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Giants continue to battle health issues

After being hit in the crown of the helmet by a 92-MPH Jake Arrieta fastball on Sunday, Aug. 9, San Francisco Giants outfielder Nori Aoki was back in the lineup just three days later.

After passing the mandatory concussion protocol, the 33-year old found himself in his customary leadoff spot. But upon reporting a bout of dizziness, Aoki (.304/.370/.389) was lifted in the fourth inning of San Francisco’s 2-0 loss to the Houston Astros.

Aoki, who came off the disabled list (DL) just 17 days ago after suffering a fractured leg on yet another HBP, is just the next name in what is a growing list of injured Giants.

With what is likely the Giants’ biggest stretch of games starting with a four-game series against wild card contending Washington Nationals to start on Thursday, Aoki appears to be lost for seven days.

If team’s stolen base leader does find himself on the DL, he would join second baseman Joe Panik, outfielder Angel Pagan, catcher Andrew Susac and pitchers Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum and Mike Leake.

With a combined nine all-star game appearances unable to contribute in the immediate future, the Giants now view an already daunting stretch of games a bit more worrisome.

After Wednesday’s game, manager Bruce Bochy discussed Aoki’s health:

“We’re treating him, at this time, for a concussion. He showed symptoms, but he’ll be reevaluated (Thursday) then we’ll decide what we’re going to do. … (The DL) is a definite possibility. The seven-day concussion list, there’s a good possibility he’ll be going on that.”

Prior to the very same game, Bochy gave a rundown of his team’s walking wounded.

At the top of that list was deadline acquisition Leake (9-6, 3.52 ERA) who, after allowing two runs in 6.1 innings in his Giants debut, was sent to the DL with a strained left hamstring.

According to Bochy, the righty will be ready on August 22, the day he is eligible to make his return. The skipper even added that the starter has begun his sprinting program.

Along with Leake, starting pitcher Hudson (6-8, 4.80) also appears to be nearing a potential return. The 40-year-old right hander was sent to the DL on July 31 with a strained right shoulder.

Bochy believes the hurler is likely to make a return fairly soon:

“We’re actually talking to him about going to (Triple-A) Sacramento Friday to get a couple innings. I’m confident that is going to happen.”

Also among the star-studded DL is two-time CY Young Award winner and four-time all star Lincecum (7-4, 4.13). The 31-year old joined Hudson in a bullpen session prior to Tuesday’s game.

But, according to Bochy, his progression has not got quite as swimmingly as his elder:

“(His bullpen session) went fine. He’s going to throw another one then we’ll see how he’s doing after that, then we may ramp it up a little. He’s not quite ready. … But I can say he’s real close.”

When the trio of starters do return, 2012 NL MVP catcher Buster Posey will be waiting to frame the corners for them. But Posey’s normal backup, Susac (.241/.309/.435), also finds himself on the road to recovery.

The Sacramento native was placed on the DL on July 19, with a sprained right thumb. But the 25-year-old backstop was in the clubhouse Wednesday being evaluated by Giants head trainer Dave Groeschner.

And though he is not quite ready to get his rehab going, Bochy is confident that Susac is “ready to get this thing going.”

Perhaps the biggest vacancy in the Giants lineup is the one left by second-year player and first-time all star Panik (.309/.374/.443).

For much of the season, the 24-year old has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Giants offense.

His ability to get on base in front of third baseman Matt Duffy, Posey and outfielder Hunter Pence has been key to the offense’s success while his defense has him in the middle of the gold glove discussion.

Unfortunately, however, Panik is not as close as the others to returning, according to Bochy:

“He’s not doing much right now, riding the bike a little bit and that’ll continue. We’ll get through this week, then we’ll start doing some baseball activities. … He got a cortisone shot to help him out a little.”

While the training staff is taking it slowly with Panik, they have ruled out the possibility that the lower back inflammation that sent him to the DL is nothing more serious.

Finally, Pagan (.258/.290/.308), who has played through nagging injuries for much of the season, was placed on the DL on Aug. 11 as the patella tendinitis in his right knee became too much.

According to Bochy, Pagan may be ready to get going before his 15 days are complete:

“We know he’s down for at least three to four days. It could be a little longer but it’s hard to be sure right now. (He’ll) just get a little time to rest it more, then maybe get some rehab games.”

Though none of the current injuries seem to put any particular player’s season in jeopardy, the season of the team may be on life support.

As the Giants head into their roughest stretch of games all season, they will need to find a way to beat nearly every National League playoff contender while shorthanded.

Thus a six month season has come down to the reigning champs’ roster depth over the course of a three-week battle.

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