San Francisco Giants

Healthy Angel Pagan ready to play for Giants instead of watching

Sarah Brunelle, 17, of Ventura, Calif., with Angel Pagan before Sunday’s Cactus League play between the Giants and Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Sarah Brunelle, 17, of Ventura, Calif., with Angel Pagan before Sunday’s Cactus League play between the Giants and Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, Ariz. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Angel Pagan said he watched the World Series last fall from home and celebrated when Pablo Sandoval caught Salvador Perez’s pop-up for the last out of Game 7.

It was a muted celebration, given the Giants’ center fielder was a month removed from surgery for a bulging disc in his back. But the idea of any movement without immediate discomfort was notable for Pagan, who says at times last year he could not so much as look downward without pain.

Several weeks into spring training, back in uniform and patrolling the outfield for the Giants, Pagan said those issues are behind him.

“I don’t have any pain,” Pagan said this week. “I don’t have any restrictions.”

Last season, back issues held Pagan to 96 games. He still batted .300, stole 16 bases and scored 56 runs. But he said the pain originated in spring training, a result of the bulging disc pinching his sciatic nerve.

Gregor Blanco said he couldn’t tell how much pain Pagan was in during the season, but he knew something was amiss simply from “the way (Pagan) was moving.” Pagan’s hips did not fire like they usually did on inside pitches, and he wasn’t striding like normal on the bases or in the outfield.

“It was really tough for me to steal bags, be flexible, move in the outfield,” Pagan said. “And I was doing it, you know, I was playing and I was giving the 100 percent that I had that day. But it wasn’t easy. And I was only deteriorating the nerve and I could have had damage for the rest of my life, and I didn’t want that.”

Pagan ultimately opted for surgery on Sept. 25, three days before the end of the regular season. The Giants went on to win the World Series without their sparkplug and leadoff hitter, who said he had mixed feelings watching his teammates celebrate in Kansas City.

“Yes because, you know, you’re the guy – if I was healthy, I should have been playing,” Pagan said. “But at the same time I was happy, because Blanco took my spot and got the job done.

“It was mission accomplished, with or without me.”

It also helped that Pagan was already feeling optimistic about the spring. He said that while he was in the recovery room following surgery, a doctor asked him to try walking to see if the pain had decreased. There was still pain from the surgery, Pagan said, but, “It was probably 80 percent better right away. That’s how much relief I had.”

Pagan has been a full participant in spring games, reaching base safely in five of his first 10 plate appearances with two hits and three walks. Blanco said he hopes Pagan’s return will help bring “stability” to the lineup this season and, early on, it appears he will help mitigate a notable absence.

Hunter Pence will likely miss part – if not all – of April after fracturing his forearm, and manager Bruce Bochy may bat Pagan third. Pagan, who batted third against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday with Nori Aoki leading off, said he’s “willing to do anything that’s good for the team.”

For now, he’s glad to be somewhere in the lineup again.

“I feel good, I feel healthy, I feel that I have the same moves that I had before I had this (back) thing,” Pagan said. “And I’m just looking forward to going out there and having fun, go ahead and play with my teammates and see what happens.”

Notes – Right-hander Tim Hudson, who is coming back from offseason ankle surgery, made his spring debut in the Giants’ 6-3 loss to the Brewers and pitched one scoreless inning. Hudson allowed a double to Luis Jimenez and walked Khris Davis with two outs, but he struck out Martin Maldonado looking to end the inning.

Hudson said he’s in better shape this spring than he was at this point in 2014, when he was returning from his first right-ankle procedure. He said he feels no lingering effects from surgery to remove bone spurs from the ankle in January. “Ankle feels fine,” he said. “It’s a nonissue at this point, I believe.”

▪ Major League Baseball announced that actor Will Ferrell will play all nine positions for 10 different teams in five Cactus League games today, including the Giants’ game against the White Sox. Ferrell is raising funds for organizations fighting cancer and also honoring former A’s player Bert Campaneris, who played all nine positions in a game against the Angels on Sept. 8, 1965, according to an MLB release.

Ferrell is expected to play catcher for the Giants, who moved their start time back to 4 p.m. to accommodate the scheduling for Ferrell’s feat.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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