03/28/2013 11:40 PM ET
By Alex Espinoza / Special to MLB.com
Sandoval close to returning this weekend
SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval appears to be on track to return to game action this weekend as part of the exhibition tuneup between the Giants and A's.
Sandoval has been sidelined with an irritated nerve in his right arm since March 16, but took part in a light fielding session and four rounds of batting practice on Thursday at AT&T Park. Sandoval didn't appear to show any signs of discomfort following his pregame workout.
Before Sandoval took the field, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he was "optimistic" that Sandoval would be available for the Opening Day matchup vs. the Dodgers on Monday, but that the team has a contingency plan if the third baseman is unable to play.
"It's going to be critical that he gets at-bats [this series]," Bochy said. "Or else, we'll have to go another direction for a week or so. We know that, we're prepared to do that. At the same time, we're hoping for the best with Pablo and he is able to get those at-bats and feels good."
Bochy admitted the situation is something of a Catch-22, as playing Sandoval could risk further injury and push back his return date. Bochy also said sending Sandoval back to Arizona for extended spring training is an option that could occur this weekend.
"We can't ever stop looking at the big picture here," Bochy said. "It's a long season and we're not going to push him if we don't think he's ready. We all have to comfortable that he's ready to go Opening Day or he's not going to be in the lineup."
The reigning World Series MVP took about 30 swings in the batting cage on Thursday, taking two sessions from each side of the plate. Sandoval also looked comfortable in his spot at third base during a relaxed groundball session, blowing bubbles with his gum as he took grounders and tossed the ball back to home plate.
At one point he even yelled at his coaches, "Hit it harder. Let's go."
Roster hopeful Noonan plays waiting game
SAN FRANCISCO -- Nick Noonan has done everything to prove his case in the Cactus League. Now he has to play the waiting game.
The rookie infielder is almost a prisoner to circumstances at this time, with the Giants roster featuring several moving parts as Opening Day approaches. Namely, the club needs to get the final word on the health of third baseman Pablo Sandoval before deciding on the makeup of the infield.
"[Noonan] can play all over the infield and I like the way he's played the last part of Spring Training and the way he's handled himself," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "He can't do any more than what he's done, it's just a matter of what our needs are and the role that he would be in."
With a late spring tear that included three hits on Wednesday in the team's Cactus League finale, Noonan's ability to play second base, shortstop and third base makes him a logical choice to be the team's utility infielder.
Noonan said the team hasn't committed to a decision on his fate for Opening Day yet, but admitted it was a bit surreal to be suiting up in the home team locker room at AT&T Park on Thursday.
"It was kind of a crazy last week of Spring Training," Noonan said. "This is ultimately where I want to be. Hopefully, I'll keep it up and good things will happen. They said, 'You got a shot,' but I just need to go out there and keep playing, and see what the last few days hold."
San Francisco demoted Noonan to its Minor League camp on March 15, and the first-year player admitted to having doubts he'd be in his current position with the big-league club. But he's been effective at the plate ever since they recalled him on March 22, batting .400 (8-of-20) with two home runs, four RBIs and five runs scored.
As far as defense goes, Noonan says he feels comfortable at the three infield positions.
"It doesn't really matter right now," Noonan said. "I feel pretty locked in all around the infield right now. Wherever they need me to play is where I'll go."
Giants happy to be back in home park
SAN FRANCISCO -- Whoever is responsible for the decor in the Giants home locker room at AT&T Park might want to get up to speed.
Above the players' lockers are paintings of three NL West pennants, three National League Pennants and one for the 2010 World Series.
The painted banners from 2012 haven't been added yet.
A day after landing in the Bay Area from a long, seven-week stretch in the desert for Spring Training, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was happy to be back in the dugout at AT&T Park on Thursday.
"It's great to get back," Bochy said. "It's always good to get back to Spring Training, but it's great to get that over with when you're there for as long as we were. There's great memories in this ballpark. I know the guys feel the same when they come out here."
Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.