SAN FRANCISCO -- As one of their key players remains in injury limbo, the Giants are getting closer to bringing another back into the fold. First baseman Brandon Belt has been taking swings in batting practice and doing defensive drills and could begin a rehab assignment later this week.
The last major box for Belt to check before he plays fully in rehab games is throwing, as he's recovering from a fractured thumb. Belt, though, said today: "Everything feels pretty good. Just getting my shoulder back into shape throwing, but that's the good thing about first base is you don't do much throwing."
Manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants could start Belt's rehab as early as Wednesday or Thursday. If necessary, Belt could start out DHing until he's comfortable throwing and playing in the field.
"He's pretty close there," Bochy said. "He feels comfortable swinging the bat."
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Belt is scheduled to hit off a pitching machine tomorrow to see how the contact at higher velocity feels to his thumb. He said he's still targeting July 4 for rejoining the Giants and feels confident about that date. "Haven't really set anything in stone," he said. "But that's what we're looking at."
Angel Pagan, meanwhile, is taking batting practice and fly balls today, and Bochy said he will be re-evaluated afterward. The Giants still haven't decided whether they need to put Pagan (back inflammation) on the disabled list, but they're nearing the end of the window where they can use the 15-day DL retroactive to the last game he played.
"We'll see how he gets through the workout today and find out more," Bochy said.
Michael Morse, who has also experienced some back issues and didn't play Sunday, is in the lineup tonight against the Padres. Bochy said Morse seemed good to go, but they will keep an eye on Morse in batting practice and could readjust if Morse is ailing.
For now, here's the Giants' lineup for the series opener:
And the Padres' lineup against Cain:
Joe Panik gets the start after making his first career MLB start on Sunday and collecting two hits, an RBI and a nice glove-flip for an out in the field. Panik had a big contingent in Arizona, including his parents, but said none will be in attendance tonight -- they had to work today, so they took the red-eye home to New York.
Still, Panik said he's looking forward to his first big-league start in front of the fans at AT&T Park. The 23-year-old has appeared in one preseason game here, during the Bay Bridge Series against the A's in 2013. But he figures this will be a little different.
"Nothing's going to compare to tonight," Panik said.
Bochy said he isn't worried about the moment overwhelming Panik after how the second baseman handled his call-up and debut.
"He's a ballplayer," Bochy said. "The kid knows how to play the game. His first at-bat he worked a walk and looked comfortable up there. He looked very relaxed, I thought, yesterday on both defense and at the plate ... It's a lot of pressure, your nerves are flying, but this kid did a great job yesterday."
Bochy also said infielder Ehire Adrianza got an MRI this afternoon after experiencing soreness in his right hamstring. Adrianza first started feeling the discomfort a couple days ago, Bochy said. "He feels pretty good," Bochy said. "But we want to get him checked out. So he's day to day right now."
The Giants before tonight's game will honor Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who died last Monday of cancer at the age of 54. Bochy, who played with and managed Gwynn, called Gwynn "the best hit-and-run guy I've ever seen," and said he hopes people will recall the person, not just the player.
"Great mentor, ambassador to the game, tremendous family man, very humble man, and just loved baseball," Bochy said. "What I'm glad has happened this week, through this tough week, is people have learned what a tremendous person he was."
The Giants also shared several quotes about Gwynn from past members of the franchise. Among them, this from Will Clark: "Tony and I got to be real good friends because he was always at first base -- we couldn't get him out. ... He was the best hitter of our era."