“If you’re putting odds on it, odds are going to be that he will not pitch.” That’s what Giants manager Bruce Bochy had to say Friday night about the chances of Matt Cain pitching for the Giants again this season. Cain, who has been on the disabled list since before the All-Star break with inflammation in his pitching elbow, needs surgery to remove bone chips and spurs in the joint, which will require three months of rehabilitation. Cain said he has had bone chips in his elbow throughout his big league career, but “now they're mad and they're letting me know about it. For some reason, they got in a different spot and they got aggravated . . . they need to come out.” Cain could still attempt to pitch through the pain, but, as per Bochy, his season is most likely done.
To the Giants’ credit, they already secured Cain’s replacement by trading for Jake Peavy a week ago. However, despite retiring the first 19 Mets he faced Saturday night, Peavy wound up giving up four runs in the seventh inning and taking the loss. He is now 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA after his first two starts for San Francisco. Cain’s injury means the Giants will likely have to go the distance with the rotation they have, and given Peavy’s disappointing start to his Giants career, the 11 runs Tim Lincecum has allowed in 7 2/3 innings over his last two starts and Madison Bumgarner’s 5.31 ERA over his last seven starts, there are serious doubts about whether or not that rotation can help the Giants hold off the Cardinals and Braves, who are tied for third place in the wild-card race and one game behind San Francisco. This is in addition to the Giants trying to catch the Dodgers, who lead them by 2 1/2 games in the National League West.
The other team currently occupying an NL wild-card spot, the Pirates, who are sandwiched in between the Giants and those two third-place contenders, received less discouraging, but still dispiriting news about a member of their own starting rotation. Gerrit Cole, who has been out with a latissimus dorsi strain since early July and made what appeared to be a successful rehab start on Monday (5 IP, 0 R, 7 K in Triple-A) did not make his scheduled start on Saturday. Instead, Cole threw a bullpen session, a decision prompted by the fact that, results aside, Cole still didn’t feel right in Monday’s start. That’s part of the Pirates’ directive that, after returning to the disabled list just two starts after being activated in late June, Cole not return before he is completely ready this time.
“We want him to get right, so when he returns, he's back to pitching freely,” Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle told MLB.com. “There's no urgency, because of a pennant race. His health is the first concern, and the correct mechanics to pitch is the second concern. We told him to take the appropriate time and honestly evaluate how he feels and how the ball is coming out of his hand. So when he gets back, he's able to throw it in gear and get after it.”
The Pirates have received strong work from Vance Worley in Cole’s absence, with Worley turning in his seventh quality start in eight tries for the team Saturday night, and Francisco Liriano has improved in each of his starts since being activated from the disabled list mid-month. However the other three men in the Pittsburgh rotation, Charlie Morton, Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke, have all struggled of late, and the rotation as a whole inspires little confidence. Even if Cole hadn’t had this apparent set-back, the Pirates failure to add a starter at the trading deadline would have been regrettable. In light of this news on Cole, that failure could prove disastrous.
In other disappointing, and vaguely Pirates-related injury news, Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who has largely replicated his performance from a year ago when he was the runner up for the NL’s Most Valuable Player Award, suffered a fractured left hand when he was hit by a pitch from the Pirates’ Ernesto Frieri in the ninth inning of Friday’s game and was placed on the disabled list on Saturday. The Diamondbacks won’t factor into any pennant races this year, but losing one of the game’s best hitters for any length of time is still disappointing for anyone other than the teams that will get to face the Diamondbacks during Goldschmidt’s absence, including the Pirates, who beat Arizona Saturday night.