SAN FRANCISCO -- The brief glimmer of hope Pablo Sandoval evoked in Giants fans with his quick second-half start has vanished, and Sandoval is once again struggling.

Despite recording the team's lone hit Thursday against Florida's Anibal Sanchez, Sandoval has only seven hits in his last 35 at-bats.

Sandoval came out of the All-Star break declaring he had forgotten about the first half of the season, and -- despite having said the same thing a few times prior -- it looked as though he had finally turned the corner. The Giants third baseman opened with a six-game hitting streak in which he hit .429 (9-for-21), but he soon slumped again.

Sandoval missed two games earlier this week after flying to Venezuela to deal with personal issues, a trip Giants manager Bruce Bochy said left Sandoval feeling "a little washed out."

With Sandoval having spent a few days back in San Francisco, Bochy is hopeful he will hit like he did two weeks ago.

"We'll see how he looks here in this series, but he's key to us," Bochy said Friday before the Giants opened a three-game set against the Dodgers. "We need to get him back to swinging the bat the way he can and that's going to be critical for our success to have his bat in there and coming through for us.

Runzler making quick progress in rehab

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dan Runzler threw a bullpen session Friday at AT&T Park, an eye-opening step in his rehab from a dislocated left patella that has been ahead of schedule.

Runzler threw 35 pitches and his delivery looked nearly full-speed.

"As close as I could be," Runzler said when asked if he was throwing 100 percent. "I felt strong. It felt like I was throwing the way I usually throw out there on the mound."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Runzler would continue his rehab on the Giants' road trip to Denver and Atlanta and throw to hitters on the side. Bochy said an Aug. 9 return -- the day the Giants return to San Francisco -- might be pushing it, but added, "There's a chance. We didn't think he'd be ready until the last week of August, so he really has come a long way."

Bochy said Runzler's quicker-than-expected recovery has "no impact on anything" regarding reports the Giants are looking for a left-handed specialist before Saturday's Trade Deadline.

Bochy also said fellow left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt (left oblique strain) played easy catch Friday, but still is "a ways away."

Posey to get break from catching

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy said Friday that Buster Posey would not catch Saturday against the Dodgers, giving the rookie a much-deserved break from behind the plate.

Whether Saturday turns into a half-off day with Posey at first base, or a full day off with Posey on the bench, has not yet been decided.

"We'll see how he looks when he gets through today," Bochy said.

If Posey does sit Saturday, it would be a fitting reward after an incredible July.

Entering Friday, Posey ranked second in the Majors in hits (41), fourth in average (.427), tied for fifth in RBIs (24) and seventh in on-base percentage (.472) and slugging percentage (.719).

He also had a 21-game hitting streak that was snapped Thursday.

Worth noting

Pat Burrell received his first start in three games Friday against the Dodgers, batting sixth and playing left field. Bochy said he told Burrell to expect some more playing time during the three-game set. ... Todd Wellemeyer (right quad strain) threw 6 2/3 innings Thursday in a rehab start for Triple-A Fresno, giving up three earned runs on six hits, striking out four and walking three. Bochy said he and general manager Brian Sabean have yet to discuss what Wellemeyer's role will be when the club is ready to activate the right-hander from the 15-day disabled list. ... Rich Aurilia and Shawn Estes will become the latest Giants greats to be honored on the Giants Wall of Fame on Saturday. The ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. PT outside AT&T Park, along King Street between Second and Third streets.