SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Even if Pablo Sandoval is physically ready for Opening Day, the Giants must continue to monitor him closely.
The Giants have learned that their All-Star third baseman has not only an inflamed ulnar nerve in his right elbow, but also a bone spur in the back of his elbow that head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner described as "chronic." Groeschner explained that many players develop bone spurs and routinely cope with them.
Still, the latest developments regarding Sandoval lengthened his already considerable list of health problems, including broken hamate bones in both hands, shoulder trouble and his ongoing struggle to control his weight.
Groeschner emphasized that Sandoval's ulnar nerve, which affects his short-term playing status, was a much more urgent concern than the bone spur. The nerve, said Groeschner, "is kind of our main focus." Asked whether the bone spur might require postseason surgery, Groeschner said, "The way it is now, I'd say no."
Asked if he would be able to play in the April 1 opener at Los Angeles, Sandoval replied, "Yeah. I hope so." Both manager Bruce Bochy and Groeschner expressed confidence that the switch-hitter will start the season on time. Having thrived at the plate while playing winter ball in Venezuela, nine games in the Cactus League and for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, Sandoval, the Giants believe, should need relatively few at-bats to prepare himself sufficiently for big league pitching.
"He has all next week to get back in there," Groeschner said.
Sandoval, 26, will be evaluated on Saturday. If he's deemed fit for baseball activities, he could resume throwing. Until then, he'll continue to rest his arm and receive intensive treatment on the elbow.
"Hopefully the thing will calm down by this weekend and we can get back to work," Bochy said.
Losing Sandoval, the Most Valuable Player of last year's World Series, would weaken San Francisco's lineup considerably. Joaquin Arias would serve as a suitable replacement defensively, but the batting order would be thinned as Bochy would have to move Buster Posey, Hunter Pence or Marco Scutaro into the No. 3 spot, leaving a void elsewhere.
Concern over Sandoval arose on Sunday, when he was scratched from the lineup against Colorado. He mentioned that afternoon that his right fingertips felt numb, and he reported feeling discomfort Saturday while making a throw to second base. Tuesday, he said that he had regained sensation in his fingers and his elbow felt improved.
"There's still pain, but not like the first day," Sandoval said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.