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06/13/11 2:35 AM ET

Zito, with tweaks, close to being ready

SAN FRANCISCO -- A more mechanically polished Barry Zito will make what could be his final Minor League injury rehabilitation start Thursday for Triple-A Fresno against Tacoma.

Recovered from a sprained right foot, Zito delivered another smooth performance for high-Class A San Jose on Saturday night. The left-hander worked seven innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits in the Giants' 8-3 victory over Modesto. One of the hits Zito yielded was a sixth-inning home run by Nolan Arenado. In two rehab outings for San Jose, Zito is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA.

Performing his between-starts workout routine Sunday at AT&T Park, Zito said that he wants to be able to throw at least 100 pitches in a game before the Giants activate him from the disabled list. His current high is 95.

One of the most noteworthy moments in Zito's latest appearance occurred when he had to field a bunt -- the same play he was trying to execute when he injured himself on April 16.

"That was my first in-game bunt play," Zito said. "It was kind of going back to the source of the injury there and I was fine."

Zito said that he has adjusted his pitching delivery slightly in an attempt to throw more from a downhill plane, boost his drive toward the plate and facilitate his ability to follow through over his front foot -- items on every pitcher's mechanical checklist. Zito noted that the change is so minute that nobody will notice it.

"In the middle of the season you can't really make huge adjustments," Zito said. "You just have to refine things. It's more of a tweaking than anything major."

Sandoval plays first as return to action nears

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval took his final step toward rejoining the Giants by playing first base Sunday in Triple-A Fresno's 4-0 loss at Salt Lake City.

Sandoval will reclaim his role as the Giants' starting third baseman Tuesday, when he's officially activated from the disabled list for the opener of San Francisco's three-game series at Arizona. The Giants signaled that the move was imminent after Sunday's 4-2 victory over Cincinnati, when they optioned third baseman Conor Gillaspie to Triple-A Fresno.

But due to a combination of factors, most notably the Giants' lack of a true backup first baseman and Miguel Tejada's recent resurgence as a third baseman, Sandoval's likely to play once or twice a week at first base.

Sandoval, who underwent surgery in early May to remove the fractured portion of his hamate bone from his right hand, went 0-for-4 Sunday. He hit .278 (5-for-18) with two home runs and seven RBIs in five games for Fresno on his injury rehabilitation assignment.

Worth noting

• During a pregame ceremony, Giants legend Willie McCovey presented a $10,000 check to the family of Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was beaten outside of Dodger Stadium after the March 31 season opener. McCovey's Restaurant in Walnut Creek held a fundraiser for Stow on April 16.

• The Giants already have placed 12 players on the disabled list this season, one fewer than all last season.

• Intending to give Eli Whiteside a two-day rest, counting Monday's scheduled off-day, manager Bruce Bochy started Chris Stewart at catcher Sunday. Typically, Whiteside catches Jonathan Sanchez. But Bochy wanted to give Whiteside, who's new to catching regularly, an extra breather.

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