SF Giants lineup: Sandoval returns, Pagan still out

Pablo Sandoval is in Bruce Bochy’s lineup tonight against Toronto after missing three games with a strain in his foot. The Panda missed the entire series in St. Louis, with Joaquin Arias and Nick Noonan holding down the duties at third base. The initial diagnosis had the Giants entertaining the possibility of keeping Sandoval out for an extra week, so it’s worth keeping an eye on how he moves around tonight.

While Panda’ return is a surprise, so is Angel Pagan’s continued absence from the lineup with a hamstring/knee injury. The Giants center fielder has been out for 10 days, with an MRI showing bursitis in his knee. It has been a frustrating waiting game, with words from Bochy that Pagan may have been available to pinch hit in certain games. A trip to the disabled list at this point seems useless, but keep in mind the Giants will remain a position player down on their bench.

Andres Torres has started in left field in every game since in Pagan’s absence, and has been productive across those eight games. The 35-year-old has posted a .310/.375/.379 in that span, but funnily enough has not scored any of the 12 times he has reached base.

Brandon Belt returns to the starting lineup with right-hander Josh Johnson on the mound. In what has become an obvious platoon, the young first baseman sat Sunday in favor of Brett Pill with lefty Tyler Lyons on the mound. Hat tip to Grant Brisbee from McCovey Chronicles, who pointed out that Belt has started just once against a lefty with Pill on the roster. He also noted that Belt notched the game winning hit on Sunday, a seventh-inning double, against left-handed Randy Choate. It may take some time, but the Giants should eventually notice that Belt hits lefties better than Pill despite the side of the plate from which they bat.

The first game action Giants fans will see at AT&T Park will be Tim Lincecum facing Melky Carbrera. The former Giants will bat leadoff in his return to AT&T Park, where he spent most of a season ravaging its alleys and inspiring fans to dress up like idiots. Or the other way around, I suppose. The Giants already saw Melky three weeks ago, with Bochy handing over the World Series ring he earned for being on the 2012 squad. Cabrera was 5-8 in the two-game set in Toronto, showing flashes of what made him great as a Giant. Overall though, he is hitting just .281/.325/.373 in 2013, nothing like his 2011 season in Kansas City or last year’s blistering performance.

Here’s the lineup for today against Johnson (0-1, 6.86 ERA):

CF Blanco

2B Scutaro

3B Sandoval

C Posey

RF Pence

1B Belt

LF Torres

SS Crawford

RHP Lincecum (3-5, 5.12 ERA)