SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In talking about the goals for his final Cactus League start, Ryan Vogelsong also summed up the Giants' main concern for the lengthy spring.
"Don't get hurt," Vogelsong said flatly. "Don't get hurt."
During 44 days in the desert, the reigning World Series champions learned that "hurt" can be a relative term. The training staff dealt with everything from blisters to ulnar neuritis, but the Giants are optimistic that the last lingering injury, Pablo Sandoval's elbow pain, will heal in time to give them a full complement of players when they kick off the season on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sandoval played catch Wednesday, hit from both sides of the plate and took ground balls.
"He felt great," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was pretty excited about how he felt."
As the Giants leave their spring wounds in Scottsdale, their closest competitors in the National League West face glaring absences.
The Dodgers have cut plenty of big checks but can do nothing but wait when it comes to All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who had surgery on a thumb ligament and is expected to be out until mid-May. Right-hander Chad Billingsley and prized offseason acquisition Zack Greinke both have had their first starts pushed back.
The Arizona Diamondbacks rebuilt in the offseason, only to see their new-look team fall apart in spring training's final days. Leadoff hitter Adam Eaton, an electric rookie, could miss up to two months with a sprained left elbow. Former Giant Cody Ross (calf) likely will begin the season on the disabled list and utility infielder Willie Bloomquist will miss several weeks after straining his oblique.
The San Diego Padres entered camp as a sleeper to make the division a four-team race, but they'll begin the season without reigning National League RBI leader Chase Headley (thumb fracture). Headley's fill-in, Logan Forsythe, will likely join him on the D.L. because of plantar fasciitis.
"It's not looking too good in the short term," Padres manager Bud Black told reporters this week when talking about injuries.
Bochy has addressed injuries on a daily basis, but was pleased with the health of his team as the Giants prepared to fly back to San Francisco.
"We had a couple nicks here and there," he said. "But, overall, we're coming out pretty good."
The list of key contributors who got treatment includes Tim Lincecum (finger), Matt Cain (knee), Marco Scutaro (back), Brandon Belt (neck), Hector Sanchez (shoulder and calf), Andres Torres (oblique and foot), Javier Lopez (wrist) and Jose Mijares (elbow).
Not only are the Giants in better shape than the rest of the division's contenders, they're far healthier than they were a year ago at this time. Catcher Buster Posey's surgically repaired ankle is now a nonissue, and a year after missing the start of the season with a back injury, Vogelsong looks strong.
Hunter Pence (.365 average) and Brandon Crawford (.357) had big springs, but nobody was as hot as Belt. For the first time, Belt came to Scottsdale with a guaranteed full-time job, and he was red-hot throughout the long spring. Belt hit his MLB-best eighth homer on Wednesday and finished the Cactus League season with a .448 average.
Could Belt's time in the desert have gone any better?
"Not really," he said. "I feel like I'm exactly where I want to be right now. And you look around the lineup and see other people also firing on all cylinders.
"That's the way you want it at this time of year."
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