ATLANTA -- Santiago Casilla began this road trip with two crutches. Then he scaled back to one.
And on Friday, he stood on the field playing for a rather firm game of catch.
Casilla is way ahead of schedule in his rehab following surgery to remove a bone cyst from just below his right knee, and it’s looking like he could return well ahead of early estimates.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Casilla would be ready to throw off a mound within two weeks and could be back a few days after that. Originally, the Giants expected Casilla to be out until after the All-Star break.
“I’m feeling good, really good,” Casilla said.
In any pain?
“No,” he said, pointing to his head. “It’s all up here.”
Casilla’s return would be a major boost to a bullpen that has had trouble replacing his right-handed presence in the late innings. Chad Gaudin filled in for a time before he was needed in the rotation.
Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan made noticeable progress as well, but Bochy said neither player is expected to be available for this weekend’s three-game series at Turner Field.
Scutaro, who has a damaged tendon in the pinky finger on his left hand, put on a fielder’s glove Friday -– and he wasn’t goofing around this time by putting it on the wrong hand. He played catch and had no trouble receiving the ball as it popped in his glove.
Scutaro will be fitted for a custom orthotic splint when the team arrives home Monday, and he could be ready to play after that. Even though swelling and pain have subsided after he was hit by a pitch Tuesday, he still has to keep the finger straight or it would remain permanently bent.
As for Pagan, he ran sprints with the relievers -– even showing off some boxing moves –- and took batting practice. Unlike Scutaro, who is on the active roster, Pagan is on the disabled list with a strained hamstring and wouldn’t be activated until Monday at the earliest.
“Angel was in great spirits with where he’s at,” Bochy said. “But he’s not quite ready.”
It’s still possible that Scutaro could go on the DL if he’s not ready shortly after the Giants begin their homestand on Monday, Bochy said.
“If we get short on the infield, we’ll have to make a move,” the manager said.
How does Bochy plan to sort out second base until Scutaro returns?
Well, he stayed away from starting Tony Abreu in consecutive games at Pittsburgh because he didn’t want to overtax the infielder’s knee, which caused him to miss spring training. Abreu had come to the end of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Fresno when the Giants called him up.
Abreu is in the lineup Friday against Braves right-hander Kris Medlen and the switch hitter is expected to start again Saturday because the Braves will have a left-hander, Mike Minor, on the mound. The plan calls for Nick Noonan, a left-handed hitter, to start Sunday against Braves right-hander Julio Teheran.
The Giants are staying a little further north of the ballpark, in Buckhead. It’s only a few miles, but traffic in Atlanta is a bit of an issue. The last bus –- with the broadcasters and Madison Bumgarner on board -- got stuck in traffic and it took them an hour to arrive at Turner Field. They arrived just as the team was headed out for pregame stretch.
No, Hunter Pence didn’t eat the entire massive plate of raw vegetables that he was served on the team flight Friday night. Several teammates came by to sample from it. Good thing. They weren’t going to get dessert otherwise.
When the Giants took two of three here at Turner Field last July, it was just their second regular-season series victory here out of their last 19.
Nearly all of that bad history happened without Buster Posey, though. The pride of Leesburg, Ga., has an 11-game hitting streak against the Braves in which he’s batting .395 with two home runs and 14 RBI.