Two hours before Sunday’s first pitch, an encouraging scene for the Giants took place at AT&T Park. Shortstop Brandon Crawford and second baseman Joe Panik practiced turning double plays.
The Giants hope that duo reunites in games soon. Crawford, resting a mild abdominal strain, also took swings in the batting cage and is expected to return to the lineup Monday, when the Giants begin an important three-game series at Dodger Stadium.
Panik has been sidelined with lower back inflammation since Aug. 2. Gradually, the Giants have increased his workload. Sunday, before the Giants played the Cardinals, he hit on the field for the first time since his injury. He said it was a good step in his recovery.
“I feel like I’m getting close,” Panik said. “I’m feeling good. I’ve got to kind of get over the final hump.”
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Panik said that, before going on the disabled list, his back bothered him mostly while hitting. So the “final hump” will be facing pitching at increased velocity. Tuesday had been suggested as a possible start date for Panik’s minor-league rehab assignment, but San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said the team now plans to take Panik to Los Angeles and send him to Sacramento to start his rehab when the Giants leave for Colorado, making Thursday likely for his first game.
“He hasn’t had a setback, and that (plan) can change,” Bochy said. “But right now talking to the training staff, Dave Groeschner, he might be better served waiting another day or two to make sure he’s really ready to start his rehab.”
Bochy said he watched Panik work out Sunday and he was “swinging free and easy.” But the Giants don’t want to rush their 24-year-old All-Star second baseman, even with September approaching. Kelby Tomlinson has batted .351 in 22 games as Panik’s replacement.
Panik said it’s “great to see what (Tomlinson) is doing” but that it hasn’t changed his timetable to return. He isn’t surprised the back issue has kept him out this long.
“I kind of figured this was going to happen when I went on the DL and they explained the situation,” Panik said. “You want to be out there. But you have to take care of your health, long-term.”
▪ Outfielder Angel Pagan went 1 for 5 in his rehab game with San Jose on Saturday and remains on track to join the Giants when rosters expand Tuesday. Bochy also said pitcher Tim Hudson has “been ready for a little bit,” and that “he’ll be good to go” when rosters expand.
The same cannot be said for Tim Lincecum. Bochy said the other day that Lincecum was “not close” to being ready to pitch, despite previous thought that the right-hander also would be an option on Sept. 1.
Asked whether Lincecum has experienced a setback, Bochy said: “Not really a setback. Just, you know, the hip issue is still there. So he hasn’t made the progress we had hoped. I think he’s getting another opinion. I guess the best thing I can tell you right now is he’s not close. But we’ll see in the next day or so where we’re at with him.”
Bochy said Lincecum still feels “restricted” when throwing. Lincecum has been on the DL since June 28, first with a forearm contusion, then with his hip issue.
▪ The Giants do have one regular back in the lineup Sunday: Buster Posey is catching after missing one game because of elbow soreness from being hit by a pitch Friday. Bochy said Posey “probably could use another day,” but Saturday’s 6-0 loss was an indication of the Giants’ need for their cleanup hitter.
Here’s the Giants’ lineup against Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia:
And the Cardinals’ lineup against Giants right-hander Chris Heston:
SS G. Garcia
P J. Garcia