Giants' Bochy tinkers with batting order

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013 - 9:49 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Such is the banged-up state of the defending World Series champions that, following a nine-game trip that ended when their cross-country flight landed at about 4 a.m. Monday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy entered uncharted waters with his lineup Monday night against the San Diego Padres.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford, who has batted eighth in more than half of his career starts in the majors, hit third for the first time in his career and, Crawford guessed, the first time since 2011 in the Arizona Fall League. In his pregame news conference, Bochy was asked why.

"Crawford asked me the same thing," Bochy said. "I just said, 'Maybe getting into the wine too much last night.'"

Seriously, with catcher Buster Posey getting a night off, and wanting to keep Hunter Pence in the cleanup spot, Bochy said he felt best about having Crawford – batting .326 in his last 36 games before Monday – in the No. 3 spot.

It surprised Crawford. "With the guys we have on our team," he said, "I didn't expect to be hitting third."

It certainly hadn't seemed imminent June 5, the Giants' last game at AT&T Park before their trip, with Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval manning second and third base, respectively, and Angel Pagan thought to be close to returning from his hamstring injury. The Giants ended that day three games out of first place in the National League West.

Then came a trip on which they went 4-5, saw Scutaro and Sandoval sustain injuries and put Pagan on the disabled list. Their lineup Monday featured two players, second baseman Tony Abreu and center fielder Juan Perez, who were in Triple A when the Giants boarded a flight for Arizona.

Despite being just two games over .500, the Giants returned home closer to the top of the jumbled N.L. West – 1 1/2 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks – than when they left.

"For us to be where we're at, I'll be honest, I think we're fortunate," Bochy said. "It's a balanced division, teams are beating up on each other, and for us not to be hitting our stride yet and dealing with some of the things we're dealing with, we have to look at where we're at as fortunate.

"And we've got to pick up our play."

Bochy commended the job of role players such as Abreu, Perez and Joaquin Arias in helping keep the trip from becoming a total nightmare. Abreu had three hits in two of the three games he started at second after Scutaro was hit by a pitch on his left little finger June 11. Arias, taking over at third base because of Sandoval's injured left foot, had hits in each of the final seven games of the trip.

"It's tough, obviously," Crawford said. "Those guys that are out are huge pieces of our lineup. But we've done it before – we did it last year where we just kind of had to scrap a lineup together and ended up doing well.

"We put up a lot of runs in Pittsburgh (20 in three games) and Atlanta (11 in the first two before being shut out in Sunday's finale) with those guys out. So I'm excited to see when they come back how many runs we put up."

On that front, Bochy indicated there could be progress by the end of the week. Scutaro, who missed his sixth consecutive game Monday, could return during the San Diego series, as his injured finger is "doing a lot better," Bochy said.

Scutaro said swelling in the finger has subsided, and he has taken batting practice and played catch while wearing a small splint. The question is how the finger will respond to game action, such as if Scutaro must dive for a ball or tag out a runner.

"One of these games soon – tomorrow, next day, I don't know," he said. "We'll see."

Meanwhile, Sandoval could start a rehabilitation assignment Friday at Class-A San Jose, with the Giants targeting his return for the series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers next Monday. Bochy said Pagan also could be back by then. Pagan is expected to run the bases today and, if all goes well, likely will depart soon thereafter for a rehab assignment of two or three games.

"I think Angel probably is a little bit ahead of Pablo," Bochy said. "He's close."

With the injury effect being felt across the division, the Giants remained close as well, partly because they entered Monday with the West's best intra-divisional record at 20-11. They were 15-22 against all other teams.

"We haven't been playing as a team consistently, and look where we're at," Scutaro said. "The main thing is (to) keep our pitching staff healthy. And there's still a long way to go. We've just got to stay right there. Stay close and make a run."

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball/. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.

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