Pence heads out to start rehab assignment

Pence heads out to start rehab assignment

SAN DIEGO -- Right fielder Hunter Pence left the Giants to begin what likely will be an approximately week-long injury rehabilitation stint starting Saturday.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Pence, who's recovering from right hamstring surgery, will play five innings Saturday and Sunday for the Giants' Triple-A Sacramento affiliate at Round Rock (Texas). After resting Monday, Pence will resume playing Tuesday for Sacramento at New Orleans.

Since Pence has not appeared in a Major League game since June 1, Bochy wants to certify that the 33-year-old is fully ready before he rejoins the Giants. Bochy estimated Pence will need about 30 at-bats to regain at least a representative sampling of his timing at the plate.

Bochy would welcome a repeat of what Pence gave the Giants last year when he rejoined the lineup after recovering from a broken left forearm. He scored five runs in his first two games and went 4-for-8 with a double, a home run and two RBIs as the Giants won at Cincinnati, 11-2 and 9-8.

Bochy recalled Pence declaring, "Don't you know that I'm a ridiculous weapon?"

The impending return of veterans such as Pence and Matt Cain, who was hit hard in what the Giants hoped would be his final Minor League tuneup Friday before he resurfaces in the starting rotation, means the club's braintrust will confront difficult roster decisions. Many of the younger players who have bolstered the Giants during their ascent to the Major Leagues' best record probably will be thanked with a trip to the Minors.

"It's not going to be an easy call," Bochy said.

The case of Albert Suarez is a prime example. Suarez, who has contributed as a reliever and a starter, might survive Cain's reinstatement. But when Cory Gearrin's strained right shoulder heals, Suarez's status probably will be revisited. The same goes for the likes of outfielders Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson when Pence is activated.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. 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.