Bailey, Lee return to lineup, on track for Opening Day

TEMPE, Ariz. — In his return to the lineup after a week away, Jung Hoo Lee didn’t look to have missed a beat.

In three chances against Angels starter Tyler Anderson, the Giants’ center fielder lined a single, drew a walk and ripped a double before being lifted for a pinch-runner in his first game back since his left hamstring tightened up on him. He missed the past five games before returning to baseball activity Monday, which cleared him to return to the lineup for Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Angels.

“It’s amazing that you sit around for that long and you have a left-handed pitcher out there that you’ve never seen in your life and put together the at-bats that he did, it’s pretty impressive,” manager Bob Melvin said. “The at-bats were fantastic.”

Reaching base three more times, Lee raised his Cactus League batting average to .400 (10-for-25), with a 1.083 OPS, in 10 games.

With Justin Han interpreting, Lee said in Korean that he has “no limits” physically from the hamstring. He also thanked the Giants organization “for taking very good care” of him, “which helped a lot getting adjusted baseball-wise.” He is expected to lead off and play center field when the Giants begin their season next Thursday against the Padres.

“Now,” he said, “I’m just looking forward to Opening Day.”

In more positive developments on the health front, Patrick Bailey and Blake Sabol also returned to the field.

Bailey caught five innings, going hitless in three at-bats, in his first game back since being struck in his throwing hand by a foul ball. Sabol subbed in for Michael Conforto in left field, doubling and scoring a run in his lone at-bat. It was his first game since March 5, when he strained his groin running to first base.

Bailey said it took about four to five days for the swelling and discoloration in his right hand to fully subside after Freddie Freeman’s errant foul ball. He had “no issues” and felt “100%” behind the plate for Jordan Hicks’ fourth start of the spring, which got off to a rocky start but finished in dominant fashion.

Hicks struck out six batters over 4⅔ innings, throwing 84 pitches, but also issued three walks. Two of those free passes came in the first inning, while he recorded all six of his strikeouts in the span of seven batters, starting with getting Mike Trout swinging for the second out of the third inning.

“The arm felt so electric, I just wasn’t sitting in my back leg very much,” Hicks said, explaining that fatigue began to sit in during his final inning.

After recording the second out of the fifth inning, Hicks motioned for Bailey to come to the mound. After an extended meeting, pitching coach Bryan Price and trainer L.J. Petra emerged from the dugout and made their way to the mound, too. Hicks quickly waved them off, and they walked back to the dugout smiling.

“He just needed a breather. Basically that’s what he said. I need a blow right now,” Bailey said.

Hicks faced one more batter, issuing his third walk, before Melvin came to get him. With one more tuneup before the regular season, Hicks said he hopes to up his pitch count to about 95 in his next outing.

“You want to be feeling good, and it’s spring training, and also not throwing last outing (when they were rained out), all those things combined, I just felt like it was best and obviously they did pull me after that hitter,” Hicks said. “I feel like that’s the right move and we’ll build on to the next one.”

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