OAKLAND -- Hunter Pence is one step closer to returning to the lineup.
The right fielder had the hard cast removed from his fractured left forearm and may begin swinging a bat in 10-14 days. Pence has been doing conditioning work since getting hurt the first week of exhibition games, and he has been throwing to keep his good arm fresh. X-rays taken on the left arm gave the Giants positive news.
"The doctor said it's healing nicely," manager Bruce Bochy said.
It remains too early to project a return date for Pence, who originally was scheduled to be out until the end of April or early May. The Giants hope to have another veteran back way before that, but the news Saturday wasn't good for Travis Ishikawa. His sore back will land him on the DL to start the season. The Giants may use the Ishikawa spot to keep all three infielders fighting for two jobs, but the more likely scenario is that they'll keep both Jean Machi and George Kontos.
No decisions have been made, but Bochy said he would meet with general manager Bobby Evans after this game.
--- Santiago Casilla is still the closer. Let's get that out of the way first. But, Bochy did say he could use Sergio Romo to close out an early game or two if the other lineup gets righty-heavy (think: San Diego). Romo has allowed just six hits and struck out 11 in 8 1/3 spring innings. Casilla has given up 19 hits and nine earned runs in 12 innings.
--- Bochy said he will "ham and egg" it with Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit. They'll be ready to go on different days, and each should be good for a max of 70ish pitches during a long relief appearance.
--- One last thing: The Giants will not be flying on their new, all-first-class plane tomorrow night. It's not quite customized, but they'll have it when they fly home next week.