SAN FRANCISCO -- In his pregame meeting with reporters, manager Bruce Bochy preached that without hope, humans would have nothing at all. When it comes to Marco Scutaro, Bochy and the Giants are beginning to have a lot of hope.
Scutaro (lower back strain) played three innings and hit a double in his fifth game in the Arizona League on Wednesday night. He was slated to play five innings on Thursday, marking the first time he'll have played on back-to-back days. If there aren't any drawbacks in the next couple days, Bochy said, Scutaro will be promoted to Triple-A Fresno on Sunday.
"We'll see how he gets through it today; this will be a big test for him," Bochy said. "If all goes well the next couple days, we could see him in Fresno."
The chances he'll return to San Francisco shortly after that appear to be increasing. The Giants hope he'll be able to return to the Majors before the end of his 20-day rehab assignment.
"That'd be awesome news," Bochy said. "If it's not where he can go out there every day, I think two to three times a week works."
Bochy believes the return of Scutaro, who hasn't played in a Major League game this season, would boost the team's bench. The manager said Scutaro's short swing would be effective in a pinch-hitting role and morale, since he's well-liked and has a wealth of experience to help the younger players.
"He's a popular guy in this clubhouse, so I think the guys would like to have him around, too," Bochy said.
In other injury news, Bochy said first baseman Brandon Belt will be activated on Friday. He broke his left thumb May 9 and has been out since. Ehire Adrianza's rehab from a hamstring injury is also progressing, Bochy said.
Bochy shakes up order, drops Blanco to eighth spot
SAN FRANCISCO -- Looking for a spark offensively, manager Bruce Bochy altered the Giants lineup on Thursday. The biggest change came at the top, where Hunter Pence moved from the two-hole to the leadoff spot in place of Gregor Blanco, who was relegated to eighth in the order.
Much like the team as a whole, Blanco has struggled mightily to compensate for the absence of Angel Pagan.
Pagan has posted a .363 on-base percentage this season, and Blanco had hit .140 (6-for-43) in his last 12 games entering Thursday. The lower lineup spot appeared beneficial for Blanco, who went 2-for-4 with a double in the Giants' 7-2 loss on Thursday. Pence went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.
After an 0-for-4 effort by Blanco on Wednesday night, Bochy said his replacement leadoff hitter had become passive in the batter's box and a change was necessary. Thursday marked the 23rd start in the last 24 games for Blanco, who started just 11 of the team's previous 62 games. He said fatigue from the drastic change in usage contributed to his struggles.
"Being a leadoff hitter demands you to be on base every time," Blanco said Thursday morning. "To me, there's got to be more of an energy level. Your energy level has to be 100 percent every time to be able to fight through and get on base. Angel does a great job doing it.
"It's tough to come from the bench and then play a bunch of games. That's not easy. I try to do the same thing he was doing, but it was a little tougher for me."
Subsequently, the offense has struggled. The Giants scored just 19 runs in their 10-game homestand that concluded on Thursday, and they were shut out three times.
"It's a really bad situation right now, because we need as a team to have better at-bats and to start playing like we were the first couple months," Blanco said. "That's why I'm a little mad sometimes -- I know slumps are going to happen, but I don't need a slump right now, I need to be better for the team right now.
"This [stinks], but it is what it is and I just got to continue to play hard, and I know I'm going to get out of it."
Blanco has grown frustrated, but his confidence hasn't waned, he said. And he anticipates big things from his replacement atop the lineup, so he's fine with the change.
"I'm all for the team to win. I know I'm kind of struggling right now, but it's going to be fun to watch a leadoff hitter like [Pence]," Blanco said. "He's a machine and he's going to be great."
Consistent Pence worthy of All-Star consideration
SAN FRANCISCO -- Online-only voting for the 2014 All-Star Game commenced last Thursday, which signaled the arrival of the final push for this year's balloting. The Giants have the National League's second-best record, but no players atop their positions in the voting.
Each of the team's three starting outfielders is in striking distance of the current would-be starters, with Michael Morse in eighth, Angel Pagan in ninth and Hunter Pence 11th.
Pence trails third-place Yasiel Puig by roughly 1.8 million votes, but the Giants' right fielder's consistency -- especially with the rest of the team mired in a slump -- has made him a worthy candidate for inclusion.
Although the Giants have maintained throughout the season that they don't care about All-Star appearances, Pence has a case to be honored a third time in his eight-year career. Entering Thursday, his .295 batting average is his highest since 2011, and he has 29 multihit games.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 8:59 p.m. PT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15, on FOX.
Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanhood19. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.