Giants 3, Athletics 1

The status of San Francisco Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval for
opening day is still a big question after he left Friday night’s
3-1 victory against the Oakland Athletics with more discomfort in
his irritated elbow.

The World Series MVP returned to the lineup as designated hitter
after nearly two weeks off, but still isn’t right and came out of
the game after only two at-bats. He had been out since March 16
because of an inflamed nerve in his right elbow, but felt fine to
play Friday after going through pregame baseball activities.

”I was a little sore,” Sandoval said. ”Just a precaution. I
don’t want to be worse with opening day coming. I’m just going day
by day. I want to be OK. It’s nothing serious. I have seen the
progress in one week.”

Manager Bruce Bochy indicated a decision on Sandoval could come
as soon as Saturday after the Kung Fu Panda is re-evaluated.
Sanodval hoped his arm would calm down over night. Sandoval’s arm
bothers him more batting left-handed, which he did Friday.

”We’re being cautious,” Bochy said. ”We’ll see how he’s doing
tomorrow and re-evaluate him.”

Buster Posey went 2 for 4 against the AL West champion A’s just
hours after the Giants rewarded the reigning NL MVP and batting
champion with a new $167 million, nine-year contract.

Gregor Blanco hit a tying RBI triple in the fifth, then Nick
Noonan followed with a go-ahead single off A.J. Griffin (2-2).
Noonan learned after the game he had made the opening day roster,
recalled from Triple-A Fresno.

Sandoval went 0 for 2, but initially what mattered most was that
he played at all.

”Pablo’s a huge part of this team, and to have him back before
the season starts is big,” winning pitcher Barry Zito said.
”We’re excited that we’re kind of full force right now.”

Brandon Crawford extended his spring hitting streak to 11 games
with a two-out double in the fifth, then scored on Blanco’s hit to
deep center that went over Coco Crisp’s head.

Noonan also added an eighth-inning triple ahead of Angel Pagan’s
RBI single.

Sandoval received a rousing ovation from the sellout crowd of
42,808 at AT&T Park when he stepped into the batter’s box in
the first as the designated hitter. Before the game, Bochy thought
there was still a chance Sandoval could play in Monday’s season
opener in Los Angeles, or even come off the bench as a pinch-hitter
initially if it hurts his arm to throw and play third base.

After the game, it was much less clear.

Joaquin Arias would start in place of Sandoval, and keeping
Noonan as an extra infielder gives the Giants a backup plan.

”He threw today well, he threw at 100 feet,” Bochy said. ”I
watched him doing baseball activity, and throwing and swinging the
bat he’s fine.”

Derek Norris hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth against Zito
(2-0), who allowed three hits and one run, walked three and struck
out one in 5 1-3 innings. It was his seventh and final spring
start, and mist swirled above the outfield in the early
innings.

”I feel pretty good,” Zito said. ”For me it’s just working
day to day.”

He is slated to pitch the home opener next Friday against St.
Louis – the team he beat in a series-saving Game 5 of the NL
championship series last fall at Busch Stadium.

Zito seems more crisp entering this season than a year ago, if
you ask Bochy. This is the final season of Zito’s $126 million,
seven-year deal he received before the 2007 season, though the
Giants have an $18 million option for 2014 that becomes guaranteed
if he throws 200 innings this year.

”He’s had great focus, the concentration and the confidence,”
Bochy said. ”I’m sure he got it last year and he carried it out
into the spring. He’s been right on really from Game 1. When he
came to camp, he probably threw more than anybody, which is the
norm for Barry. He threw eight or nine times out of the bullpen
before he even came to spring training. He did work hard this
winter.”

NOTES: The teams play their exhibition finale against each other
Saturday afternoon in Oakland. … A’s GM Billy Beane celebrated
his 51st birthday. … A woman jumped into the Giants’ dugout after
the fifth. … After the game, the Giants placed
infielder-outfielder Brett Pill, infielder Tony Abreu and
left-hander Eric Surkamp on the major league disabled list. The
moves were retroactive to March 22. In addition, outfielder
Francisco Peguero and right-hander Jean Machi were optioned to
Fresno. They will have the day off Saturday then report to the
Grizzlies club Sunday.