Sarah's Take: Giants need to avoid injury bug

SF poised to make a run in NL West but health a key

Sarah's Take: Giants need to avoid injury bug

The San Francisco Giants have experienced many injuries this spring to important players and ducked at least another one. While the Giants organization believes all the injured players can be ready for Opening Day, the shortened Spring Training probably will affect how these players perform in the early days of the season.

Over the past two seasons, Madison Bumgarner has anchored the Giants' starting rotation. Few baseball fans will soon forget what Bumgarner did for the Giants during the 2014 postseason when he ultimately earned the World Series MVP for his extraordinary pitching efforts. In 2015, Bumgarner, not getting much consideration for the NL Cy Young Award, was one constant for the Giants rotation, which was riddled with injuries. Bumgarner's efforts helped the Giants to finish second in the NL West.

Going into the 2016 season, the Giants are counting on the 26-year-old lefty once again to lead the rotation. Minor injuries have slowed Bumgarner this spring, even though a sore big toe and a rib cage muscle injury didn't bother him during his Saturday start. With two weeks remaining in Spring Training, Bumgarner needs to iron out some mechanical problems and build up his arm strength.

Following an injury-riddled 2015 season, Matt Cain hopes to begin the 2016 season healthy. Before the 2014 season, Cain was a workhorse in the Giants' starting rotation, and then various arm elbow injuries besieged him. In the first week Spring Training he underwent another arm surgery to remove a cyst. On Friday he made his 2016 spring debut. It is possible for Cain to build sufficient arm strength before the season begins.

During the offseason, general manager Bobby Evans tried to address the Giants' weaknesses. The Giants tried to obtain Zack Greinke to strengthen their rotation, but Greinke elected to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Evans then signed Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to replace the Tim Lincecum and the retiring Tim Hudson.

Last Monday the Giants suffered a scare. In the first inning a line drive struck Cueto's head. Although the hit staggered Cueto, he showed no ill effects and stayed in the game. Understandably, it wasn't his best performance. Still showing no ill effects from the traumatic experience, Cueto returned to the mound on Sunday and pitched well against the Colorado Rockies. Cueto arguably was the most important free agent signing for the Giants, and it would be a major blow if he had to miss a significant amount of time with an injury.

Coming off a season where Hunter Pence missed significant time with a broken forearm, wrist tendinitis, and a strained oblique, Pence wants to put the injuries behind him. However, a strained Achilles' tendon delayed him from seeing game action until March 11. Pence, the emotional leader of the Giants, will be ready for Opening Day.

In January, the Giants signed free agent Denard Span to strengthen their outfield offensive production. Even before the position players officially reported to camp, the incumbent center fielder Angel Pagan in a selfless move said he would move to left to make room for Span to play center.

Before coming to the Giants, Span developed a reputation of being injury-prone. On Wednesday he bruised his shoulder badly, but he returned to the lineup Friday and homered for the first time as a Giant.

Like most teams, the Giants will be as good as the health of their players' permits. The Giants can ill afford to get off to a slow beginning to the season with the Dodgers and the improved Arizona Diamondbacks in their division.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.