SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants had hoped they’d have Angel Pagan back for tonight’s series opener against the Cardinals. Instead, Pagan, who hasn’t played since June 14 with a back injury, suffered a minor setback while working out on the off-day Monday and is headed to Los Angeles to see a back specialist, extending the timetable for his return.
Pagan said he was "just running" when he aggravated his back. "It wasn’t a big setback, just a minor thing," he said. "But looking forward to the future, we want to make sure we’ve got the best plan possible so we can come back strong."
Pagan said he is scheduled to see Dr. Robert Watkins on Tuesday to determine the best course of action to speed up his recovery. The center fielder said he has tried "treatment, rest, medication, injections, everything" to get his back into playing shape, but nothing has worked.
The Giants’ first diagnosis for Pagan was back inflammation, then a lower back strain. Pagan said he believes he has a bulging disc in his back, along with nerve irritation that causes pain down his leg as well.
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"We just want to see if there’s anything or a different treatment we can do to make it better," Pagan said. "Hopefully (Watkins) has great news."
At this point, Pagan said he doesn’t believe surgery is an option. Manager Bruce Bochy said the extent of Pagan’s setback is unclear, but the Giants should have a better idea by tomorrow evening.
The Giants, meanwhile, will be without one of their most valuable players for at least a little while longer. Since the start of 2012, the Giants are 156-126 when Pagan starts and 60-74 when he doesn’t, according to STATS LLC. They’ve gone 3-10 since losing him to this back injury -- though Bochy refused to cite that as the reason.
"A team’s not built like that," Bochy said. "You have to deal with injuries, guys getting days off. We have players that are capable of filling in. … I know the numbers are not very good, but at the same time, it’s not just one guy that carries a ballclub. It just doesn’t work that way."
Gregor Blanco has led off in Pagan’s absence but is just 10-for-52 (.192) since June 15. It’s Juan Perez in the leadoff spot tonight, with Bochy attempting to shake things up a little for an offense that has been struggling almost uniformly. Bochy said he has also considered Hunter Pence in the leadoff spot, but he likes having Pence in the No. 2 spot.
Here’s the full Giants’ lineup tonight against Cardinals lefty Marco Gonzales:
And the Cardinals’ lineup against Tim Lincecum:
* Brandon Belt is scheduled to play first base tonight for Triple-A Fresno and is still on target to rejoin the Giants on Friday, Bochy said. Belt had three more hits for Fresno last night against the Sacramento River Cats, including a home run, but Bochy said it’s not likely the first baseman will be activated before Friday.
Bochy said Belt had some soreness in his thumb after last night’s game, and "today a little bit he could feel it. So he’s not quite ready. You don’t wan to risk setting a guy back by bringing him up here. … When we bring him up here, we want to make sure he’s good to go and we can let him go."
If you missed it, we talked to Belt last night about getting his timing back and feeling comfortable in the field as he works his way back from the fractured thumb.
* Infielder Ehire Adrianza (right hamstring strain) is scheduled to start a rehab assignment Wednesday with Triple-A Fresno, Bochy said. Adrianza came in Monday and passed the tests needed for him to start playing games again.
* Lincecum will make his first start since throwing his second career no-hitter last week against the San Diego Padres, and he and the Giants certainly hope it goes better than his first post-no hitter outing. After no-hitting the Padres last season in San Diego, Lincecum surrendered a career-high eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in his next outing against the Reds.
Also, a cool item from the Giants’ pre-game notes: The Cardinals enter this series having just played the Dodgers in Los Angeles, where they faced two other starters who already threw no-hitters this season in Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett. According to the note, the last team to face three pitchers in a five-game span who had already thrown no-hitters that season was the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. The opposing pitchers were Don Cardwell, Lew Burdette and Warren Spahn.