SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Marco Scutaro can once again straighten the pinkie on his left hand, thanks to a pin that was inserted for several weeks over the offseason. An emphasis on winter core workouts has his back feeling fine for the first time in a year.
But as he enters his 19th season as a professional, Scutaro knows that there's a big difference between health on reporting day and health in the middle of May.
"The back, it's frustrating," Scutaro said. "It's hard to figure out. You go to bed feeling good and you wake up tight. It seems like, when you have a bad back, your whole body feels like crap."
The back tightness was just one of Scutaro's problems last season, although it was the primary reason he played just 127 games in the first year of a three-year contract. Another big factor: In a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 11, Scutaro was hit on the hand by a Tony Watson pitch. The Giants feared he might miss months; instead, Scutaro was in the lineup a week later after deciding to play through "mallet" finger, a condition that left him with a curled pinkie.
On Tuesday, Scutaro said he had no regrets about playing through the injury.
"I think I made the right decision," he said. "I'm one of those guys that's going to show up to the field and try my best. I feel happy with what I did. I can look myself in the mirror and say I tried my best."
While compensating for the injured pinkie, Scutaro ended up hurting a tendon on his left ring finger. He was still able to hit a team-leading .297, although his power numbers, never high in the first place, took a dip.
Scutaro's biggest issues came defensively. He had the fourth-most errors (13) among National League second basemen and often had trouble with routine plays.
"I don't want to use the back as an excuse defensively," Scutaro said. "I don't think I played defense the way I want to. I want to defensively improve this year. That's how you win games, pitching and defense."
Scutaro, 38, said he didn't take many swings over the offseason, focusing instead on getting healthy. He has a simple swing that won't take much maintenance, and he said that he hasn't thought about his injured back during the few cage sessions he has had. The Giants, however, have spent plenty of time worrying about Scutaro's back.
"We'll ease him into it," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I don't see him participating in a lot of (Cactus League) games."
Bochy said Scutaro will get more scheduled days off this season but wouldn't put a set number on how many starts he would like Scutaro to make. The veteran talked his way into the lineup a handful of times last season, but on Tuesday, Scutaro was focused on rest. It will be about two weeks before he joins full workouts.
"There's no reason to rush right now. I'll get ready for 162 games. It sounds easy ..." Scutaro said, his quiet voice trailing off. "I'll go day by day."
Or morning by morning.
Belt had flown to Florida for Wednesday's scheduled hearing and was about eight hours away from becoming the Giants' first arbitration case to be heard since A.J. Pierzynski in 2004.
General manager Brian Sabean said the two sides spoke several times Tuesday, but a resolution wasn't reached at that point. The teams were quite a bit apart -- the Giants offered $2.05 million and Belt was asking for $3.6 million.
Sabean indicated that these negotiations might open the door for a multiyear pact later this spring.
"We like the player," Sabean said. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League. We'd like to keep him around a long time."
SIGNS OF SLOWING?
A look at Marco Scutaro's two seasons with the Giants:
Year G Avg. HR RBI
2012* 61 .362 3 44
2013 127 .297 2 31
Career 1,386 .278 77 509
* -- Acquired in July 27 trade from Colorado