Giants second baseman Joe Panik returned to game action for the first time in more than a month Thursday night, playing three innings for the Triple-A River Cats against the Reno Aces at Raley Field.
Panik, returning from lower back inflammation, made a highlight-reel defensive play in the third inning. Ranging to his left for a grounder, Panik saw the ball deflect off first baseman Kevin Frandsen, slid, reached back and barehanded the ball, and threw to River Cats pitcher Ty Blach covering first base for the out.
Panik stayed in the game to bat in the bottom of the third, grounding out to shortstop, and then headed for the River Cats’ clubhouse after having been penciled in for four innings.
He is scheduled to play six innings Friday and nine innings Saturday, rest on Sunday and potentially be activated by the Giants on Monday.
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Panik was tested quickly on defense in the first inning. He ranged far to his left and slid for a slow chopper that bounced off his glove for a single. Panik then made a quick turn on a double play to end the inning.
In his first at-bat in the bottom of the first, Panik grounded into a double play. He was thrown out by a step.
Panik said last week that his back had bothered him most while hitting before the Giants put him on the disabled list Aug. 3. Before his DL stint, the 24-year-old was batting .309 and ranked among the National League leaders in hits and on-base percentage.
The Giants have missed Panik at No. 2 in the lineup. All other No. 2 hitters have combined to hit .207 with 22 runs in 43 games for them this season.