SAN FRANCISCO -- Freddy Sanchez returned to the Giants' lineup Thursday after missing two games due to a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

Sanchez was at his normal spot in the lineup, playing second base and hitting in the second spot.

Sanchez injured his rotator cuff on Saturday against the Rockies while turning a double play. He played in Sunday's series finale but was clearly hindered by the shoulder on defense.

He received a cortisone shot on Tuesday and expected to start Wednesday, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy opted to give him another day of rest.

"The extra day helped him," Bochy said. "We didn't have to use him [Wednesday], so he had two days off after the injection. ... He's got his normal throwing motion now, unlike in Colorado, so it's good to have him back in there."

In his past 28 games, Sanchez is hitting .393 (44-for-112) with 11 doubles, five homers and 16 RBIs.

Sandoval's playing time, confidence on rise

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's been talked about all season.

And while Giants fans have been fooled before, with everything that's now going on -- a three-game weekend series with a division rival and potential playoff berth on the horizon -- having a hot-swinging Pablo Sandoval would be quite the late-season acquisition.

A day after going 2-for-3, Sandoval knocked out another hit Tuesday night, and is 3-for-9 since seemingly reclaiming an everyday role in Sunday's series finale against Colorado. If Sandoval continues to have productive at-bats and play sound defense, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he has no issues putting Sandoval in the lineup on a daily basis.

"Sure he could," Bochy said Wednesday about Sandoval remaining an everyday player. "It's all about production now and quality at-bats and defense. Pablo's going to go out there."

The important thing for Sandoval is to remain confident and not get too down on himself, Bochy said.

"We think his confidence has grown with some hits he's gotten," Bochy said Thursday. "He's been fighting himself. We've been talking about this all year, really -- he gets in a little skid or has a rough game and then he starts pressing. He looks more relaxed to me."

Bochy: Cain moved up to keep normal rest

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy insists there's no hidden agenda in the recent rotation moves that have not only bumped Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain up a day, but also conveniently placed them in a position to start the first two games of a potential playoff series.

The manager announced after the Giants' 3-1 win on Tuesday that Cain would start Friday's series opener against the Padres, while Barry Zito would get the nod in the middle game. Jonathan Sanchez will start the season finale.

With Monday's off-day, Cain still will throw on four days' rest. The Giants made a similar move earlier this week, switching the turns of Lincecum and left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

"We just switched Matt Cain to keep him on his normal rest," Bochy said. "Z is pitching the second game. That's pretty much it. Both of them were going to pitch in the series. ... We feel that's the best way to go right now."

When asked about lining up Lincecum and Cain in the first two games of a potential National League Division Series, Bochy responded: "We're in the regular season. These are the games we're focused on."

Worth noting

Despite throwing 26 pitches Tuesday and another 22 on Wednesday, Giants closer Brian Wilson was available in Thursday's series finale, manager Bruce Bochy said. Wilson is only one save away from 48, which would tie Rod Beck's franchise record set in 1993. ... Giants pitchers entered Wednesday having fanned a Major League-leading 1,294 hitters this season and are only nine shy of surpassing the San Francisco record for most strikeouts in a season, which was set last season. ... When asked about having a preference between clinching a playoff berth via a National League West title or a Wild Card berth, Bochy said, "We can only win one game. Our sights are on today. It's in our hands, let's win ballgames. We do that then, in the end, hopefully you'll be where you want to be."