Giants keep 'watchful eye' on players' health

Coming off injuries, Span, Panik among those who will take it slow in spring

Giants keep 'watchful eye' on players' health

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- One way to ensure that players are fresh through the summer is not to tax them during the spring.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy thus will make sure not to overextend his regulars during the Cactus League season. Though the club's key players enter Tuesday's initial full-squad workout in apparent good health, Bochy intends to preserve their freshness as much as possible by regulating their Cactus League activity.

"It's a long spring," Bochy said Monday.

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Foremost among the players whom Bochy will regard with a "watchful eye" -- yes, he used this time-honored cliche -- will be Denard Span, the new center fielder who signed a three-year, $31 million deal as a free agent. Span endured groin and hip injuries that forced him to undergo three surgeries in nine months.

"We'll monitor his time," Bochy said, "I think you'll see him get a little more rest than normal in the early go, just to get in baseball shape."

Paradoxically, "baseball shape" partially means doing virtually nothing for a prolonged period, then suddenly shifting into overdrive to chase a batted ball or take an extra base.

"I'm going to say that about all the players. It doesn't matter what kind of conditioning you do before you get here. It's just different when you get on the field and you're standing out here for three or four hours," Bochy said.

Next on San Francisco's handle-with-care list is second baseman Joe Panik, who believes he has conquered the back inflammation that sidelined him for nearly the entire final two months of last season. Panik's ailment spoiled his first All-Star selection in what was his initial full season in the big leagues.

"Guys like [Span] and Panik, you don't want to wear them down here early in camp," Bochy said. "We have plenty of time to get these guys ready."

Outlook: Panik, 2B, SF

Right fielder Hunter Pence is another Giant whose presence in the lineup is so critical that he'll likely miss more Cactus League games than usual. The Giants can take comfort in the fact that Pence's three trips to the disabled list last year began with a freak injury on March 5, when he was hit by a pitch on his left forearm. Next came tendinitis in Pence's left wrist, followed by a strained oblique. Given the Giants' 35-17 record in Pence's starts last year, keeping him healthy is a top priority,

Other Giants who were ailing in 2015 appear to have improved. Concussions haven't clouded first baseman Brandon Belt or outfielder Gregor Blanco, who reported to camp to begin informal workouts days before Monday's reporting date for position players.

Right-hander Matt Cain has not skipped any throwing, encouraging the club's belief that his forearm trouble is a memory. Catcher Andrew Susac also has been free from discomfort since pitchers and catchers began workouts last Thursday. It remains to be seen how Angel Pagan and his troublesome knees are feeling, but the Giants have heard nothing ominous about his physical condition.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, 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.