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SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants hoped to activate center fielder Angel Pagan from the disabled list on Tuesday. Instead, their leadoff hitter is headed to see a specialist in Los Angeles after having a setback in a workout Monday.
Pagan said his lower back acted up when he was running Monday. He already has been diagnosed with a bulging disc and a narrowing of the nerve canal in his lower back, and will consult with Dr. Robert Watkins to determine a course of treatment.
Surgery is not among the options being contemplated, Pagan said.
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“We just decided to be cautious and go to LA and see the best doctor out there to have a better plan for the future,” said Pagan, who hasn’t played since June 14, when he let a flare get past him for an inside-the-park home run against the Colorado Rockies.
“It wasn’t a big setback, just a minor thing, but looking forward to the future, we want to make sure we’ve got the best plan possible so we can come back strong.”
The Giants have been anything but strong without Pagan in the lineup. They are 3-10 since he went on the DL as part of a larger spiral that saw them lose 15 times in 19 games.
Pagan’s absence is most acutely felt at home, where it’s harder to hit the ball out of the park and a catalytic leadoff hitter is especially important. That’s true over more than one season, too. The Giants’ collapse last year began almost the moment Pagan went down with torn hamstring tendons.
They are 163-124 in the regular season with Pagan in the lineup since acquiring him from the Mets after the 2011 season. Without him, they are 53-66.
“The numbers aren’t good, but it’s not one guy who carries a ball club,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It doesn’t work that way. It’s no excuse for us to have gone through what we’ve gone through. We’re more than one player.”
The Giants expect to get another regular, first baseman Brandon Belt, on Friday when they begin a series at San Diego. Belt is 10 for 17 with two doubles, three home runs and six RBI in five rehab games for Single-A San Jose and Triple-A Fresno. But he experienced some soreness in his thumb, so the Giants didn’t want to push his activation.
If they were to activate him now, it would be harder to take Belt out of a game in the early innings if his thumb gets sore. At Fresno, it’s no big deal. Belt will play seven to nine innings at first base Tuesday, play again Wednesday, take Thursday off and if all goes well he would travel to San Diego from there.
As for Pagan, it’s anyone’s guess. Pagan did say his back issues are not similar to what has kept Marco Scutaro out all season. Pagan said he has had more injections than the one epidural that was reported last month.
He was asked if it is more difficult to deal with the back injury when the team has given back all of its 9 ½-game lead in the NL West over a three-week span.
“I can’t be there but my heart and my presence is gonna be in the dugout supporting my teammates,” Pagan said. “We’ve been in this situation before. So whatever we have, we’re going to go out there and compete. If I’m not in the lineup somebody will pick me up and that’s the nature of this team. That’s the importance of a team. When somebody’s down, somebody should get up and pick you up, and whenever you come back everything should be fine.”
That wasn’t the case last season, obviously.
Pagan is batting .314 with a .363 on-base percentage this season. Everyone else the Giants have had in the leadoff spot, mostly Gregor Blanco, have combined to hit .087 with a .161 on-base percentage.
Blanco is slumping so Bochy is giving Juan Perez the start in the leadoff spot. He considered moving up Hunter Pence from the No.2 spot and still might do that if necessary, but the manager said “we rolled so well with him in that spot.” And besides, either Blanco or Perez would be somewhere in the lineup, anyway.
As for Gary Brown, he just hasn’t shown enough consistency to warrant a look, Bochy said. One stat that might encapsulate Brown’s lack of readiness: He has stolen 14 bases at Fresno and been caught 12 times.