Over the past two weeks, Pablo Sandoval has been dogged by a left foot injury. Now it appears as though the Giants will be without for at least another couple of weeks, as they've placed him on the disabled list.
Sandoval originally injured his foot running out a groundball on May 30. He sat out the next three games, and after starting each of the Giants' following four games, left Tuesday night's contest in the third inning. Though he has undergone two MRI scans, the exact nature of his injury is unclear. According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman, in separate radio appearances on Tuesday team president Larry Baer and general manager Brian Sabean both told their respective hosts that Sandoval has a hairline fracture in his foot, but head trainer Dave Groeschner says that he has no fracture and will clarify his situation during batting practice prior to Tuesday's game.
For the moment, the Giants are calling Sandoval's injury a "left foot strain." They've outfitted him in a walking boot and have placed him on the disabled list. The 26-year-old "Kung Fu Panda" is hitting .289/.326/.427 with eight homers, numbers that are down a bit from last year's .283/.347/.447, though they're not all that bad given AT&T Park's run-suppressing environment. They were even better until shortly before the injury occurred; as recently as May 21, he was hitting .308/.345/.478, but he followed that with a 5-for-33 skid that included his missed time, then a 4-for-10 rebound, so pinpointing cause and effect is difficult.
Speaking of cause and effect, one question that's sure to arise is the link between Sandoval's injury and his corpulence, long a touchy subject. Currently listed at 240 pounds, he was reportedly around 20 pounds heavier this spring. The Giants have fought this particular Battle of the Bulge in the past; late in the 2010 season, Sabean threatened to send Sandoval to the minors. After being reduced to bystander status during the team's championship run that fall, he lost 40 pounds over the winter, but he's since gained it all back and then some. Even so, his subsequent performance — which has included two All-Star appearances and a World Series MVP award — has bought him some leeway. In late April, Sandoval told reporters,"I’m at the weight that I feel great to play at… If you feel good, you’re going to play good. And I feel great.”
The Giants, who are currently tied for second in the NL West at 33-29, two games behind the Diamondbacks, may not feel so great without Sandoval, given their options to replace him. Joaquin Arias, who filled in during Sandoval's absence last year due to a broken hamate, is likely to see the bulk of the time, but the 28-year-old righty is hitting just .220/.254/.220 in 65 plate appearances, and his career numbers (.268/.303/.362) aren't all that encouraging. San Francisco recalled Nick Noonan, a 24-year-old lefty who was a supplemental first round pick in 2007, from Triple-A to take Sandoval's roster spot, but Noonan's career line is alarmingly similar to Arias' season stats: .203/.254/.220 in 63 plate appearances at the big league level. He hit .296/.347/.416 with nine homers last year at Triple-A Fresno, underwhelming numbers in a hitter-friendly league, but he's versatile and gets high marks for his defense. Either or both of those players filling in for a couple of weeks wouldn't be a problem if San Francisco wasn't already slumping since the loss of centerfielder Angel Pagan, who went on the DL on May 26 due to a hamstring strain. The team's offense has been its strength this year while its pitching has been shaky; the Giants are sixth in the league in scoring (4.31 runs per game) but 12th in run prevention (4.47 per game). Since Pagan went down, they've gone 6-7 while averaging just 3.54 runs per game.