PHOENIX -- If all goes well, the Giants should have left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt back sometime during the team's next series against the Padres at Petco Park.
Affeldt, who has been on the disabled list since June 16 with soreness in his left shoulder, began a short rehab assignment on Thursday night for Triple-A Sacramento in Tacoma. He pitched one inning of scoreless, hitless relief with a strikeout, throwing 13 pitches and hitting a batter.
"He threw a good inning," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said prior to Friday night's opener of a three-game series against the D-backs at Chase Field. "He had good stuff. There were good reports."
According to Bochy, here's Affeldt's timetable: "He'll take a day off and pitch either tomorrow or Sunday. He'll probably join us for either game two or three down in San Diego."
That would mean either Tuesday or Wednesday. The Giants open a three-game series there on Monday night.
Affeldt's return will present Bochy with an interesting dilemma. The Giants are already carrying a pair of left-handed relievers in veteran Javier Lopez and rookie Josh Osich, who has pitched well recently in Affeldt's absence. Osich has worked in six games and hasn't allowed a run or a hit in 5 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out four.
Lopez has had his typically effective season mostly as a one-hitter option against left-handed hitters. He has a 1.88 ERA with seven walks and 15 strikeouts in 24 innings over the course of 43 appearances. Opponents are hitting .139 against him.
What's a manager to do? Asked if he would consider carrying three left-handed relievers, Bochy responded in the affirmative.
"I would," he said.
The four-day All-Star break was just the elixir the bullpen needed, Bochy said. The bullpen's 3.64 ERA is ranked 17th in the Major Leagues and tied for 11th with 24 saves. A week ago, Sergio Romo was nursing a sore knee and Santiago Casilla was battling some shoulder stiffness. All that seems to have cleared up, Bochy said.
"I do [feel better about the bullpen]," he said. "I think they should be freshened up. Plus, it will be good to get Affeldt back. I like the way Osich is throwing. I think he can help us out there. Romo is fine. He was bouncing around yesterday during the workout. I don't have any concerns with him."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.