SAN FRANCISCO – Nori Aoki’s last appearance for the Giants came on June 20, when he was hit by a first-inning pitch and left the game with a broken leg. The Giants still beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and ended the day six games over .500 and a half-game out of first place in the National League West.
Since then, the Giants have gone 5-11, and their offense has sputtered for the last week, totaling nine runs in their last six games. All that cannot be attributed solely to Aoki’s absence, but the Giants certainly have missed their regular leadoff hitter, who’s batting .317 and was fourth in All-Star voting for N.L. outfielders when he went down.
The good news for the Giants is that Aoki is progressing – he recently had the cast removed from his right leg and is scheduled to be re-evaluated by doctors Saturday, three weeks removed from his injury. Manager Bruce Bochy was even willing to guess when Aoki will be back in uniform.
“If I had to put him when he could be ready, I’d say probably two weeks from today, somewhere in that area,” Bochy said.
Aoki will have missed more than a month at that point, and his activity obviously has been limited by the cast. It would seem natural to give Aoki at least a couple of rehab games to regain his timing when he’s healthy, but Bochy did not commit to that.
“I’m not going to say that’s a definite,” Bochy said. “You saw what we did with Hunter (Pence, who rejoined the Giants immediately after missing a month with wrist tendinitis). He did all right. We’ll see when it gets to this point.”
Gregor Blanco has been a suitable fill-in as leadoff hitter this season, batting .365 with a .441 on-base percentage in 13 games. Friday night, the Giants are leading off with Angel Pagan, who is 10 for 39 (.256) in 10 games out of the leadoff spot this season. Pagan is batting .360 this season against left-handed pitching – the fourth-highest average in the National League – and the Phillies are starting left-hander Cole Hamels.
▪ The Giants’ lineup against Hamels:
▪ And the Phillies’ lineup against Madison Bumgarner:
▪ Tim Lincecum and Tim Hudson threw bullpen sessions before Friday’s game that equated to about three innings for each, Bochy said. Both are on the DL, Lincecum with a right forearm contusion and Tim Hudson with a right shoulder strain.
“Timmy, it’s fair to say he needs a little work; he’s a touch behind,” Bochy said of Lincecum. “Both of them felt good. … They’re heading in the right direction.”
The Giants’ rotation is steady right now with Matt Cain and Jake Peavy back from injury, so it’s unlikely the Giants will rush either Tim back. Reliever Jeremy Affeldt also threw a bullpen session Friday and could go on a rehab assignment before the end of the All-Star Break, though Bochy said that is still tentative.
▪ The Casey McGehee signing did not work out for the Giants, but it appears McGehee will get a shot at rescuing his season in a familiar place. McGehee, who was designated for assignment by the Giants on June 30, reportedly has signed with the Miami Marlins, for whom he played last season when he was the N.L.’s Comeback Player of the Year.
While McGehee did not perform in San Francisco as the Giants were hoping, he by all accounts handled the situation professionally, and Bochy said Friday he was glad to hear McGehee had landed on his feet.
“He’s got a home there, and has had tons of success there, so good for him,” Bochy said. “I know it didn’t work out here, but I’ve said this: He was good through all this, he understood how well Duffy was playing. … I’m glad he found a home. I don’t think he would have been content being a role player yet. I think he’s still hoping to find a place to get more playing time, so hopefully this works for him.”
▪ Things are tough these days for the Phillies, who enter this series with the majors’ worst record at 29-59. Tonight, they face Bumgarner, last year’s World Series MVP, on the heels of shutout losses in their last two games. The opposing starters in those games: Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.