SF@PIT: Arias fires to get a big out at home plate

SAN FRANCISCO -- Joaquin Arias and Tony Abreu both found themselves in unfamiliar positions on Wednesday, with Arias starting at shortstop and earning just the seventh start in the No. 5 spot in his career, and Abreu starting at third base for the first time this season.

"I've said this going into the season, a player like Arias is so valuable because you can put him anywhere," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's a good fielder, a good shortstop so it's good to have that luxury of having a guy that versatile so gifted defensively.

"[Abreu] has played a lot of third base [in the past]. He's been taking ground balls there, so hopefully we get some good defense from him. He's another guy who's valuable because he can play anywhere on the infield, just like [Nick] Noonan."

Arias, Abreu and Noonan have offered Bochy flexibility in recent weeks with injuries to Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval and, most recently, Brandon Crawford.

Giants waiting for lineup to return to full strength

SD@SF: Crawford injures hand with headfirst slide

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants could see their regular lineup in action, possibly as early as Monday when they begin a three-game series in Los Angeles.

Manager Bruce Bochy announced that outfielder Angel Pagan, who has been out since May 25 with a strained left hamstring, will begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Single-A San Jose. He'll play five innings then and seven Friday.

"We'll see where he's at with his bat and if he looks comfortable and thinks he's ready, he could join us at the end of this homestand," Bochy said. "If he needs more time, we'll give him more time. It's all about how his leg feels and how he's swinging the bat."

Pablo Sandoval, who was out of the lineup Wednesday for the 10th straight game with a strained left foot, will begin his rehab assignment with San Jose on Saturday, where he will either be the designated hitter or play five innings at third base. On Sunday, he will play five innings.

"If all goes well, he'll join us for the flight down to L.A. Sunday night," Bochy said.

Brandon Crawford was out of Wednesday's lineup after spraining his right index and middle fingers and Bochy said he's doubtful for Thursday's series opener against the Marlins, although he was available today to pinch-run and bunt.

"They're two pretty important fingers," said Crawford, who initially tried to stay in Tuesday's game after the injury.

Crawford said the play at second base won't dissuade him from sliding headfirst in the future.

"I've slid headfirst on steals my whole life and that's the first time I've done that," he said.

Setup man Santiago Casilla, who has been out since May 20 after having a cyst removed from his right knee, is also improving and could rejoin the club in a few weeks.

"He's doing well," Bochy said. "He'll throw a light [bullpen] tomorrow, a full one Saturday and could throw to hitters Monday."

Bochy said the team will evaluate Casilla next Wednesday and the reliever, who has posted a 1.89 ERA in 21 games this season, could begin his rehab assignment in 10-12 days.

Belt starting to heat up at the plate

SD@SF: Belt bashes game-tying RBI double to right

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is known for his fine defense but, in the absence of much of the lineup's clout lately, he has found his swing as well.

Belt went 3-for-4 in Tuesday's 5-4 win and ripped a double off the right-field wall on a 2-0 fastball that scored the game-tying run.

"I try to stay as relaxed as possible [in late-game situations] and let my hands do the work," said Belt, who has raised his batting average to a season-high .264 entering Wednesday's game with seven hits in his last three games. "If you get tense, you take yourself out of it.

"In that [eighth] inning, it was nice. It seems like a while since we've done that."