San Francisco Giants

Giants’ Pagan (back), Belt (thumb) making progress toward returns

SAN FRANCISCO -- The respective season numbers of the two starting pitchers in tonight’s game between the Giants and Reds: 10-3, 2.92 ERA and 1-6, 4.82 ERA.

Looking at those, you probably wouldn’t guess that one is Matt Cain -- or at least not the one on the right. But that’s where Cain stands going into his final start before July -- one win in 11 starts, which came back on May 15.

Manager Bruce Bochy was asked today if there’s anything to pinpoint in Cain’s struggles and reiterated that they’re not easily explained. "Stuff was great last game, he feels fine," Bochy said. "He’s just having an inning or two that’s really done the damage for him. It would be nice to get him on track and get his confidence back."

The other numbers belong to Reds right-hander Alfredo Simon, who is tied for the league lead in wins and ranks 14th in ERA. Thirteen of his 15 starts this season have been quality and the Reds are 12-3 when he takes the mound.

The Giants will face Simon tonight without probably their hottest hitter, Buster Posey, who gets a night off. Posey wasn’t going to catch both tonight and tomorrow’s day game, so tomorrow Posey will be behind the plate with Tim Hudson starting. Here’s the Giants’ lineup against Simon tonight:

CF Blanco

RF Pence

3B Sandoval

LF Morse

C Sanchez

SS Crawford

1B Duvall

2B Panik

P Cain

And the Reds’ lineup against Cain:

CF Hamilton

3B Frazier

1B Votto

2B Phillips

RF Bruce

C Mesoraco

LF Ludwick

SS Cozart

P Simon

* Angel Pagan (back) ran on a treadmill and took swings off a tee this afternoon. Bochy said Pagan "seems to be doing fine," and could take batting practice on the field before Sunday’s game, even though the Giants as a team won’t have BP.

Bochy said the Giants’ "hope" is still that Pagan will be able to rejoin them Tuesday, the first day he’s eligible to come off the DL, but that they still need to see Pagan go through baseball activities on the field before activating him.

The Giants clearly need some kind of spark, and Pagan seems to provide a crucial one. In games he starts this season, the Giants are 36-21. When he doesn’t start, they’re 10-13. It is a similar story going back to last season, when the Giants’ slide coincided with Pagan’s hamstring injury.

"The numbers speak for themselves to show you he’s a pretty important piece to this offense," Bochy said. "That’s why we’d like to get him healthy."

* Another important offensive piece, first baseman Brandon Belt, went 2-for-3 with a home run in a rehab game last night with High-A San Jose and will continue his rehab assignment tonight with Triple-A Fresno. That’s quicker than the Giants had anticipated Belt moving up, but Bochy said: "He feels great, so we went ahead and bumped him up."

Bochy said Belt will DH for Fresno tonight but could play first base Sunday. He said the reports on Belt from last night were that Belt "saw the ball well" and is "a little further ahead than where we thought he’d be at this time."

While the Giants would love to have Belt’s bat back in their lineup as well, there is an element of having to be careful not to rush Belt back, a la Pablo Sandoval last season. Belt last played May 9, meaning he has missed a month and a half of games and at-bats. As Bochy pointed out, the reason you have spring training is to regain your timing after long layoffs like that.

"You have to be careful," Bochy said of Belt’s situation. "If the player’s not ready, you’re just compounding things."

* Still, the Giants need offense from somewhere. Bochy said with Pagan out, the coaches have kicked around ideas for the leadoff spot with Gregor Blanco in a skid (3-for-his-last-20). The problem is, nobody else is hitting either. Bochy said Juan Perez could get a start in the leadoff spot coming up. He also said Hunter Pence is always an option, but he likes Pence in the No. 2 spot, and again, the hope is Pagan will be back early next week.

* The Giants mentioned in their pre-game notes that reliever Jake Dunning cleared waivers and has been outrighted off the 40-man roster to Triple-A Fresno. Dunning was designed for assignment when the Giants called up Joe Panik last week.

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