The Giants have yet to play this season with the lineup they had envisioned for Opening Day, largely because of the lower back strain that has kept Marco Scutaro out the entire first half.
Wednesday, though, manager Bruce Bochy finally set a date for Scutaro’s return. The second baseman is scheduled to play nine innings with Triple-A Fresno today and barring any setbacks will rejoin the Giants on Friday against Arizona for their final series before the All-Star break.
Bochy said there’s a “very strong possibility” he will insert Scutaro back into the No. 2 spot in the batting order when he is activated Friday or Saturday. Scutaro has gone 3 for 19 in eight rehabilitation games between the Arizona rookie league and Triple A.
“Looking at the reports, he’s swinging free and easy, and that’s what’s important to us,” Bochy said. “He’s got the type of stroke, I don’t think he needs a lot of at-bats (to regain timing). He’ll be honest with us when he gets here Friday.”
The question is what kind of boost Scutaro can give to a scuffling Giants offense. The 38-year-old, hampered by the chronic back injury, has yet to play a full nine innings, and the Giants are still uncertain how many starts a week Scutaro’s back will allow him to make.
Bochy said hitting coach Hensley Meulens talked Wednesday with Scutaro, who was “much more optimistic about the fact he could go out there on more of a daily basis.”
The Giants’ backup catcher, Hector Sanchez, has also been in touch with Scutaro and said Scutaro is encouraged by the progress he has made.
“That’ll help us,” Sanchez said of Scutaro’s return. “He’s a leader for us. He’s the kind of guy, even if he’s not in the lineup, he helps us because if you need support or something from a guy with experience, he’s the best guy to listen to.”
Last season, Scutaro batted .297, but he played in just 127 games because of various ailments, including back pain. Bochy said he met Wednesday with general manager Brian Sabean about a corresponding roster move for Scutaro but declined to go into specifics.
Joe Panik has received the majority of playing time at second base since being called up June 21. Before that, it was Brandon Hicks, who entered Wednesday’s game against the A’s with one hit in his last 31 at-bats.
• Outfielder Angel Pagan flew to Arizona on Wednesday and is expected to resume baseball activities today. Pagan (back inflammation) is not expected to rejoin the Giants until after the All-Star Break.
It remains unclear whether Pomeranz will come back as a starter or reliever. He was in the rotation before breaking his hand June 16, but the A’s have since added starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel via trade and optioned Tommy Milone to the River Cats.
Pomeranz began the season working in long relief, and manager Bob Melvin said Pomeranz also could return to that role.
• Brandon Moss has made most of his starts this season at first base, and Stephen Vogt has played far more outfield than first base in his major-league career. But Melvin had Moss in right field and Vogt making just his third career start at first base Wednesday.
Melvin explained he wanted to have the more experienced outfielder (Moss) in right because of the amount of ground at AT&T Park.
Melvin also said John Jaso will catch today after Derek Norris started Wednesday against a right-hander.