MESA, Ariz. – The Giants will break camp in 48 hours and they’re still kicking around several roster scenarios in preparation for the April 1 opener at Dodger Stadium.
More than one decision will hinge on the health of Pablo Sandoval, whose likelihood of starting the season at third base seems to ebb and flow with every passing day.
The Giants were a bit more optimistic on Monday after Sandoval reported improvement in his sore right elbow. He might test it by playing light catch in another day or two, and because he’s already logged plenty of at-bats in winter ball and the World Baseball Classic, he wouldn’t have to check off many other boxes to be ready.
“Pablo is determined to make it by opening day,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “So we’ll see.”
[RELATED: Sandoval in limbo after elbow tests]
A reminder: if the Giants were to place Sandoval on the DL, they could backdate him as long as he doesn’t appear in another big league exhibition – making him eligible to return as early as April 6, which is the fifth game of the season.
Sandoval has ulnar neuritis as well as a bone spur, which might be contributing to the irritation. But after X-rays and a CT scan of Sandoval’s elbow on Sunday, surgery was ruled out as a course of action at this time. (The average recovery time for such a procedure is eight to 10 weeks for a pitcher, and often a bit less for a position player.)
Sandoval said he felt “good, great” on Monday. Two days earlier, he was in a much different mood after he tried to play catch and was shut down as a precaution. So this is a story that is changing by the day, and I expect that will continue to be the case until he can throw without pain or numbness.
Even if Sandoval is cleared to begin the season at third base, it sure looks like Nick Noonan has a place on the roster.
The Giants continue to look for backup infielders. But after watching Noonan play another strong game in a 9-3 victory over the Cubs at HoHoKam Park, I’m not sure they’ll find anyone better on the waiver or trade market.
Noonan started at third base and ranged into foul ground to make one catch, then he took away a single on a hard grounder. He also stung the ball four times while going 2 for 5 with a pair of doubles. One of them went into the left field corner and the other split the gap in left-center.
The hits were impressive. The defensive plays were better.
“Well, defense is so important to us,” Bochy said. “We’re about pitching and defense. Hitting is nice and we need that, but we’ve got to catch the ball. He’s a shortstop and he’s athletic.”
The only downside, really, is the endless “Noonan” chants from the stands. No surprise, but fans really like to say his name – especially if they’ve seen “Caddyshack.”
If that’s the only downside to carrying Noonan on the roster, that means he’s done well for himself this spring.
“He had a great year last year and it seems he’s getting more and more comfortable,” Bochy said. “He’s throwing out good at-bats. He made a good play at third base. He’s getting a lot thrown at him and I like the way he’s handling it.”
Bochy tipped his hand a bit when asked how much defense would enter the equation as he tries to pick a fifth outfielder from among Cole Gillespie and Francisco Peguero.
Bochy said Peguero, with his speed, gets the defensive edge. But then he dropped a hint that Gillespie better fits their needs.
“As we’ve said, we need a right-handed bat and that could determine which way we go,” Bochy said. “One guy has more experience coming off the bench than the other. It’s a tough decision and we’ve still got a few days left to make it.”
Ryan Vogelsong allowed a two-run homer to Dioner Navarro but otherwise looked sharp again while giving up three runs in six innings. He made it through healthy, which was the most important thing.
it took awhile, but NL batting champ Buster Posey is starting to throw his hits out there. He had five in a span of six at-bats after collecting three on Monday to boost his spring average to .293. He also caught nine innings for the first time this spring. Joaquin Arias also got three hits and continued to show that he's pretty darn good against left-handed pitching. (The Cubs' Travis Wood got cuffed around pretty good in his four innings of work.)
George Kontos continues to have a nice spring. He worked the first of the Giants’ three scoreless relief innings (Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo pitched the eighth and ninth). In general, the Giants bullpen has looked very, very good this spring. I chalk that up, in part, to the number of guys competing in the World Baseball Classic. They had to be ready early, and they’ve stayed in game mode.
You don’t need to know New York Mets longtime public relations man Jay Horwitz to appreciate this Wall Street Journal story about his issues with modern technology, and the butt dial in particular. But if you do …
Baseball story of the spring, folks. And it’s not even close.
Matt Cain will get his final tuneup in minor league camp Tuesday so the Giants can control his pitch count. Yusmeiro Petit, everyone's favorite stunt double, will start against the Padres in the Giants' final home Cactus League game.
Brandon Belt's neck was improved and he took batting practice with no problems. He doesn't have his range of motion all the way back, though, and throwing wasn't as easy to do without some discomfort. He said the way it's progressing, he should be OK to play Tuesday.