SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – It’s the yes-no question the Giants desperately want to answer: Will Marco Scutaro be ready by Opening Day?
Ask the 38-year-old second baseman, though, and you won’t get him to pick a side. He is old and experienced enough to know that when you have a bad back, certainty is a fool’s word.
“I don’t want to say nothing right now just because backs are tricky,” said Scutaro, asked point-blank if he’d be ready for the opener. “I can tell you now I feel great and wake up tomorrow and not even walk.
“I’ll go day by day and see how things are going. The good thing is I’m seeing improvement.”
In other words ... well, you know the line from "Top Gun." Don't write checks that your body can't cash.
You can bet Scutaro will be sore when he wakes up Thursday. That’s because he ramped up his activity on Wednesday, taking batting practice on the field for the first time all spring and also working in with the rest of infielders as bench coach Ron Wotus wielded his fungo.
Scutaro appeared to swing easily during his abbreviated hitting session. He acknowledged he's further behind where he wanted to be this spring. He expected to feel instability and pain in his back and hip when he swung a bat, and although it wasn’t as bad as he expected, he was disappointed that the muscles fatigued as quickly as they did.
He said his offseason conditioning and core strengthening program didn’t do as much as he hoped to alleviate the back discomfort, but he saw progress when he began working with Giants trainers after arriving in Scottsdale.
The goal isn’t to get into a Cactus League game by a specific day, or even collect a specific number of at-bats here.
“I just want to feel like I can play a game today and show up tomorrow ready to go,” said Scutaro, adding that hitting is the hardest part because of the rotation it involves.
What if Scutaro can’t go by Opening Day? Well, Tony Abreu has played exclusively at second base this spring, Joaquin Arias can fill in and Ehire Adrianza is looking more and more like a lock to be on the club with every passing day. The educated guess right now would be a platoon between Arias and Abreu. The Giants might go with four outfielders – Tyler Colvin’s back has kept him out of action for a week anyway – and keep both Abreu and Adrianza, who are out of options.
Even if Scutaro can play the opener, he’s going to need plenty more days off. So the Giants need all the depth they can muster at second base.
Although it’s easy for Giants fans to link Scutaro and Freddy Sanchez, their situations aren’t analogous. Sanchez, for all the false optimism a couple springs ago, was an infielder who couldn’t throw. Simply put, infielders who cannot throw cannot play. Scutaro, if it comes down to it, can play through his current level of pain.
“I played through worse last year,” he said. “But my point is I want to feel able to compete every day. Play a game, go to my apartment, get some rest and actually get some rest. Not deal with pain every night.”
Surgery wasn’t an option. The Giants and Scutaro investigated that last season when he saw Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles. His pain is related to his bone structure, the fact one leg is slightly shorter than the other and a hip bone that has become bent forward as a result. It’s not a disc that can be shrunk or repaired.
When Scutaro went to Dr. Watkins’ waiting room, he noticed all the framed photos of ballplayers on the wall.
“You have a nice collection,” Scutaro told him. “But I don’t want to be up there.”
Scutaro’s sly sense of humor hasn’t left him. The Giants hope some of his game is still there, too.