SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Since being ready for the regular season is infinitely more essential than being ready for the start of Spring Training, the Giants and second baseman Marco Scutaro agreed that he'll skip some drills in the first few weeks of camp to focus on soothing and strengthening his back.
Scutaro, the Most Valuable Player of the Giants' triumph over St. Louis in the 2012 National League Championship Series, weathered a variety of discomfort last season. He endured neck and back pain. He also sustained a damaged tendon in his left pinkie when he was hit by a pitch from Pittsburgh's Tony Watson on June 11. The pinkie ultimately required surgical insertion of a pin to prevent permanent disfiguring. Scutaro continued playing, but altering his grip on his bat placed undue pressure on his left ring finger, which also bothered him.
Scutaro, 38, said Tuesday upon reporting to the Giants' Scottsdale Stadium complex that he "pretty much" can swing a bat without being troubled by his fingers. His back is a different matter.
"It seems like when you have a bad back, your whole body feels [bad]," he said. "It's one of those things that's annoying, but you have to deal with it."
The time for dealing with it is now, nearly seven weeks before the Giants' March 31 regular-season opener at Arizona.
"We're probably going to take it easy for the first week or so. ... Get my body ready for 162 games," Scutaro said. Flashing his dry wit, he added, "Sounds easy, huh?"
Scutaro's unlikely to appear in 162 games. Manager Bruce Bochy plans on monitoring Scutaro's physical condition closely and will rest him periodically to keep him fresh and maximize his effectiveness.
"We all get older," Bochy said. "He could use more breaks this year. We have the bench to give him some [rest]. Once the season starts, he's not one to want them. But I think it's going to be important."
Bochy said that backup infielder Joaquin Arias likely will receive most of the activity at second base when Scutaro sits. During Cactus League exhibitions, second base also could serve as a proving ground for Tony Abreu and Ehire Adrianza, who both are out of Minor League options and could be competing for the same utility role.
During the offseason, Scutaro worked on strengthening his core muscles, which he figured would help his back. Obviously, he needs further attention. Scutaro called the process "frustrating," though he said that his back felt better than it did at this juncture last year.
Scutaro somehow managed to hit .297 in 2013, though his overall production plummeted. He homered twice, drove in 31 runs and recorded an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .726 in 127 games last year. By contrast, he batted .362 with three homers, 44 RBIs and an .859 OPS in 61 games after the Giants acquired him from Colorado in July 2012.
Playing adequate defense also challenged Scutaro.
"I don't want to use my back as an excuse, but I don't think I played defense the way I wanted to," he said. Expressing his desire to improve, he added, "That's how you win games. With our pitching staff, we have to make sure we're able to make plays."
Bochy, however, attributed Scutaro's defensive lapses to his deteriorating health.
"You hear me say this so many times -- it's hard enough to play this game when you're feeling great and you're 100 percent," Bochy said.
As last year proved, Scutaro tried to persevere.
"He was battling through a lot of pain," center fielder Angel Pagan said. "But Marco is one of the best competitors I've known and one of the toughest guys I know. He's going to play regardless. Unless it's broken, he's going to be in the lineup. He showed it last year. He's a veteran and he knows how to do it."