ST. LOUIS -- There was good Joe Panik news and bad Joe Panik news.
Panik played catch in Scottsdale today and he'll take some swings this weekend for the first time since going on the DL with lower back inflammation. So, he's making progress, but it's slow progress. Manager Bruce Bochy said it "would be a little bit of a surprise" if Panik returns before September. The Giants hope to get him some rehab games with Triple-A Sacramento, so Panik will need to be healthy before their season ends early next month.
As for the others who are hurt, Nori Aoki passed another round of tests, took part in the pre-game workout and will be activated tomorrow when the Giants put Hunter Pence on the DL. Angel Pagan feels good, Bochy said, and he's expected to return when eligible August 25. Mike Leake said he's now running at about 75 percent, up from 60-65 percent a couple nights ago, and he expects to pitch this weekend in Pittsburgh. It sounds like the Giants have him tentatively scheduled to slide back into his rotation spot on Sunday.
That means, obviously, that Matt Cain needs a good one tonight to stay in the rotation. The Giants could start Leake on Sunday, and if Cain struggles, Ryan Vogelsong could get bumped a couple days and take Cain's next turn.
Finally, there's nothing new on Hunter Pence. The Giants are hopeful this will be a two-week injury but they know it might be much more because of the way Pence swings a bat. He needs a healthy oblique.
"I can't believe he hurt his oblique with that smooth swing," Bochy joked.
--- Yes, Madison Bumgarner is available to pinch-hit again tonight.
"He'll have his spikes on," Bochy said. "I'll be honest, it's nice having a pitcher you have confidence pinch-hitting with."
Bochy gave Bumgarner a heads-up an inning before his at-bat last night and had him get stretched out. It was necessary with the Giants playing a man short. The Cardinals are also a man short, with Jason Heyward nursing a tight hamstring. Asked about his pitcher pinch-hit options, Mike Matheny told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, "I might borrow Madison Bumgarner, see if we can use him for an at-bat."