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08/27/09 10:10 PM ET

Giants likely without top duo for opener

Sandoval, Molina out of starting lineup again Thursday

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are likely to begin their critical three-game series against the Rockies on Friday with their two most productive hitters, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and catcher Bengie Molina, benched by their injuries.

Both players were out of the lineup against the D-backs on Thursday for the third straight game. Sandoval has a strained right calf and flu-like symptoms, though San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said his health on both fronts had improved. Molina has a tight right quadriceps, making catching a more grueling task than usual.

Juan Uribe replaced Sandoval at third base, while Eli Whiteside stepped in behind the plate for the third game in a row.

Upon arriving at the clubhouse, Molina pronounced himself "a lot better than yesterday," referring to Wednesday, when he belted a three-run pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning to win the game. Molina underwent an MRI on Thursday to evaluate his condition.

Bochy remained cautious when asked whether Sandoval and Molina would recover enough to start Friday.

"I'll put it as questionable for both," Bochy said.

Their absences would do the Rockies a huge favor. Sandoval leads the Giants in almost every significant offensive category, including batting average (.331), home runs (19) and RBIs (73). Molina's hitting .263 with 16 homers and 67 RBIs.

Bochy said Sandoval and Molina were fit enough to pinch-hit on Thursday. Molina said he could catch an inning or two, but that an entire game would tax him physically. He echoed Bochy's doubts about playing Friday's series opener against Colorado, despite the game's importance.

"I don't feel it's going to be tomorrow. I don't care who we're playing. I have to take care of my health," said Molina, who hurt himself Monday in Colorado while batting in the 11th inning. "I want to be able to help the team in [September]. If I try to be a hero and try to play through it, and all of a sudden I get hurt more, I don't get to play the last month."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.