LOS ANGELES — With one lunge toward first base Saturday evening, Evan Longoria landed back on the injured list for the third time this season and the Giants lost yet another member of their starting infield to injury.
Sitting in front of his locker in the visitor’s clubhouse here the next morning, Longoria said he was “sad … sore … (and) disappointed.” An MRI scheduled for Monday will determine the severity of the strain in his right hamstring, but as soon as he felt it “grab” while running out a ground-ball double play in the fourth inning of Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Dodgers, he knew he was destined to miss more time this season.
A strained oblique and a torn ligament in his finger have already cost him 45 games this season, and he will miss a minimum of 10 more before he is eligible to return from his latest ailment. Because he didn’t feel it “pop,” Longoria said he is hopeful this absence will be a brief one, maybe less than a month.
These nagging injuries come a season after Longoria, 36, was forced to miss half of last season with a shoulder he injured colliding with Brandon Crawford and the same finger, which he injured on a hit-by-pitch.
“Off, on, off, on,” Longoria said, describing his IL stints this season. “It’s really all I’ve know this year. It’s frustrating. … That’s really all I can say. I don’t know what else I can do. I feel like I do everything to prepare myself and hydrate and sleep. The body just doesn’t want to work the way it used to.”
With various injuries between Brandon Belt, Crawford, Tommy La Stella and Longoria, the Giants’ projected starting infield has shared the lineup for exactly one game this season: May 16. Crawford is still out with knee inflammation stemming from an awkward slide in to home plate. La Stella missed the start of the season after offseason Achilles surgery and currently rehabbing from a stint on the COVID list that began July 7. Belt, who has missed 30 games between COVID and knee inflammation, is the only starting infielder currently active.
“It’s been a challenge. Not an insurmountable one, but a challenge,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I don’t think it’s unusual to have injuries around the league. But to not have Crawford for extended periods of time, to not have Longo for extended periods of time, to be kind of shuffling our first basemen because Belt hasn’t been healthy and active as much as we all would like, it’s all challenging.
“At the same time, it’s part of our jobs, to be good under those circumstances and not let them defeat us mentally. That’s where we are. We’re just going to be resilient and tough through this period.”
One “silver lining” of Longoria’s latest IL stint, Kapler said, was the opportunity to get an extended look at rookie David Villar, 25, who led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in home runs when he was called up and has put together a .211/.404/.368 batting line in his first 15 major-league games.
“David is important to us now and he’s important to our future,” Kapler said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for him to establish himself in the way that Luis González and LaMonte Wade Jr. have done. Look, if he’s able to play regularly for us and be a stable bat in our lineup, I think that’s a huge win for the Giants — and for David.”
Although he won’t play everyday, Kapler said, Villar should get the majority of the playing time at third base absent an external move (Longoria is eligible to return a day after the Aug. 2 trade deadline). Once La Stella and Crawford return, the Giants will also have the flexibility to pencil in La Stella or Wilmer Flores at third, too.
Reliever Gregory Santos was added to the roster for Sunday’s series finale in Los Angeles, but La Stella is expected to rejoin the club sometime during their upcoming series in Arizona.