Giants' Surkamp makes Single-A start, returns from Tommy John
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Eric Surkamp pitched in a professional baseball game Wednesday for the first time since the 2011 season. The left-hander started a Single-A game for the San Jose Giants with two perfect innings, striking out three of the six Modesto Nuts (28-31) batters he faced.

Surkamp had a 35-pitch limit, but only needed 26 to get through his two frames. He touched 89-mph on the radar gun and is expected to spend several weeks at the Single-A level as he stretches out his arm and builds strength.

Surkamp, who went 2-2 in six starts for the Giants in 2011, began the 2012 season on the disabled list with a flexor tendon strain that eventually led to season-ending Tommy John surgery. Still recovering, Surkamp also began the 2013 season on the Giants' disabled list, and was transferred to the 60-day on May 28.

At 6-foot-4, he's a surprisingly crafty lefty whose success hinges on fastball location and the execution of his two off-speed pitches. His fastball only flirts with 90 miles per hour, but his change-up and big curve are both plus pitches. The 25-year old was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Giants.

San Francisco's starting rotation has been anything but its traditional dominant unit this season. Its 4.84 ERA ranks 24th among MLB clubs, whereas last season the unit ranked sixth with a 3.73 ERA. Ryan Vogelsong suffered a broken pinky finger on his pitching hand during his best start of the season on May 20, forcing the Giants to use long-relief man Chad Gaudin as a spot starter. And Tim Lincecum has had an up-and-down season leading to speculation that his future lies in the bullpen.

Mike Kickham, who has climbed the ranks to Triple-A ball over the past four seasons, was called upon to make a spot start for the big league club on May 28, but was demoted after allowing four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings in a loss to the A's.

There's no telling what the coming months will hold for the Giants rotation, but having another left-handed pitcher available to start -- especially one who's familiar in the Giants clubhouse -- could pay major dividends.