Giles sees first game action

Giles sees first game action

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Right fielder Brian Giles returned to action on Friday afternoon, albeit on a windswept practice field in a Minor League game.

The spectators might not all have recognized him -- one fan turned to another and wondered who the new guy named Giles was -- but the Chicago Cubs Minor League pitchers he faced certainly did.

Giles, who had surgery on his right knee at the start of the offseason, batted four times in the first three innings and received a paucity of hittable pitches. He faced four different pitchers and hit a run-scoring single up the middle, walked twice and struck out looking.

"It was nice to get out there and see some pitches in a game situation," Giles said, while admitting it was frustrating that he didn't get to swing the bat more.

"He almost got hit in the head with a 3-1 pitch from a lefty," bench coach Craig Colbert said. "A-ball pitcher, big league hitter, [the pitcher] might be a little nervous."

Even so, Colbert said Giles looked healthy.

"His lower half," Colbert said, "just swinging and how he was taking pitches, looked good."

Giles did not play defense or run the bases, and he won't Saturday either, when he plays in another Minor League game. But he could be doing so by Monday in Tucson, Ariz., weather permitting, as rain is a possibility on Sunday and Monday.

"Maybe he'll pinch-hit on Sunday in Tucson," Colbert said, "Monday and Tuesday, we'll probably get him out there [in the field] ... if the conditions are right, we'll run him out there for three innings, probably two or three at-bats."

It's all part of the plan Giles and the Padres have in place to get him ready for the regular season.

"Opening Day is our date," Giles said. "We've kind of got a schedule from here until we're done with camp with the idea of being ready on the 31st [of March]."

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Giles said his knee didn't affect his ability to move around last year, but it took away his flexibility and swelled up after games. Giles batted .271 with 42 extra-base hits and 64 walks in 483 at-bats.

Giles is not a stranger to abbreviated springs, something he experienced after a work stoppage led to shortened spring and regular seasons in 1995. He expects to get enough work this spring.

"We've calculated where I'll get around 35 to 40 at-bats," Giles said, "which is maybe 10 at-bats shy [of ideal]."

Giles said he has no intentions of favoring his knee or playing at less than full speed, and he's confident he will be ready to play at a high level by Opening Day.

So far, Giles hasn't had any problems in his recovery, but game action will be the real test.

"In the drills, it's fine," he said. "I really won't be able to tell until I get out there in a big league environment, running around. ... I need to go out and pound on it and see how it comes back the next day."

Mark Thoma is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.