SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeff Samardzija was all smiles before Thursday's series opener against the Pirates, which was not that unusual. That's kind of the way the Giants starting pitcher is, even in a season in which he's been on the disabled list three times and has just one win for
SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeff Samardzija was all smiles before Thursday's series opener against the Pirates, which was not that unusual. That's kind of the way the Giants starting pitcher is, even in a season in which he's been on the disabled list three times and has just one win for a team whose postseason aspirations have floundered.
There was more to this smile, though. He'd just come off a 40-pitch bullpen session split into two 20-pitch halves. He said he felt great, and assuming that feeling holds through the weekend, he can see his way clear to getting back into the rotation.
"I feel good, like I'm ready to go, but I've learned from the last two times not to rush it," said Samardzija, who spent all of June on the disabled list with a tight shoulder, came back for two starts, then landed on the shelf again.
"But I feel that I'm ready for sim games or whatever. I'm hoping I'm not too far away."
Manager Bruce Bochy was upbeat after seeing one of his big names in the rotation throw in the bullpen.
"He had a good 'pen today," Bochy said. "Right now the plan is to throw to hitters Monday in L.A. If that all goes well, then he will start his rehab."
• First baseman Brandon Belt was out doing early work on the field Thursday at AT&T Park, testing his hyperextended right knee. Belt was eligible to come off the disabled list last Sunday, but he's still treating his injury a little gingerly. He took batting practice, ran the bases and ran curves, leading Bochy to speculate "it could be early next week" when Belt returns.
• The Giants got a visitor in the clubhouse in the person of Minor League catcher Aramis Garcia. He'd been promoted from Double-A to Triple-A on Monday, but the Giants needed some coverage Thursday after backup catcher Nick Hundley took a nasty foul tip off his helmet while behind the plate Tuesday. Hundley is on concussion protocol, but did all the pregame work in hopes that the doctors would clear him to be eligible to play.
• Before the game, both third baseman Evan Longoria and outfielder Andrew McCutchen talked about the sense of urgency the club feels after late-inning one-run losses Monday and Tuesday left them 6 1/2 games out of first place in the National League West race, in fourth place. San Francisco entered Thursday 6 1/2 games out in the NL Wild card race, too, with seven teams in front of them with only two eligible to make it.
"There's a sense of urgency, sure," McCutchen said. "But there's no sense of panic."
John Hickey is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area.