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Nunez leads productive unit at 3B for Giants

On Opening Day, 29-year-old goes 3-for-4 against D-backs
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

PHOENIX -- Here's one way to tell the Giants are satisfied with their third-base contingent: When was the last time you heard a Pablo Sandoval rumor?

Months have passed since the Giants were reportedly exploring possibility of reacquiring a physically reconditioned Sandoval from Boston to resume displaying the offensive fireworks he displayed in San Francisco for most of his tenure from 2008-14. But steadily, third base has become a position of strength for the Giants, who lost Sandoval and Matt Duffy in the span of about a year and a half between the end of the 2014 season and last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

PHOENIX -- Here's one way to tell the Giants are satisfied with their third-base contingent: When was the last time you heard a Pablo Sandoval rumor?

Months have passed since the Giants were reportedly exploring possibility of reacquiring a physically reconditioned Sandoval from Boston to resume displaying the offensive fireworks he displayed in San Francisco for most of his tenure from 2008-14. But steadily, third base has become a position of strength for the Giants, who lost Sandoval and Matt Duffy in the span of about a year and a half between the end of the 2014 season and last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

San Francisco's current contingent of the third basemen has the potential to generate more than its share of offense, if Sunday's 6-5 season-opening loss to Arizona was any indication. Following Monday's scheduled off-day, the teams resume their series Tuesday night at Chase Field at 6:40 p.m. PT.

Third basemen accounted for whatever offense Madison Bumgarner couldn't in the opener. Eduardo Nunez went 3-for-4 and scored the Giants' first run in the second inning by employing his speed. He reached scoring position by beating out an infield hit and stealing second base. Jarrett Parker's grounder advanced Nunez to third and Joe Panik's sacrifice fly scored him. Four innings later, Nunez stroked a single up the middle to drive in a run.

"He's a good ballplayer," Arizona catcher Jeff Mathis said of Nunez. "When he gets on the bases, he's always a nuisance."

Nunez's backup, Conor Gillaspie, found a way to contribute, as well. He pinch-hit for reliever Hunter Strickland in the ninth inning and launched a sacrifice fly for San Francisco's final run. Since belting a three-run homer against the Mets for the lone runs in last year's National League Wild Card Game, Gillaspie hasn't stopped hitting. He hit .400 in the NL Division Series against the Cubs and .350 in Spring Training.

Utility man Aaron Hill is capable of further bolstering the third-base group. The .267 career hitter has started 157 games at the hot corner during his 12-year career, 85 of which came last season between the Brewers and Red Sox.

Digging deeper, if injuries or ineffective performances force the Giants to make changes in their third-base personnel, they'll probably have their choice of reinforcements at Triple-A Sacramento.

Jae-Gyun Hwang, who won everybody over with his attitude and his hitting prowess during Spring Training, likely would get a call if one was necessary. Slightly behind Hwang in the pecking order is Christian Arroyo, the organization's top position-player prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

Both are diversifying themselves to enhance their chance of receiving a promotion. Hwang will play first base and left field, as well as third. Arroyo is expected to play some second base and shortstop.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants, Eduardo Nunez