With three weeks remaining in the season and the Giants clinging to slim postseason hopes, manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged Monday that second baseman Joe Panik likely has played his last game this season.
Panik continues to deal with discomfort in his back and had an MRI on Monday. Lower back inflammation first landed Panik on the DL in early August. He completed a minor-league rehab assignment and played in three games for the Giants on Sept. 7-9 but left the last game with more discomfort.
“I’d say the odds lean more toward the season being over for him,” Bochy said. “Talked to him yesterday, and he didn’t really feel a lot of improvement. He’s going to need some rest. I would be surprised if he could play, unless things work out really, really well and we get to play through October.”
The back problems interrupted Panik’s first full major-league season, in which the 24-year-old has hit .312 in 100 games with eight home runs and 37 RBIs, ranking among the league leaders with a .378 on-base percentage and making his first All-Star team.
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“We’ll have to do what’s right,” Bochy said. “We don’t want something that’s going to linger even longer and make matters worse.”
The Giants may be facing the same decision with Hunter Pence, who is recovering from an abdominal injury. Pence took dry swings Monday and did some on-field running. Pence could play again this season, but Bochy said the Giants will have to take into account their standing.
“It may get to a point where we feel it’s not worth the risk,” Bochy said. “I don’t mean to be on the negative side. I’m just saying we have to be smart about this and not rush him back just to have him back. Where we’re at will play a part in that.”
Knowing Pence, Bochy said, the right fielder likely would want to come back even if it’s only for a few games.
“I’m just saying we’ll see how the progress goes,” Bochy said. “And if it gets so close to where it might be just a few games, we’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the risk.”
▪ Shortstop Brandon Crawford, meanwhile, is getting closer to playing again. Crawford took ground balls on the field Monday and soft toss in the batting cage. If all goes well, Crawford said he might be available Tuesday.
▪ The Giants’ lineup for Monday’s series opener against the Reds is the “same soup,” as Bochy would say. They’re 3-0 with Alejandro De Aza batting in the second spot, so why not?
LF De Aza
And the Reds’ lineup against Tim Hudson:
▪ Reliever Javier Lopez was announced Monday as the Giants’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes one MLB player for his positive contributions on and off the field.
Lopez is involved with multiple area charities, including JUMA Ventures, which gives jobs at AT&T Park to low-income students for the chance to earn money toward college. Lopez said that education is important for him – his mother, Sarah, was a high school Spanish teacher, and both his parents instilled in him the importance of getting an education.
“Regardless of athletics, your talent can get you so far, but you’re only one injury away from having to find a normal 9-to-5, and you need your normal education for that,” said Lopez, who graduated from the University of Virginia. “The JUMA kids, you see them working hard out here just for the opportunity to go to school. Some of us just take that for granted.”
Among Lopez’s other efforts are working with the St. Anthony’s Foundation, supporting local programs serving the homeless and participating in events for the Giants Community Fund.
“It’s nice to be able to have some passions outside of the game,” he said. “We’re given this platform, and while we have it, we might as well try to use it for some good.”
The Giants will recognize Lopez as their Roberto Clemente nominee before Saturday’s game against the Diamondbacks. The recipient of the award is announced at the World Series. Willie Mays received the award in its inaugural year, 1971, when it was known as the Commissioner’s Award.