giants’ right-hander, Kapler said. There was no particular inciting incident, in DeSclafani’s June 27 start or otherwise, that caused the discomfort. The ankle just hasn’t gotten to where it needs to be, which is arguably more concerning than if he rolled it.

The injury has hampered DeSclafani since mid-August of 2021, he told KNBR earlier this year. He pitched through the pain and then thought the ailment was behind him during the offseason, but discomfort returned during spring training. He has a 9.95 ERA in his first five starts this season — three in April and two in June.

Between those starts, DeSclafani nursed his push-off ankle. A specialist in Green Bay said there was no structural damage and no surgery required. He just needed to rest, then strengthen damaged ligaments. After over two month of recovery and multiple rehab starts, there hasn’t been enough progress.

“He has described hitting a wall,” Kapler said. “When you’re trying to build up to be a starting pitcher, hitting a wall with something as important as your drive ankle is not conducive to success going forward.”

In DeSclafani’s most recent start, he retired six of seven batters he faced through the first two innings against the Reds. Each of those six outs came on ground balls, indicating his stuff was working as designed. But then he couldn’t escape the third inning, recording two outs and allowing seven earned runs on several hard-hit balls.

Asked what needs to happen for DeSclafani to get the results from the first two innings more consistently, the pitcher flatly said: “not suck.”

DeSclafani’s next scheduled start is Sunday’s series finale against Chicago. The Giants have had success filling open rotation spots with bullpen games and innings-eaters called up from the Triple-A level. Sam Long, a common opener, has a 2.00 ERA in 27 innings. Infielder Jason Vosler was recalled to fill DeSclafani’s spot, but SF will likely add pitching depth when DeSclafani’s turn in the rotation comes around.

The big picture, though, should be the main source of uneasiness. DeSclafani is the only Giant free agent signed through the 2024 season. One of his most valuable skills is availability — he made 31 starts in each of the past two seasons — and the ability to pitch deep into games consistently.

The team’s medical staff, coaching staff and DeSclafani will dictate what comes next for the pitcher.

“We’re still kind of talking through next steps,” Kapler said.

 

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