SAN FRANCISCO -- Travis Ishikawa revealed Friday that the Giants actually tried to keep him within their organization after last season, which he spent at Triple-A Fresno.

But Ishikawa, a homegrown Giant who played on the 2010 World Series-winning team, chose to avoid the first-base glut that includes Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt and Brett Pill. That led Ishikawa to sign with Milwaukee as a free agent last December. Despite being a non-roster player in Spring Training, Ishikawa made the Opening Day squad.

"It came down to trying to figure out the best scenario for me," said Ishikawa, who spent 10 seasons in the Giants system and still lives in Danville during the offseason. "I felt like Milwaukee was my best chance to make the club and be able to contribute at the big league level."

Speaking nearly three hours before Friday's first pitch, Ishikawa admitted that his heart and mind were stirred by facing his former team.

"I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to feel tonight," said Ishikawa, who started at first base and batted seventh. "I've been excited all day today."

Ishikawa's primary postseason contribution in 2010 occurred in Game 3 of the Division Series at Atlanta, when he drew a pinch-hit walk in the ninth inning and scored the tying run. The Giants proceeded to win, 3-2. Ishikawa also started at first base in Game 4 of the World Series, which the Giants won, 4-0.

"Gosh, you win the World Series, that's something you're never going to forget," Ishikawa said.

Sandoval 'doing great' after hand surgery

SAN FRANCISCO -- Third baseman Pablo Sandoval's surgery Friday to remove the fractured hamate bone from his left hand proceeded successfully, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Dr. Tim McAdams performed the hour-long procedure in Palo Alto.

"He's doing great," Bochy said of Sandoval, who visited the Giants' clubhouse after his surgery.

Sandoval sounded philosophical as he spoke briefly to the Spanish-language baseball blog Beisbol por Gotas.

"There are things God puts in your journey of life," he said. "You can't fool around with your health."

Sandoval, who initially felt discomfort last Sunday but didn't leave the lineup until Wednesday, is expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks. Conor Gillaspie replaced Sandoval at third base for the second straight day Friday, when the Giants opened a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Giants try to balance development with winning

SAN FRANCISCO -- Working with a less-experienced roster than usual, Giants manager Bruce Bochy and his coaches know that they must continue to teach the club's rookies and near-rookies about baseball's subtleties while keeping their eyes on the prize, as the saying goes.

"We're in this to win games," Bochy said Friday. "But part of this is developing [players], because we are young."

Among position players, the Giants have three rookies (third baseman Conor Gillaspie, first baseman-outfielder Brett Pill and catcher Hector Sanchez) and two performers with less than a year of Major League experience (first baseman Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford). Balancing the priorities of winning and nurturing likely will prompt Bochy to remain creative in devising his daily lineup. Including Friday, the Giants have used 21 different lineups in 25 games.

Younger Giants also can expect to undergo occasional tutorials that extend beyond the early work that proceeds virtually every day. Example: Crawford, who has struggled at bat and afield (.208 average, six errors), practiced fielding grounders intensively with bench coach Ron Wotus on Friday and was not in the lineup. With left-hander Randy Wolf pitching Saturday, the left-handed-batting Crawford won't return to the lineup until Sunday.