Back surgery for Freddy Sanchez, Giants career likely over

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Back surgery for Freddy Sanchez, Giants career likely over

WASHINGTON -- Second baseman Freddy Sanchez had surgery Thursday to remove a portion of a disc in his lower back, ending any chance of returning this season and likely bringing an abrupt conclusion to his career as a Giant.

The Giants medical staff said Sanchez's micro discectomy, which was performed by spinal specialist Dr. Robert Watkins, went as anticipated.

"Well, he's out for the year," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's been a long road for Freddy. I know he's disappointed. He certainly played a critical role in our success in 2010. He helped us win a World Series."

Sanchez signed a 6 million extension last year; he will be a free agent after this season. Bochy indicated there could be some interest in re-signing Sanchez in some form or another, although the back injury combined with shoulder problems makes that possibility very, very hazy.

"You don't know what happens when the season's over," Bochy said. "We still remain optimistic optimistic, but this is a definite that we won't have him all year."

Sanchez, 34, hasn't played since June 10th of last season when he went 1-2 with a single. The former batting champion dislocated his shoulder while diving for a ground ball up the middle. He tried to rehab the shoulder injury for two months before undergoing surgery to trim his damaged labrum and tighten the capsule.

Although Sanchez pledged to be ready by opening day, he wasn't able to stay on a throwing schedule in spring training and couldn't make throws across his body to turn double plays. Sanchez had tried moving to third base in late April, but his back began bothering him and made it impossible to return to baseball activities.

The Giants pieced together second base for most of April with Emmanuel Burriss and Ryan Theriot, who struggled to play through an elbow injury. But after a stint on the DL allowed Theriot to get healthy, he's established himself as a solid everyday player and No. 2 hitter.

Sanchez spent most of his Giants career on the DL after the club acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates at the trade deadline in 2009. But he will remain a part of Giants lore for his strong second half in 2010, and moreso, for his deeds in the postseason as the franchise won its first World Series in the San Francisco.

Most notably, Sanchez became the first player in major league history to hit three doubles in his first World Series game. Even more important was his two-out, ninth-inning single in Gmae 3 of the NLDS at Atlanta, which kept the game alive. Aubrey Huff followed with a tying single and the Giants won on Brooks Conrad's error.

Although the Giants didn't play an elimination game in 2010, they never came closer to having their backs against the wall than when hard-throwing reliever Craig Kimbrel was 0-2 against Sanchez. He ended up guiding a 1-2 pitch up the middle.

"That base hit is one I'll always remember," Bochy said. "That would've made it a lot tougher if we lost that game."

Sanchez was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates and hit .344 to win the NL batting crown in 2006.

Giants spring training Day 13: Cain goes two; Melancon has perfect debut

Giants spring training Day 13: Cain goes two; Melancon has perfect debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy planned to give most of his pitchers one-inning stints during the first weekend of spring ball, but Matt Cain stretched it out to 40 pitches on Saturday. 

“I’ve had enough days off the past couple of years,” Cain said, smiling.

In his first start of a crucial spring, Cain threw two innings. He was charged with three hits and two runs, just one of them earned. 

“He’s in a good place right now with his arm strength,” Bochy said. “His delivery is consistent. I’m glad he got a lot of work today, to be honest. It’s something he needs as much as anybody on this staff, is work. He’s going to get it.”

Ty Blach, Cain’s biggest competition for the fifth starter spot, gave up four hits and one earned in his two innings. Neither pitcher was hit particularly hard, and both suffered a bit from iffy defense in the early innings of an 8-6 win over the Cubs. 

The inning separating Cain and Blach was notable for other reasons. Mark Melancon made his Giants debut, getting two groundouts and a fly to right in a quick inning. Melancon received a nice ovation, and he noted the opponent — a Cubs team that helped guarantee the Giants would spend big on a closer — but he didn’t put any added importance on the outing. 

“It doesn’t matter what I do out there right now,” he said. 

Melancon’s new teammates might disagree. Spring or not, the Giants certainly enjoyed watching a closer breeze through his inning. Especially against the Cubs. 

“He’s a pro,” Bochy said. “He’s going to be out there working on stuff, his command and pitches. It was good for Buster (Posey) to catch him. It was a good day for him.”

NOTABLE: On his first swing of the spring, Posey threw his bat up against the visiting dugout. It can only go uphill from there … Bryan Morris had a scoreless debut, striking out one … Josh Osich ran into some trouble in the eighth and gave up a pair of runs, but Bochy appreciated the way he fought his way out of the frame … Former Giants prospect Chris Dominguez started for the Cubs at first base. He had a couple of hits ... If you're headed to Goodyear for tomorrow's game, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, Conor Gillaspie, Jimmy Rollins, Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez and Trevor Brown will start behind Matt Moore. Also, if you're headed to Goodyear, I'm sorry. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez is limited to DH duty for now because of a sore throwing shoulder. Nuñez said the tightness popped up after some work in the weight room, but he’s not concerned at all. He said he would have played third base if Saturday’s game was a regular season contest. The Giants expect him in the field sometime next week. 

Nuñez also said it took five weeks after the season ended for his hamstring to get back to 100 percent, so apparently that injury was much worse than it first looked. Nuñez was out on the field before every NLDS game, trying to get clearance to return. He never quite got there. 

Will Smith (elbow) is just a day or two from throwing off flat ground, Bochy said. 

CUETO UPDATE: The Giants had hoped to have Johnny Cueto in camp this weekend, but he remains in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. Cueto is waiting for a visa for his ill father, Domingo, who will travel to Scottsdale with Johnny. 

LIGHTER SIDE: Brandon Crawford spent a couple of minutes learning some of Jeff Samardzija’s mound moves. The impersonation is pretty solid. 

Giants rookie Hwang goes opposite field for first spring homer

Giants rookie Hwang goes opposite field for first spring homer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jae-gyun Hwang spent his final season in Korea focusing on not flipping his bat. The excitement of his first home run in a Giants uniform nearly scuttled that plan.

“If I would have known it was going to go over the wall, I maybe would have thought about (flipping the bat),” Hwang joked. 

Hwang instead busted it nearly all the way to third on a ball that cleared the wall a few feet from the right-field poll. He said he was aiming for a triple off the bat, but the ball had enough backspin to hit the berm. The opposite-field homer came on a two-strike count. 

“I’m sure it's a relief for him to get his first hit, and of course, a homer,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The ball carries here and he’s strong. Once it got up in the air there I thought it would go out. He did a good job of going the other way. You get a couple of strikes, you want to think the other way there.”

Bochy has liked what he’s seen from right-handed hitters the first two games, both victories. The Giants are intent on adding some thunder to their bench and on back-to-back days they have gotten late homers from non-roster invitees. A day after Chris Marrero’s three-run walk-off, Hwang hit a three-run shot. Justin Ruggiano, another right-handed bat, scorched a double in Saturday’s 8-6 win over the Cubs.

“We’ve got some good candidates and good players,” Bochy said. “They have pop. We’ll keep throwing them out there. You hope they make it hard on you, and I’m sure they will.”

Hwang had a rough debut, striking out twice in Friday’s Cactus League opener. He said he was over-swinging. 

“Typically I don’t really get nervous before games, but I got a little nervous and jittery yesterday,” he said through interpreter Mark Kim. “I had unnecessary power in my swings.”

Hwang said coaches approached him after Friday’s game and told him to relax. The easy power that so intrigued the Giants showed up on Saturday.