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Giants defeat Arizona 8-6; team staying in good health

Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitches during the third inning of Wednesday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, Ariz.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 8:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 8:44 p.m.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In talking about the goals for his final Cactus League start, Ryan Vogelsong also summed up the Giants’ main concern for the lengthy spring.

“Don’t get hurt,” Vogelsong said flatly. “Don’t get hurt.”

During 44 days in the desert, the reigning World Series champions learned that “hurt” can be a relative term. The training staff dealt with everything from blisters to ulnar neuritis, but the Giants are optimistic that the last lingering injury, Pablo Sandoval’s elbow pain, will heal in time to give them a full complement of players when they kick off the season on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sandoval played catch Wednesday, hit from both sides of the plate and took ground balls.

“He felt great,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s good news. He was pretty excited about how he felt.”

As the Giants leave their spring wounds in Scottsdale, their closest competitors in the National League West face glaring absences.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have cut plenty of big checks but can do nothing but wait when it comes to All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who had surgery on a thumb ligament and is expected to be out until mid-May. Right-hander Chad Billingsley and prized offseason acquisition Zack Greinke have both had their first starts pushed back.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, two years removed for a division title, rebuilt in the offseason, only to see the new-look team fall apart in spring training’s final days.

Leadoff hitter Adam Eaton, an electric rookie, could miss up to two months with a sprained left elbow. Former Giant Cody Ross (calf) likely will begin the season on the disabled list and utility infielder Willie Bloomquist will miss several weeks after straining his oblique Tuesday night. The Diamondbacks traded outfielders Chris Young (A’s) and Justin Upton (Atlanta Braves) in the offseason and now could begin the season with a patchwork trio of Jason Kubel, A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra.

The San Diego Padres entered camp as a sleeper to make the division a four-team race, but they’ll begin the season without Chase Headley (thumb fracture), the reigning National League RBI leader. Headley’s fill-in, Logan Forsythe, will likely join him on the D.L. because of plantar fasciitis.

“It’s not looking too good in the short term,” Padres manager Bud Black told reporters this week when talking about injuries.

Bochy has addressed injuries on a daily basis, but was pleased with the health of his team as the Giants prepared to board a chartered jet back to San Francisco.

“We had a couple nicks here and there,” he said. “But overall we’re coming out pretty good.”

The list of key contributors who got treatment covers nearly every chapter of an anatomy book and includes Tim Lincecum (finger), Matt Cain (knee), Marco Scutaro (back), Brandon Belt (neck), Hector Sanchez (shoulder and calf), Andres Torres (oblique and foot), Javier Lopez (wrist) and Jose Mijares (elbow).

Not only are the Giants in better shape than the rest of the division’s contenders, they’re far healthier than they were a year ago at this time. Catcher Buster Posey’s surgically repaired ankle is now a non-issue, and a year after missing the start of the season with a back injury, Vogelsong looks strong following a stint with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

The Giants sent eight players to the tournament and all came back without issue.

Those who stayed behind showed that the lineup is just as ready on the field as off.

Hunter Pence (.365 average) and Brandon Crawford (.357) had big springs, but nobody was as hot as Belt. For the first time, Belt came to Scottsdale with a guaranteed full-time job, and he was red-hot throughout the long spring. Belt hit his MLB-best eighth homer on Wednesday and finished the Cactus League season with a .448 average.

Could Belt’s time in the desert have gone any better?

“Not really,” he said. “I feel like I’m exactly where I want to be right now. And you look around the lineup and see other people also firing on all cylinders. That’s the way you want it at this time of year.”

GIANTS 8, DIAMONDBACKS 6

Brandon Belt hit his eighth spring home run and Madison Bumgarner threw five effective innings and the San Francisco Giants wrapped up their spring training in Arizona with a win over the Diamondbacks

Hunter Pence also homered for the Giants. Nick Noonan, trying to make the team, had a triple, double and single for the World Series champions, who open a three-game exhibition series against Oakland on Thursday night in San Francisco.

Bumgarner, the No. 2 starter in the Giants’ rotation, allowed two runs on six hits, striking out six and walking one.

Belt’s solo shot off Heath Bell was his fourth homer in his last four games.

Alfredo Marte and Nick Ahmed homered for Arizona, playing its final spring training home game at Salt River Fields.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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