Pagan, Sandoval on the mend and on the way back

Pablo Sandoval fields grounders to test injured foot

Pagan, Sandoval on the mend and on the way back
June 19, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Angel Pagan will start a rehab assignment on Thursday; Pablo Sandoval on Saturday. (AP) 

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Just two games separate first place from fourth place in the National League West. With the division bunched up tighter than rush hour commuters in a BART car, the Giants skipper believes there's one factor that will determine which team ends up on top.

"Right now, the healthiest team could be the team that wins this thing," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

With several of their key players on the shelf, the Giants have to feel pretty good that they are just 1.5 games behind the division-leading Diamondbacks with reinforcements on the way.

Center fielder Angel Pagan will start a rehab assignment on Thursday in Stockton with the San Jose Giants. He has been out since May 28 with a strained left hamstring.

"He'll play five innings tomorrow, the next day he'll play seven innings," Bochy said. "If he's comfortable and thinks he's ready, he could join us at the end of this home stand."

A quick return for Pagan depends on both the health of his injured leg and how he's swinging the bat. He has missed 19 games.

Pablo Sandoval, who is on the DL with a left foot strain, hit and took ground balls before the game. Bochy says the All-Star third baseman will start his rehab assignment on Saturday. If all goes well, he too will travel with the team to LA. He isn't eligible to return to the active roster, however, until June 24.

[RELATED: Giants notes -- Scutaro returns, Sandoval to San Jose]

Reliever Santiago Casilla, who has missed 25 games with right knee discomfort, will throw a light bullpen session on Thursday, then ramp it up a bit in the bullpen on Saturday and Monday. The plan is for him to travel with the team on the next road trip and throw to hitters in L.A. on Wednesday.

The team also got some good news on shortstop Brandon Crawford after he sprained his right index and middle fingers while sliding into second base on Tuesday in the second inning. His X-rays were negative and he is available to bunt or pinch run. He is out of the lineup on Wednesday and is doubtful to start on Thursday, but he will avoid a trip to the disabled list.

Crawford says he had trouble gripping the ball and swinging a bat on Tuesday night. The morning after the injury, Crawford says his fingers are still sore and stiff. He is icing his fingers then heating them up and working on movement.

"I've slid headfirst on steals pretty much my whole life," Crawford said. "It's the first time I've ever done that. It's just bad luck I guess."

[RELATED: Extra Baggs -- Scutaro, Crawford suffering from digital issues]

Crawford is a fixture in the Giants lineup and as consistent as they come defensively. He has played in 68 of the team's 70 games. Luck clearly hasn't been on the Giants side, as Crawford's injury occurred the day they got Marco Scutaro back in the lineup.

The Giants have lost 12 of their last 20 games, but remain in striking distance. They have a chance to win the rubber game of the three-game series with the Padres with Madison Bumgarner on the hill. Bumgarner is 9-4 in his 13 career starts against the Friars.