Instead, Vogelsong will get a 4-6 week break to let two fractures and a dislocation in his throwing hand heal. We can only hope he burned that mechanical fix into his muscle memory long enough over those 5 innings to be recalled when he takes the mound again in what will probably not be any earlier than July.
In the last post here at Coogan's Bluff, it was suggested that Mike Kickham and Chris Heston, or perhaps even Chad Gaudin, take the ball for the two game set in early June against the Toronto Blue Jays in order to give the entire rotation an extended rest. That hand is being forced earlier than expected with Vogelsong's injury. So what cards do the Giants have in the fold?
Realistically, there are only 4 that I can think of right now:
1) Chad Gaudin. He has 75 career starts, and he's been quite effective in limited long and short-relief appearances, having emerged as a weapon not unlike what George Kontos slowly developed into last year. Obviously, with Santiago Casilla being placed on the 15-day DL, I'm sure Bochy would prefer to keep Gaudin in the pen for more insurance in the later innings. If Casilla was healthy, I think Gaudin would be the de facto answer. Even still, the fact that the Giants recalled pitcher Sandy Rosario, a long reliever with a high K/9 from Triple-A, suggests he will take on Gaudin's role to allow the latter to assume Vogelsong's place in the rotation. The last time Gaudin started full time was 2009 for San Diego, where in 19 starts he went 4-10 with a 5.19 ERA before being traded to the Yankees. Considering Gaudin's ERA that year is nearly 4 points lower than what Vogelsong has posted this year, you could have made the argument that Gaudin would be a bit of an upgrade, but not after last night since it appeared Vogelsong was remembering how to pitch again. It's probably unreasonable to expect Gaudin to go more than 5 or 6 innings max, so Bochy would have to be crafty in how he uses his bullpen before and after Gaudin's starts.
2) Mike Kickham: After a rough start, Kickham has posted 4 consecutive quality starts in which he's struck out 25 and walked 6, giving up only 5 runs across that span. Kickham can be a bit wild, and when you walk major league hitters, they often end up circling the bases before the inning is over. it would be fair to assume that Bochy would have to go to the pen early, and perhaps often, with Kickham's starts as well, but at least it would give the brass a chance to see what the kid can do and whether or not he's a viable option next year should the Giants lose Vogelsong, Lincecum, and Zito. It would be similar to the 6 starts the Giants got from Eric Surkamp in 2011, in which they went 2-2. The other problem is that like Zito and Bumgarner, Kickham is a lefty, which would mean the rotation would consist of 3 lefties and 2 right-handers, making it difficult for Bochy to play the matchups the way he likes. Until the bullpen is at full strength, I like the idea of a Kickham promotion. Assuming he continues his solid roll, I would continue with 4 starters until May 28th (Thursday's off-day does not necessitate the Giants start 5 guys until then anyway), and then I would add Kickham to the 40 man roster and plug him and Gaudin in there for the series at home against Toronto. This would give the other starters added rest as well, since two off-days bookend that two-game set against the Blue Jays.
3) Chris Heston: He's the other Triple-A name mentioned in the last post here, and while he's on the 40 man roster and a right-hander, he's been far from dominant. Aside from one start, in which he allowed no runs over 7 innings, Heston has averaged 3.8 earned runs in 10 games, including 7 runs in one game and 5 runs in two of his last three as of this posting. The former 12th round pick has fringe-velocity on his fastball, and he seems to be having trouble locating his two-seamer as his 5.59 ERA, 3.4 walk-rate, and 1.65 WHIP indicate. The PCL is definitely a hitter-friendly league, but Heston may need more time to refine his pitches and mechanics before he's thrown to the wolves.
4) Trade for someone. The Giants can look down at Triple-A and know what they have in Yusmerio Petit (4.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 4 BB in one spot start in 2012 to go along with 11 unremarkable seasons in the minors). Shane Loux and Boof Bonser are placeholders until Crick and Blackburn arrive in Fresno to take their places. Justin Fitzgerald is the only other starter with an ERA under 9.00, and he's only made one start so far since being called up to Triple-A. It's entirely possible one of these guys gets brought up in the hopes they look competent enough to act as trade bait. The Giants may not even go that far, trading from the farm itself and plugging in whomever they get in return.
I'm rooting for the Gaudin/Kickham combo, at least until after the Toronto series, in which case they will need to just continue with one of them for 3 weeks or so until Vogelsong returns.
What all of this means is that the Giants are going to have to continue to score more runs and limit the amount of errors. Brandon Belt had a career game, spraying 4 hits across the yard, including a towering home run over the wall in right field. Belt is hitting .412 over his last 11 games, which if there's any mercy in the world will finally signal the consistency we've all been waiting for from this kid. Torres had 3 hits, and with lack of .OPS that comes with the platoon in left, every little bit counts. Scutaro added two more hits of his own, and his hitting streak now sits at 18 games. Pagan has been mired in a slump, but his 2-5 game with 3 RBIs could easily be the beginning of a roll for the streaky leadoff man. Sandoval, Posey, and Pence continue to be a force in the middle of the lineup, but getting production from the 5-7 hitters (6 runs scored last night!) and having Pagan and Scutaro set the table at the top makes the Giants as deadly a lineup as any in baseball.
It will be fascinating to see how the club faces this adversity. History has shown this team responds well when its back is up against the wall, so it wouldn't surprise anyone if Vogelsong's injury gives the rotation and the rest of the team the rallying cry necessary to play some of their best baseball of the year, unfortunate as the instigating circumstances may be.