Giants’ Anthony DeSclafani, wholesome once more, transferring nearer to 2021 kind

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – As it turns out, Anthony DeSclafani has been pitching without a groove for the peroneal tendon in his right ankle for most of his life, and his body has somehow compensated for this genetic abnormality by the end of the 2021 season.

That’s when DeSclafani first started experiencing ankle discomfort, but it went away after a winter of dormancy, only to come back this past April. More rest didn’t help, and eventually the San Francisco Giants right-hander underwent surgery in July in Green Bay, Wisc., with Packers orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson performed the procedure. Anderson is the ankle specialist who lasted the winter for both the Giants and Mets on Carlos Correa’s previous ankle injury.

DeSclafani discovered that some close relatives also lack adequate tendon grooves, including a cousin who underwent the same surgery around the same time. Medical journals estimate that 18% of the population does not have convex retromalleolar grooves.

“Why is it showing up now and starting to act up? That’s the question,” DeSclafani said Wednesday. “I think that’s how the body works sometimes. I have never had any type of ankle problem in my life and then when I spoke to a family member they did the exact same procedure which is odd.

Anderson drilled a groove in the fibula and stabilized the tendon. “It’s locked in,” said DeSclafani, who spent four months recovering.

Now healed, DeSclafani is not only full throttle for spring, he’s on track with the other starters and is scheduled to play a game next week.

Giving live batting practice for the first time this spring on Wednesday, he was feeling great, with mostly good stuff – except maybe the pitch Michael Conforto sent out of the park – and said his change might be even better than it was in 2021.

This season was sensational, especially the first half before the ankle started acting up. He went 10-3 with a 2.68 ERA in the first half, 3-4 with a 4.03 ERA the rest of the way. Last season, he only pitched 19 innings and had an ERA over 6.00.

“It was painful,” he said. “I didn’t want to stay on the backfoot for long. It would hurt and I would want to pick it up or throw it up off the back of the hill and then I would have a lot of momentum to go forward and roll off. I was really throwing with a lot of shoulder and elbow, which could lead to other bad things.

“It was difficult to throw strikes, it was difficult to throw quality pitches. The shape of my slider and two-seamer weren’t there. There was a lot of frustration from pain and not being able to pitch effectively and I knew I was putting myself in danger and potentially hurting other things.”

The light side? DeSclafani’s arm is the best in years after being sidelined for half a year.

“It was an opportunity to give him plenty of free time,” DeSclafani said. “I’m feeling good and trying to possibly holster and even build on what I did in 2021.”

So far so good pitching on a newly stable hock. Catchers and coaches think DeSclafani’s things are looking as good as they do in 2021. “Having him healthy and back as part of our pitching team is a tremendous boost for us,” said pitching coach Andrew Bailey.

Starting mate Alex Cobb added: “I might want to lower expectations for Tony at the beginning because I’ve had season-ending injuries before and it’s very difficult to get back to that form straight away. But having him back will be extremely beneficial.”

The Giants were plagued by so many injuries in the rotation last season that they worked to gain depth this winter. After losing Carlos Rodón to free agency, they added starters Ross Stripling and Sean Manaea despite knowing DeSclafani was expected to be back at full strength. Swing man Jakob Junis can also start, and top prospect Kyle Harrison is expected at some point, giving the team a mix of starters who, if in good health, could be among the best in the league.

“I think we all have the experience and we all have the track record, and I can only control what I can control,” DeSclafani said. “I know if I put out the 21 version of me there’s no need to worry or anything and I think I’m getting close.”

In short, shortstop prospect Marco Luciano (back) uses Grounder and ramps up his shot progression. … Reliever Cole Waites (Lat tribe) will have another week off before resuming throwing.

Contact Susan Slusser:; Twitter: @susanslusser

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