Marco Scutaro took every step to prepare, mentally and physically, Thursday night.
Not because the Fresno Grizzlies were facing a Pacific Coast League division leader in the Sacramento River Cats, but because it was the final game before Scutaro's long-anticipated return to the majors.
He and his temporary Grizzlies teammates were on the winning side of a 3-2 victory at Chukchansi Park. But for Scutaro it was off to San Francisco, where the second baseman is expected to be in the lineup Friday or Saturday after recovering from a back injury that has sidelined him the entire big league season.
Unlike during Wednesday's pregame, Scutaro didn't go out and give fans autographs.
Instead, the 38-year-old infielder — serving as the designated hitter Thursday — worked on his focus in the clubhouse, finally popping into the dugout midway through the top of the first.
How much he'll help the struggling Giants or even play remains to be determined.
"Backs are frustrating; you can't really predict them," Scutaro said. "One day you feel great, the next you wake up sore. That's the frustrating part."
Scutaro hit in the No. 2 spot and could be seen before his first at-bat doing lunging stretches on the dugout steps, apparently hoping to relieve the strain on his back.
He struck out on four pitches, then stretched again on the steps before darting into the clubhouse. It became a familiar cycle for Scutaro, who spent more time in the clubhouse than in the dugout in between at-bats.
In his next trip to the plate, Scutaro made contact, but it was a liner straight to Sacramento third baseman Jose Martinez to end the third inning.
In the sixth, Scutaro showed some patience, taking the first two strikes. But he then watched the third pitch blow by him for another strikeout.
His final at-bat in the eighth ended painfully. Scutaro didn't even get a chance to swing after he was pegged in the back by an Austin House pitch. But that did give him a chance to get in some running, moving to second on Adam Duvall's two-out single before the mild rally came to an end.
Scutaro finished 1 for 10 with the Grizzlies after starting his rehab assignment by going 2 for 12 for the Giants' Arizona League team.
"I'm still getting baseball ready," Scutaro said. "I have to put my time in, see more pitches and get on base. That's the only way to really get ready."
Despite not playing in the field, Scutaro hopes to help the Giants with his glove and bat as the team tries to stay in the National League West race. DH'ing won't be much of an option the rest of the way.
"I want to go back and help my teammates win games somehow. With any little way I can contribute I'll be happy," he said. "Hopefully everything goes well, that way tomorrow or Saturday I can go out and play second. But we'll see."
It's been a long wait.
"I miss everybody." Scutaro said. "I miss the clubhouse, I miss the players. It's been a while and I'm looking forward to go back and have some fun."
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