Panik makes long-awaited return to Giants

Panik makes long-awaited return to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy's initial hope in June was that following one week on the seven-day concussion disabled list, second baseman Joe Panik would return to the lineup.

Panik's recovery was much lengthier and San Francisco spent almost all of July without its Opening Day second baseman. Panik was finally activated Thursday, though, and will assume his role in the infield with the Giants for the first time since June 27. Grant Green was designated for assignment in a corresponding roster move.

"He feels great," Bochy said before the Giants' series opener with the Washington Nationals on Thursday. "He's good to go."

Panik hit third in the lineup, hoping to pick up right where he left off at the plate. He was batting .256 with 22 extra-base hits leading up to the injury.

"It's going to be good just to have Joe's presence back in the lineup," said Bochy. "It's going to help lighten the load. We're not looking for Joe to carry this thing, but just to have one of your guys back is going to help."

Panik's diagnosis and recovery displayed how perplexing head injuries can be. After being hit in the head by a pitch in Tampa Bay on June 18, Panik passed concussion tests for three consecutive days. He also hit a home run and tallied four RBIs on the same day he was struck in the head.

But, following a Giants loss to the A's on June 27, Panik felt pain there, and after being evaluated again he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. He landed on the seven-day concussion DL and endured a much more arduous rehab than anyone expected.

In total, he missed 23 games, which is similar to amount of time Brandon Belt missed in 2014 because of a concussion. Belt missed 46 games in 2014, after Marco Scutaro accidentally hit him with a throw. Belt said the recovery for a concussion is more frustrating than any other injury he's dealt with because of its effect on your concentration and vision.

The injury impacts how a player can see the ball, and according to Belt, can have worsening effects if you try to focus too hard too soon. Bochy said Panik had cleared every hurdle involving his recovery this week, though, and that the Giants wouldn't limit his workload.

Bochy is now anticipating the returns of other Opening Day starters Hunter Pence (hamstring) and Matt Duffy (Achilles).

"Hunter could be here earlier than we thought," Bochy said. "The progress he's made in the last couple days has been pretty dramatic."

Bochy said Pence could join the team as early as Saturday "if all goes well." Pence is batting .450 (9-for-20) with three home runs in six games with Triple-A Sacramento. As for Duffy, the third baseman has increased his running and is nearing a rehab assignment. Duffy was placed on the DL on June 20.

Worth noting

Josh Osich was placed on the 15-day DL because of a left forearm strain on Thursday. Osich said that it is mainly forearm "tightness" and that he wouldn't term it as a setback.

"We decided to be a little cautious, not to rush him back," said Bochy. "We've been a little short in the bullpen. That's why this move was made."

The Giants added Matt Reynolds to the 25-man roster because of it. The left-hander has thrown 10 1/3 scoreless innings in a combined 13 appearances with Double-A Richmond and Sacramento. Reynolds signed a Minor League deal with San Francisco on June 24, after being released by the Arizona Diamondbacks in March.

Justin Wise is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.