Baseball can be a cruel sport. After one of Sean Hjelle's best outings in the majors, the SF Giants optioned the 26-year-old back to Triple-A. Bryce Johnson was recalled in a corresponding roster move per the team's transaction log.
SF Giants recall speedy outfield, option pitcher Sean Hjelle
The decision to bring back Johnson was a precautionary move. Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski was placed on the injured list with a hamstring strain, so Johnson will be needed to give the Giants outfield depth.
It has been a rough year for Hjelle. After an encouraging spring training with added velocity to his four-seam fastball, the tall pitcher struggled right out of the gates and has a 7.79 ERA in 11 outings with the Giants so far in 2023.
San Francisco has used him in a bulk innings role, which can be tough for any pitcher, especially one who is looking to establish himself in the majors. The innings can be sporadic at times. In addition to this, he has been shuttled to and from Sacramento as well.
With all that being said, Hjelle has had his best season with Sacramento, posting a 4.09 ERA with 26 strikeouts against 10 walks in 33 innings in the Pacific Coast League. Plus, he recently had his best outing in the majors this season.
The Giants went with a bullpen game earlier this week against the San Diego Padres. Ryan Walker served as the opener followed by Hjelle as the bulk innings reliever. He completed four scoreless innings with five strikeouts and two walks in a 4-2 win against San Diego.
Struggling against an unfamiliar pitcher is not unique to the Giants. Most teams do and the Padres demonstrated that this week as they struggled against a trio of young Giants pitchers in Hjelle, Keaton Winn, and Tristan Beck. The Giants took three of four games in the series due in part to that strategy.
Bryce Johnson was promoted in a corresponding move. The speedy outfielder has posted a .469 OPS in 47 plate appearances for the Giants this season while serving as a defensive replacement and a late-game pinch runner.
Options will be something to monitor with both Hjelle and Johnson. Hjelle has now been optioned four times, whereas Johnson has been optioned twice this year. Players can only be optioned five time in a season before they are exposed to waivers.