Baseball / Sports

Giants on mend but keep losing

PHOENIX--There were plenty of positives for the San Francisco Giants on Friday. Unfortunately for them, they all came a couple hours before the first pitch at Chase Field.

The Giants are getting healthier off the field, but they continue to fizzle between the lines. A 4-1 loss to the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks was the sixth straight and ninth in 10 games.

The defeat came after a pregame workout that was full of smiles, hugs and key hitters making strides. Center fielder Angel Pagan (stiff back) missed his fourth straight game but was feeling so spry after an epidural that he took some cuts during batting practice and announced he hoped to play Saturday. First baseman Brandon Belt joined BP for the first time since breaking his left thumb last month.

All eyes, however, were on another injured Giant.

Marco Scutaro took grounders and hit with the Giants for the first time since spring training. The second baseman has missed the entire season with a bad back but hopes to start playing in rookie league games next week.

"We'll take it day by day," Scutaro said. "My mind is on showing up and trying to play every day, but I can't really tell if I can. You see me today and I feel great, and the next day I might show up looking like I'm 75. That's the way backs are."

Scutaro doesn't know if he will hold up, but he feels it's time to push the envelope, and the organization agrees. The 38-year-old was a welcome sight for a team that fields a trio of second basemen hitting .208 or lower.

"It was good to see him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I'm sure the guys are glad to see him, and hopefully it's a shot in the arm. We miss him. I think he's frustrated with how long this has taken. He'll go ahead and push this to see if he can get over the hump to get to a point where he can help us in any role that can work for him."

While Scutaro remains intent on returning to his old full-time role, many in the organization believe he would be better served returning as a part-timer, capable of starting a couple of times a week and pinch-hitting. On Friday, Scutaro said he would be open to that role.

"I definitely want to get back and help the team somehow," he said. "I've just got to be available for whatever. If I can help them off the bench, or as a pinch-runner or something, I'm more than happy to contribute."

A key piece during the 2012 title run, Scutaro lit up when asked about the Giants' early success. He has been watching while rehabbing in Scottsdale, always hoping that the coming week brings relief for his back. In addition to epidural and platelet-rich plasma injections, Scutaro has tried cortisone injections. When his back acted up last year, a cortisone shot in May solved the problem. This time, he didn't feel any improvement.

"We tried a lot of stuff, and it seems I can't get over the hump," he said.

Asked what the exact problem is, Scutaro smiled.

"Twenty years playing baseball," he said.

Specifically, the issue is a bulging disk, and doctors decided that surgery would not be the right choice. The down time between injections left Scutaro with plenty of time to think, and he acknowledged that he has wondered about a hard slide by Matt Holiday in the 2012 National League Championship Series that nearly knocked Scutaro out of the postseason. He has long maintained that the slide by the Cardinals slugger was unrelated to the back problems, but Friday, Scutaro slightly changed that stance.

"My head has kind of been spinning lately," Scutaro said. "Probably when he hit me, something moved in there. Who knows? I wish I would know. When he hit me, it literally felt that day like he grabbed my leg and pulled it out of my hip like a (piece of) chicken."

Between the back injury and other nagging ailments, Scutaro hasn't been anywhere close to 100 percent over the past two years. But the Giants believe he can still be a boost thanks to a simple swing and solid approach at the plate.

"If it's on an everyday basis, that would be great." Bochy said. "If not, we'll take that, too."

--Tim Lincecum kept Paul Goldschmidt in the ballpark--but not by much. Goldschmidt entered with a .542 average and seven homers against Lincecum and had a single, walk and double while scoring twice. Lincecum gave up four earned in six innings and struck out just one batter for only the second time in 235 career starts.

The Giants went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position, failing to take advantage of Josh Collmenter's command issues.

(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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