Hunter Strickland let his machismo get the better of him again Monday night. Moments after blowing his fourth save of the year he got into fisticuffs with a door, fracturing his right hand and derailing a season that had heretofore represented the best opportunity of his career.
As Giants manager Bruce Bochy was announcing Strickland’s tantrum and the resulting injury Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Scott Hanson was repairing the 29-year-old’s fractured pitching hand. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks, a huge blow to both him and the Giants as he’s been the team’s closer since Opening Day.
Strickland (13 saves, 2.84 ERA) has 29 strikeouts in 31-2/3 innings and has allowed more than one run just twice all season.
Bochy expressed dismay Tuesday when talking about the incident:
“I’m thoroughly disappointed, trust me I’m crushed, because this guy was just growing as a pitcher, and player and a person. I know Hunter—he cares deeply. He let his emotion get away with him after the game and had a temporary snap there.”
Strickland has a history of struggling with anger management and dealing with failure on the mound, including high-profile incidents like the beef between Strickland and Bryce Harper.
The vendetta with Harper dated back to the Nationals All Star taking Strickland deep in the 2014 post-season. Strickland didn’t face Harper again until May 2017 at which point he beaned Harper in an effort to settle a score he was the only one keeping. A benches clearing incident resulted in a concussion that ended a revival of Michael Morse’s career when Morse and Jeff Samardzija literally butted heads in the scuffle.
Before the fight with the door Monday night, Strickland started a similar beef with another player. On his way out of the game he took the scenic route off the field to bark at Marlins rookie Lewis Brinson who was stationed at third base. Evidently Brinson had been a little too emphatic in celebrating a game-tying single to right earlier in the inning. But Strickland’s first pitch to Brinson had also been a 95-mph fastball that nearly drilled him in the head, so even subscribers to the unwritten rules might have a hard time awarding either player the higher ground.
Bochy was beginning to think Strickland might have grown out of some of his emotional immaturity since earning the revered ninth inning role this year, but this was a rude awakening:
“You have to be able to control your emotions. I’ve talked about how important it is for players—but in particular the closer—to have emotional control. We all get frustrated, and that was a tough loss, a gut wrenching loss. I’m sure he felt full responsibility for it, he just didn’t think before he acted because of the frustration that built up in him and unfortunately this happened.”
About an hour before Tuesday’s game Strickland posted a mea culpa of sorts to his Instagram.
Pierce Johnson has been activated to take Strickland’s spot on the roster but Bochy has said the “lion’s share” of closing duties will go to either Sam Dyson or Tony Watson.
Even with Mark Melancon back in action, Bochy doesn’t believe the man acquired to be the closer prior to the 2017 season is ready to slide back into the closer’s role:
“The closer is somebody who has to be resilient and I’m not sure Mark’s at that stage [yet], to be honest.”
Watson barely edges Dyson for performance on the year but both have had stellar seasons in the bullpen. In 33-2/3 innings Watson has 40 strikeouts and has a 1.87 ERA. Dyson, who already has one save under his belt this year, has a 2.51 ERA and in 32-1/3 innings has 0.990 WHIP. Bochy held off on making statements about specifics for the future closer as he had yet to meet with the players in question.
Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @insidethepark3r on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.