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Teng returns to SP at AAA; Hjelle takes the bullpen spot

San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Kai-Wei Teng #70 is thrown out by manager Bob Melvin in the ninth inning of their MLB game against the Washington Nationals at Oracle Park in San Francisco, California, on Monday, April 8, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area Newsgroup)

SAN FRANCISCO – Kai Wei-Teng is learning the harsh reality of being the last reliever on the Giants’ 26-man roster. In it, he was no longer on the list the morning after he cleaned up Blake Snell’s mess.

Teng, 25, was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento before Saturday’s game, freeing up space to reinstate Sean Hjelle from his rehab assignment. He became the expendable option after helping the Diamondbacks increase their lead from 9-1 to 14-1 in the eventual 17-1 loss on Friday night, using 36 pitches to record three outs while walking three batters and being tagged in for four hits.

“That’s just what happens in games like this,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Someone with height goes (out).”

It was the first time Teng logged fewer than three innings, raising the rookie’s ERA to 9.82 in four appearances. In eleven innings, he has seven strikeouts, but eight walks.

Teng was called up out of necessity on March 29 when Luke Jackson went on the IL and will return to Triple-A, Melvin said.

“He got a taste of the big leagues; I think this is a good experience for him,” Melvin said. “He’ll go down and start and stretch out a little bit more, but I think the overall experience was good for him.”

The 27-year-old Hjelle is expected to fill Teng’s multi-inning relief role, although he has only pitched more than one inning once in four rehab appearances. Between Single-A San Jose and Triple-A Sacramento, Hjelle allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out seven over a total of 5⅓ innings.

He missed most of spring training after straining his elbow early in camp.