SAN FRANCISCO -- Not only is rookie Nick Noonan adjusting to the Major Leagues, but he also must learn to handle a utility infielder's role after playing regularly for six Minor League seasons.
Noonan has started three of the Giants' first 36 games, which hasn't done much to sharpen his hitting stroke. He entered Friday hitless in his last nine pinch-hit at-bats. Overall, however, he's batting a respectable .273 (9-for-33).
"I'm getting a little better at reading the game situation, when a pinch-hitter might come up," Noonan said. "Trying to predict what might happen before it happens is a key."
Noonan's most essential work occurs before games, obviously enough. "I definitely try to practice more at game speed," he said. "If you don't get in a game for four or five days, sometimes the pace of the game will get you. But if you practice at full speed, I kind of do everything naturally in the game."
Noonan said that when he's in the cage for batting practice, he approaches his swings as if he were experiencing an actual at-bat. Defensively, bench coach Ron Wotus encouraged him to take 10 hard-hit ground balls instead of the lazy bouncers that infielders often receive during pregame workouts.
"We kind of cut down the workload a little bit but increased the intensity," Noonan said.
Bochy backs Vogelsong amid recent struggles
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy demonstrated his faith Friday in Ryan Vogelsong, announcing that the struggling right-hander will make his next scheduled start Wednesday at Toronto.
Vogelsong (1-3) allowed all of Atlanta's runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings as the Giants dropped Thursday's series opener, 6-3.
Monday's scheduled off-day gave the Giants a chance to skip Vogelsong for a turn while keeping the other members of the starting rotation on their usual rest. After Thursday's game, Bochy would not definitively say whether Vogelsong would start or be skipped next week.
But, upon further review, Bochy considered Vogelsong's outing against the Braves better than the numbers indicated.
"The more I look at it, it looks pretty good," Bochy said. "We'll stay behind him."
Vogelsong matched a season high with seven strikeouts. He held a 3-2 lead through four innings, having allowed Brian McCann's two-run homer in the second inning. Vogelsong couldn't finish the fifth, when Atlanta scored four runs.
Vogelsong has yielded 22 earned runs in 21 innings spanning his last four appearances, hiking his era to 7.78. In the right-hander's last two outings, he has allowed 13 earned runs and 16 hits in nine innings.
"He went through this last year," an unfazed Bochy said, referring to Vogelsong's 6.75 ERA in his final 10 starts. "He just has to back off grinding too hard on every pitch."
Knee brace could facilitate Casilla's return
SAN FRANCISCO -- A new knee brace could determine whether right-hander Santiago Casilla feels fit enough to be available to pitch Saturday, as manager Bruce Bochy hopes.
Casilla, San Francisco's top right-handed setup reliever, was expected to rest for the second day in a row Friday while coping with the discomfort caused by a cyst in his right knee. His absence has thinned the bullpen, particularly since right-handers George Kontos and Chad Gaudin each worked two innings in Thursday night's 6-3 loss to Atlanta. But the Giants declined to make a personnel move to add another reliever, as Bochy insisted that the bullpen could provide adequate coverage.
Bochy wasn't certain whether Casilla will wear his knee brace while pitching or use it for support while throwing in non-game situations. Either way, Bochy said, "hopefully the knee brace will make it more comfortable for him to throw."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.