SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Seeking a second opinion about his persistent back issues, Marco Scutaro went to see renowned specialist Dr. Robert Watkins last season. When he walked into Watkins' Los Angeles office, Scutaro saw a wall adorned with photos of celebrities and athletes who had been cut open by the back specialist.
"You have a nice collection," Scutaro told the doctor, "But I don't want to be up there."
There's no surgical procedure that can help the 38-year-old at this point, anyway. He has spent most of those years swinging a bat, diving for grounders and taking the occasional hit at the bag. Scutaro also has problems with hip alignment, and his right leg is a half-inch shorter than his left. Add it up and you have a player on the second year of a three-year deal, living a day-to-day life that he described as "very frustrating."
"It's driving me crazy because I can't figure it out," he said. "You stand up, it hurts. You sit, it hurts. Whatever you do, it's like: 'Leave me alone. I want to relax.' "
Scutaro, who hasn't played yet this spring, said even watching TV in bed can be painful, but he's determined to get back on the field. He finally took a positive step Wednesday, taking part in the team workout for the first time. Scutaro fielded grounders, made throws to second and first and hit several rounds during batting practice. He said he is seeing some improvement and he felt fine after his most stressful day of the spring.
As always, though, the real test will be how he recovers.
"I could probably play tomorrow, but what about the next day, you know?" he said. "I could go play with pain. I might make it, but the next day is going to be worse."
Scutaro was always supposed to have a light spring workload, but he said he hasn't progressed as hoped. An offseason workout routine didn't ease his core issues, and he felt fatigued during batting practice Wednesday. The Giants remain optimistic he'll be ready by the March 31 opener, but manager Bruce Bochy said he'd need to see Scutaro start back-to-back exhibition games before putting him on the active roster.
"We certainly need him to keep optimistic," Bochy said. "Sometimes these things turn the corner real fast. We're still hopeful that that will happen, but if not, we'll go to Plan B."
The Giants want Scutaro to get 30-35 at-bats in games before opening day. Scutaro said he's not sure how many he needs, pointing out that it could be 20 or it could be 100. He would certainly settle for 20 right now, but that seems a stretch at the moment. When he walked out of Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday, Scutaro had just 19 days to get ready for opening day. If he can't go, the Giants will turn to backups Joaquin Arias, Tony Abreu and Ehire Adrianza.
Scutaro wouldn't rule out a quick comeback. He wouldn't make any guarantees, either.
"I don't want to say anything right now, just because backs are tricky," he said. "I can tell you right now that yeah, I feel great, but then I might wake up tomorrow and I can't walk."
"How good did he look?" Bochy said, smiling. "That was pretty impressive. He earned another look over there, I'll say that."
With Brett Pill now playing in Korea, the Giants don't have a true backup to Belt. Bochy said that Michael Morse would be the first option, but Sanchez and Buster Posey could alternate at first if Belt were ever to miss an extended time.