PITTSBURGH -- Madison Bumgarner needed four rehab starts last season before a return to the big leagues. The Giants have already discussed cutting that way back this time, with him possibly needing just one or two.
Manager Bruce Bochy said Bumgarner's flat-ground work has been so impressive that he won't need as much minor league time as a year ago. But there's something else at play here, something left unsaid.
The standard for the rotation right now is not very high. The Giants haven't had a starter complete six innings since last Saturday, and too many starts are ending after the fourth. Couldn't Bumgarner do that as he works to build arm strength? Yes, yes he could, and those innings would likely be crisper than the ones Bochy is getting now.
Bumgarner will throw a bullpen session Monday in San Francisco. He will face hitters when the Giants are in Houston the next week. He is eligible to return on May 26, and Bochy said he won't need much more time than that.
"It's going to be close," he said. "That's how well he's throwing the ball. If his pitch count is around 75 in that (rehab start) he could make a start here, similar to what we did with Shark. We'll fill in with the bullpen instead of taking another (rehab) start to get up to 100 pitches. we'll see where we're at and how he's feeling."
--- Alen Hanson isn't feeling great. His tight left hamstring is still sore, and he's day to day (like all of us, technically). Bochy wasn't sure if Hanson would be available off the bench today. Evan Longoria is the choice to move to short or second if the Giants are in a jam.
--- Derek Law walked into the clubhouse Sunday morning in a walking boot, which was interesting because he was optioned to the minors while the Giants were still in Philadelphia. Law tweaked his ankle while hitting the bag on a grounder against the Phillies. It's not considered serious, but it made sense to keep him around. He's from Pittsburgh, so he spent the weekend here and he'll fly back to San Francisco with the team before driving to Sacramento.
SAN FRANCISCO — The Cardinals made four errors Saturday and had trouble with several other balls. The Giants couldn’t take advantage.
Cardinals right fielder Tyler O’Neill hit a walk-off homer off reliever Mark Melancon in the bottom of the 10th at Busch Stadium, handing the Giants a 5-4 loss. They’ve lost three straight after a good start to their final trip.
The Giants had runners on the corners and one out in the top of the 10th, but second baseman Alen Hanson struck out. After an intentional walk of catcher Nick Hundley, Right fielder Austin Slater struck out to end the threat.
—- The Cardinals butchered a couple of bloops in the seventh and the Giants took full advantage. With a runner on first, Hanson and starting catcher Aramís Garcia hit bloops that Cardinals outfielders didn’t handle cleanly. Starter Dereck Rodriguez followed with a single and outfielder Gregor Blanco made it 4-2 when he beat out a double-play ball.
—- Rodriguez was cruising but he walked the lead off batter in the bottom of the seventh and then gave up a two-run shot to catcher Yadier Molina. It was the first non-solo homer allowed by Rodriguez this season. The rookie was charged with four runs in what could have been the final start of his season.
—- Joe Panik isn’t a thumper, but his first career start at first base had plenty of positives. Panik had three hits and looked fine defensively.
—- Garcia bounced back nicely from a four-strikeout night. He had four hits, including a big one in the seventh inning rally.
For the first 519 games of his major league career, Joe Panik has taken the field at second base.
On Saturday in St. Louis, that will all change. Giants manager Bruce Bochy put out his lineup and the Gold Glove second baseman is playing first base.
Even in the minor leagues, Panik only played second base and shortstop.
So who's playing second base for the Giants against the Cardinals? Alen Hanson.
With Brandon Belt, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval done for the season, Bochy has been giving several guys a shot at first base. Austin Slater, Aramis Garcia, Chase d'Arnaud and Ryder Jones have all started at least one game at first base.