SAN DIEGO -- The key words for the Giants on Friday: "Making improvement."
Manager Bruce Bochy has plenty of banged-up contributors, but all are on the right track. First baseman Brandon Belt (strained groin) took grounders and did some light running, and seems a good bet to start Monday's home opener. Belt's planned backup, Travis Ishikawa (back strain) will start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. Right-hander Matt Cain quickly flew home to get reevaluated, and the diagnosis is that there is nothing wrong with his arm but a flexor strain; Cain is said to be feeling much, much better.
Finally, Bochy said he wouldn't bet against Hunter Pence (forearm fracture) returning to the lineup by the end of April. Pence will be reevaluated on Monday, and he's not far from swinging a bat for the first time.
"It's going to be close," Bochy said. "My guess is he will be playing, there's a shot (he will), at the end of April."
--- A trio of very different players took grounders at first base during BP on Friday. Belt was joined by catcher Buster Posey (who is starting at first Friday) and infielder Matt Duffy, who may start there on Saturday. Duffy was out on the field at 2:30 going through a series of drills with Ron Wotus, Shawon Dunston and Eli Whiteside.
"It's a bit of a cram course," Bochy said. "I'd like to find a way to keep him in there. I like the way he's swinging the bat."
--- What made Justin Maxwell such an appealing roster choice this spring?
"You just saw his at-bats getting better with more playing time this spring," Bochy said. "I just like the professional at-bats he throws out there. He's a guy that's got a track record of swinging and missing and not making consistent contact, but having power. It looks like he's worked hard at shortening his swing and putting the ball in play."
Maxwell showed that Thursday, lining a two-strike pitch into center to score the go-ahead run.
--- Bochy isn't concerned about Casey McGehee's defense. The third baseman made two errors in the late innings Thursday.
"We're going to make mistakes," he said. "The first was a tough play, it looked like the ball came up on him. I'm not thinking about it and I hope he's not."
--- Finally, it (unfortunately) looks like we won't get many Madison Bumgarner pinch-hit appearances this year. Bumgarner, the reigning Silver Slugger, is always itching to hit, but Bochy said he's more likely to use long reliever Ryan Vogelsong or Chris Heston, who has shown a nice swing this year.
"We've had two starters go down," Bochy pointed out. "I really don't want to risk putting (Bumgarner) out there. He's young and I think he'd be fine, but at the same time, I get a little nervous."