SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Less than two years after a career-threatening concussion, Giants second base prospect Brock Bond is happy just to be back on a diamond.
The 27-year-old lost nearly a full year of baseball after being struck near the temple by a line drive during batting practice on May 3, 2011, while playing for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. Now, after a fast start this spring and a good season last year at Fresno, he's in the mix to make the Giants' 25-man roster as a spare infielder.
Bond's concussion two seasons ago wasn't his first. He suffered a concussion as a high school quarterback in Missouri, so he didn't think the line drive would lead to any problems. He tried -- unsuccessfully -- to talk his way into that night's lineup.
"The trainers asked me where I was, and I had to think about it for a minute," he said. "They asked me what day it was, and I had to think about that, too."
Bond said the serious symptoms started later that night, when his head started pounding and he couldn't sleep. Soon, he started dealing with memory loss and dizziness when he walked.
Major League Baseball instituted a seven-day disabled list for concussions in 2011, and high-profile players such as Minnesota's Justin Morneau and Seattle's Jason Bay have missed significant time in recent years with post-concussion issues. For the most part, however, baseball has remained immune to the concussion problems that have gripped other sports.
Bond, in his fifth year in the minors at that point, knew plenty about bumps and bruises. But he quickly learned that there's no timetable when it comes to brain injuries.
"I was hoping it would get better, but it just never did," he said. "For a while, doctors were saying we don't know if you can ever play again."
Bond tried to return in August of 2011, but when he joined the Giants' rookie ball camp, he had trouble with coordination. He was sent to see Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh, a concussion expert who has worked closely with Tim Tebow, Sidney Crosby and dozens of other prominent athletes. Collins asked Bond to keep a journal of his symptoms and prescribed new medication that helped him recover.
After missing nearly an entire minor league season and having to pass on playing winter ball in Australia, Bond finally was able to return to game action in 2012, albeit with an equipment change.
Bond now takes the field with thin, soft-shell padding tucked into his baseball cap, adding an extra layer of protection against batted balls. While many -- including Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who took a line drive to the head while pitching for the A's last season -- have complained about protective headgear options, Bond said he has never felt uncomfortable.
"It's not really a big deal," he said. "You don't ever really notice it when you're playing."
Back at the plate after nearly a year off, Bond showed last season that the concussion didn't rob him of the skill set that has edged him close to a big league debut. He hit .332 with a .422 on-base percentage at Fresno last year, continuing a trend -- he has a .410 career OBP -- that has helped him stay in the lineup despite a lack of power.
"That's impressive -- I don't care where you're at," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's intriguing. He'll throw out some good at-bats."
Bond has just four homers in 1,800 minor league at-bats. He surprised with two in his first seven Cactus League at-bats, and has played a solid second base.
"He's not known for his defense, but he's played well here," Bochy said. "It's important for these guys to come in and show they can play on both sides. He's had a great spring."
As the Giants headed for their first off day this spring, Bochy said the races to fill backup spots in the outfield and infield are wide open. And with so many starters off at the World Baseball Classic, the manager is throwing a handful of minor leaguers significant playing time, hoping one or two show enough to merit an opening-day roster spot.
Bond has six hits -- including the two homers -- in his first 12 spring at-bats. But with only one infield spot open and several veterans in camp, he is a long shot to make the roster.
Even if Bond ends up back in Triple-A for what would be the fourth straight season, the fact that he is running neck and neck with veterans can be considered a victory of its own less than two years after the concussion.
"We weren't sure if he would play again," assistant general manager Bobby Evans said. "We thought that maybe he could return physically, but could he return effectively? We wondered if he could come back and compete like he used to, and he has."
Veteran A's catcher John Jaso is learning his third pitching staff in three seasons. page 4