SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's still a chance that Ryan Vogelsong will begin the season in the Giants rotation and not on the disabled list.
But he'll need everything to go perfectly from this point forward.
Vogelsong, who was sidelined for three weeks because of a strained lower back, threw roughly 40 pitches while facing hitters on a back field Tuesday morning. Giants manager Bruce Bochy noted improvement from Vogelsong's previous live batting practice session and said the right-hander would throw an inning in Saturday's home split-squad against the Colorado Rockies at Scottsdale Stadium.
The Giants could use a day off on their season-opening road trip to operate with four starting pitchers the first time through the rotation; they wouldn't need a fifth starter until April 15, the ninth game of the season.
Vogelsong could be disabled and back-dated to be eligible to pitch on April 15. A DL move also would allow the Giants to wedge another player onto the roster -- maybe a third catcher in Hector Sanchez, to give Buster Posey a little extra protection in the season's first week.
After everything Vogelsong accomplished last season, though, Bochy wants to give him every chance to break with the team.
"It'll be a tough call when spring training is over," Bochy said. "We'll get him up to five innings and 70 pitches, and then we'll have a decision to make. Barring any setbacks or hiccups, it'll be real close whether he makes that first start or not."
Vogelsong, a minor league free agent a year ago, ended up leading the rotation (and ranking fourth in the NL) with a 2.71 ERA. The 34-year-old also was an emotional first-time All-Star. He signed a two-year, 8.3 million contract over the winter; the deal includes a club option for 2014.
He faced Freddy Sanchez, Conor Gillaspie, Justin Christian and Mike Fontenot in his live BP session. Vogelsong appeared to be throwing without restriction and was around the plate with most of his pitches, although he labored a bit toward the end.
Vogelsong threw in one long session without simulating inning breaks. Bochy said he only wanted Vogelsong to throw one inning on Saturday because "he'll be amped up and we don't want any setbacks."
Nor can he afford them.