GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Tim Lincecum's troublesome blister is steadily improving.
"It doesn't feel like a bee sting anymore," Lincecum said, smiling.
Still, Lincecum and the Giants decided to remain cautious Thursday. The right-hander was scratched from a scheduled start for the second time in six days as he continued to get treatment for the blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
Instead of facing the Cleveland Indians, Lincecum played a spirited game of catch with Barry Zito and threw 26 pitches off a bullpen mound. Afterward, Lincecum said he's now aiming for a Saturday return to game action.
Lincecum threw all his pitches during the bullpen session, including a slider and changeup that aggravate the blister. He stopped several times to look down at his hand but said he didn't have any issues.
"Today was good news," he said. "I felt good the whole time. (The blister) held up."
Lincecum has dealt with blister problems in the past, most notably during the 2010 postseason. Back then he pitched through the discomfort, but the Giants can afford to let this blister heal. Lincecum has made just one Cactus League appearance, throwing 1¿1/3 innings on Feb. 26. With spring training extended this year to account for the World Baseball Classic, Lincecum still has nearly a month before April 3, his first scheduled regular-season start.
"There's all this time left," manager Bruce Bochy said. "(The blister) is a lot better. Is it perfect? No."
Lincecum came in on Wednesday's off day to continue to work on toughening the skin where the blister lies. He said the recovery process has been longer than expected, but he remains confident that he can face the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.
"The blister was so deep," he said. "It could have become a further problem if I had (pitched) today. I'm definitely looking forward to getting back on the field and throwing to live batters."
"They're the World Series champs," he said. "Watching from afar, it looked special here. It looked fun."
Gaudin is hoping to join in, and through nearly a month of spring training, he has done little to hurt his cause. Gaudin took the ball on short notice Thursday because of Lincecum's blister and threw three shutout innings in his first start of the spring, giving up two hits and striking out two.
The 29-year-old has given up two runs over 8¿1/3 innings this spring and is a strong candidate to make the opening-day roster as a long reliever. It's a role Gaudin is very comfortable in.
"I think it's a very important role," he said. "Sometimes it gets overlooked, but it's not an easy test. You can go in there and save the bullpen and eat those innings up, and that's how you win the next two games, or win the next week."
Gaudin, who pitched for the A's from 2006-08, could be called upon to fill the role Guillermo Mota had in recent years. Gaudin threw at least three innings on six occasions last year for Miami and has made 75 career starts. He has a 4.63 career ERA and has been traded three times and released four times, but the Giants like what they've seen from him this spring.
"He gave us what we were hoping to see," Bochy said. "He's throwing well. He's got some pitches to work with, and he commands the ball fairly well."
Gaudin likes what he's seen of the Giants, too. He said it's easy to see why the team has won two World Series titles in the past three years.
"This is one of the hardest-working springs I've been around," said Gaudin, whose wife is from Benicia. "Everybody picks everybody up. They work hard on and off the field."
The Indians broke the game open in the fifth when Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi hit back-to-back homers off prospect Heath Hembree.