SAN FRANCISCO -- The outfield of Nori Aoki, Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence is a good one, and you could argue that it's the Giants' best option this year given Angel Pagan's issues for much of the summer. That group has played together just eight times, and it certainly won't be together on the field at any point the rest of the year.
Blanco has a concussion for the second time this season, this time as the result -- most likely -- of a shot he took from an infielder's knee while sliding into second base in Los Angeles last week. Aoki is still dealing with a concussion. Pence isn't swinging a bat yet in his recovery from an oblique injury.
"At this point, if you look at Nori, Gregor, and even Hunter Pence, now we're down to three weeks," manager Bruce Bochy said. "There's a possibility they may not play again. It's getting short now."
The Giants usually put the "day-to-day" designation on guys, so it's telling that Bochy is publicly talking of seasons being over. It makes sense with Blanco and Aoki in particular. The Giants need a miracle to make the postseason, and given the odds they face there's absolutely no reason to rush two guys who are dealing with brain injuries and have had symptoms come back after they've been cleared. Blanco had a concussion earlier this year when he was hit by a throw. Bochy said he complained of symptoms again after a game in Arizona earlier this week.
"We had him looked at yesterday," Bochy said. "It's going to be a while."
Aoki spent the day in Pittsburgh seeing a specialist, and he was told the concussion wasn't worse than the Giants had first thought.
The Pence injury has lasted long past the original two-week date, and the strain is worse than the Giants have let on publicly. Pence still is limited to just conditioning and stretching.
"Until he starts swinging a bat, I really can't give you any kind of target date for him," Bochy said.
Pence is the most likely to return, though, because we're dealing with a side muscle here, not the brain. He is pushing hard to get back, and the Giants know that Pence will want to play even if it's just a cameo appearance in Game 162. A return any sooner could help Bobby Evans and Co. in a big way.
Marlon Byrd is 82 plate appearances shy of having his $8 million team option for next year become a guaranteed option. Byrd has been an everyday player for Bochy, and he has averaged 4.21 plate appearances per game since a trade from the Reds. He needs to average about 3.9 per game the rest of the way to reach the 550 plate appearances he needs. You can do the math here: Byrd needs to sit at least a couple of the final 21 games for the Giants to get some extra breathing room this offseason, and it would be a lot easier to do with Pence out there. Byrd -- and the Player's Association -- would have a decent argument if he's benched for, say Juan Perez, who hasn't started a game in right field this season, or Jarrett Parker, who was back home in Virginia when the Giants called him following Blanco's injury.
--- Brandon Crawford told me he feels about the same as he did two days ago. He's still at a couple days away from returning, most likely. It'll be longer with Joe Panik, Bochy said, and there seems a decent chance the Giants will shut Panik down at some point. He's a franchise cornerstone now, and at some point the Giants may decide there's no reason to mess with another back injury.
--- Matt Cain was activated today and will pitch out of the bullpen for now. Cain said he's "open to whatever," and just looking forward to finishing on a high note. Cain has pitched in huge games including World Series clinchers, and he's the longest-tenured Giant. Would he still benefit mentally from feeling some good vibes in September of a lost season?
"Definitely," he said. "I look forward to the next few weeks and finishing strong. I think I found a couple things in my mechanics that I can stick to and I think can benefit me a lot."
Bochy joked that with Cain back -- and all the September additions -- he has "a full bullpen .. that, I do have." The guess here is that Cain isn't part of that group the rest of the way. It makes sense for the Giants to give him another start or two.
--- If you missed it yesterday, here's my recap of August. Read, hopefully enjoy, help me make The Bumgarner a thing!