Giants lose another catcher in miserable and wet loss to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA — The San Francisco Giants were obligated to do the responsible thing Saturday afternoon.

Catcher Patrick Bailey departed in the second inning the previous night because of blurred vision after taking a foul tip off the mask. Bailey woke up with similar symptoms Saturday morning. Even if he was clear-eyed and alert, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. The scientific evidence is unambiguous about concussions, especially the exponential damage caused by repeated blows to the head in short succession. There is no gritting through these injuries anymore.

There is no such thing as a mild concussion. It’s just that some are more serious than others.

So the Giants put catcher Blake Sabol on a redeye with a connection from Sacramento and they placed Bailey on the seven-day concussion list.

Then in the second inning, they lost another catcher. Tom Murphy felt a pop in his left knee while attempting to block a wild pitch in the Giants’ miserable 14-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. A game that was delayed at the outset, and was played in steady rain anyway, was halted for several minutes as Sabol scrambled to put on his chest protector and shin guards.

Murphy violently slammed his helmet against the bat rack upon returning to the dugout — the kind of outburst that seldom indicates a day-to-day injury.

“It doesn’t seem great,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said. “They’ll get a picture of it tomorrow. … It feels significant but I’m not sure.”

Murphy wore a wrap on his knee and was succinct in his comments. Did the wet conditions contribute to the injury? “Big time.” Should the game have started in those conditions? “Probably not.”

When it rains, it pours. Although by the second inning, when the Giants trailed 9-0, pouring rain was their only chance at avoiding a defeat. The weather didn’t worsen before the game became official in the fifth inning, and with starting pitcher Keaton Winn getting knocked out after facing just eight batters, the Giants essentially ran a bullpen game that they could not afford to play while losing for the fourth time in five games on this road trip.

The Giants already faced a decision about a starter for Monday’s series finale here, with Triple-A Sacramento right-hander Mason Black viewed as a strong possibility. The only hang-up in promoting Black, who has a 1.01 ERA in four starts for the River Cats, is that he is not on the 40-man roster. Now, after injuries to Bailey and Murphy left Sabol as the only catcher on the 40-man, the team faces a host of roster conundrums.

Their catching alternatives are down to Jakson Reetz, a 28-year-old who played two games for the Washington Nationals in 2021 and was Sabol’s backup in Sacramento. Adrián Sugastey, a 21-year-old prospect from Panama, was splitting time behind the plate with Andy Thomas at Double-A Richmond. Thomas, 25, was a fifth-round pick out of Baylor whom the Giants acquired in the deal that sent Curt Casali to the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline in 2022. Thomas has regressed with the bat since joining the Giants but is viewed as a good receiver.

Casali, meanwhile, is playing for the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate in Iowa. But teams don’t just give away catching depth if they can help it. What happened to the Giants over the past two days can happen to any club.

And what about Joey Bart, the catcher and former top prospect whom the Giants designated for assignment on April 3 and gave to the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor-league pitcher Austin Strickland? Although it’ll be a flashpoint for criticism, there’s no sense adjudicating that transaction. Bart was out of options and couldn’t be retained unless the Giants kept three catchers — a luxury few teams can afford in this era of 13-man pitching staffs. Bart was crowded out the moment that the Giants signed Murphy to a two-year, $8.25 million contract in December.

But what about the decision to sign Murphy, a 33-year-old with a history of injuries, in the first place, thus putting them in an untenable position with Bart? What about the lack of catching depth in the minor-league system? What about the failure to develop Ricardo Genovés, a strong-bodied catcher who looked so promising as a two-way contributor early in his minor-league career?

Adjudicate away.

It was interesting to compare the personnel changes that the Giants and Phillies made in the obligatory late innings on a miserable night. The Phillies replaced J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos. The Giants couldn’t rest veterans for kids. Their bench was down to Mike Yastrzemski, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Michael Conforto. So players like Nick Ahmed, Matt Chapman and Thairo Estrada had to endure to the end. The Giants have the third-oldest position player group in the major leagues. (Although that doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are the oldest.) So the active decision to get older with the backup catcher might be questionable in retrospect, even if Murphy offered greater potential value with the bat than Bart did.

Endurance was the theme in Melvin’s office Saturday night. The Giants are just five games into a 10-game trip and they’ll go home without a travel day to play six more against the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers. If they want to be anything more than a skid mark by the time they play host to their archrivals, they’ll need a better start from Logan Webb on Sunday than the one they got last week in Boston. (It’s ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, which at least buys them some time to get another catcher to Citizens Bank Park.) Then they need to get through Monday’s series finale here, which offers its own set of complications.

“So we’re going to have to rethink these things,” Melvin said. “Some of the guys that pitched today are not going to be available tomorrow. We had two guys down there we didn’t pitch. We got Webby going tomorrow so hopefully that’s a benefit but we’ll have to look at some things.”

Neither Rogers brother pitched. Randy Rodríguez did, making his major-league debut, topping out at 100 mph and getting Harper for his first strikeout. Rodríguez, mostly a short reliever who threw 2 1/3 innings, also showed poise after Chapman made his third error in two games.

The entire group got taxed because Winn, who was dealing with sinus headaches, couldn’t keep his splitter from slipping in the wet conditions. Winn walked two batters, hit another and yielded four singles. The only batters he retired came on a double-play grounder. After No.8 batter Edmundo Sosa singled, Melvin said he couldn’t risk Winn, who had thrown 30 pitches, working a long plate appearance to the next batter.

Winn almost certainly isn’t a candidate to bounce back and take the ball Monday, Melvin said.

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The Phillies’ grounds crew was busy on Saturday. (John Jones / USA Today)

The game started after a delay of one hour, 10 minutes but the rain continued to fall.

“They kept saying it was minutes away from lightening up,” Melvin said. “So … It did. Not in five minutes, but it did a little bit. If the entire game was played like it was after the third, it would’ve been easier.”

Nothing about the Giants’ current catching predicament is going to be easy. Sabol, a continuing project behind the plate, was called for catcher’s interference four times last season. He committed his first infraction in the sixth inning and it led to another run.

When it rains, it pours.

(Photo of Tom Murphy walking to the clubhouse in the second inning: Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

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