Outlook: AT&T Park helps keep Vogelsong's value up

MESA, Ariz. -- Ryan Vogelsong arrived at HoHoKam Stadium intent on being in the same physical condition upon leaving it.

"Don't get hurt," Vogelsong said Monday, articulating his primary goal for the afternoon. "Don't take a line drive off of something."

With the Giants slated to open the regular season at Los Angeles next Monday, Vogelsong felt wary about the risks of participating in a meaningless Cactus League game. The right-hander survived, yielding three runs and six hits in six innings as the Giants thumped the Chicago Cubs, 9-3.

Vogelsong must endure one more test, since he'll probably pitch during this week's Bay Bridge Series against Oakland. He'll use that outing as an opportunity to sharpen his skills further.

"I'm not going to complain about having one more," Vogelsong said. "But if I didn't have one more, I'd be fine, too."

Sandoval's ailing elbow getting better

2012 GIBBYs: Sandoval wins Postseason MVP

MESA, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Monday that Pablo Sandoval could resume playing light catch in "a couple of days" after the third baseman showed improvement with his injured right elbow.

Sandoval hasn't played since March 16, but the Giants are hopeful that he would need only a couple of games to regain his hitting stroke.

"Pablo's determined to make it by Opening Day, so it's a wait-and-see," Bochy said.

Sandoval has been bothered by an irritated nerve in his elbow that is complicated by a bone spur. On Sunday, he underwent X-rays and a CAT scan at a Scottsdale-area hospital.

Sandoval, the Most Valuable Player of last year's World Series, was batting .435 (10-for-23) before being sidelined.

Noonan inching closer to earning roster spot

SF@CHC: Noonan robs Gonzalez of hit with bases loaded

MESA, Ariz. -- Nick Noonan strengthened his bid for the remaining utility infielder's spot on the Giants' Opening Day roster with a strong overall effort Monday.

Noonan started at third base in the Giants' 9-3 Cactus League victory over the Chicago Cubs and rescued Ryan Vogelsong from a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fourth inning. Noonan ended the threat by spearing Alberto Gonzalez's sharp grounder, which appeared destined to be a two-run single, and throwing to first for the out.

"That was nice. That was a really good play," Vogelsong said. "It seems like he handles himself well. I'll play with whoever they put out there, to be honest with you. But it looks like he's having some good at-bats and playing some good defense, too."

Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, "Defense is so important. As you know, we're [all about] pitching and defense. Hitting is nice, but we have to catch the ball. He's [originally] a shortstop. Those guys are usually more comfortable playing third and second. He's athletic."

Noonan also doubled twice in five at-bats and scored two runs. Optioned to Triple-A Fresno on March 15, the left-handed batter received a second chance to prove himself beginning last Thursday, when infielder Kensuke Tanaka was reassigned to Minor League camp.

"He's getting a lot thrown at him and I like the way he's handling it," Bochy said of Noonan, 23.

Worth noting

• Intensifying his preparation for the regular season, catcher Buster Posey played all nine innings in the Giants' 9-3 Cactus League victory Monday over the Chicago Cubs. Posey rapped three hits and is 5-for-10 in his last two games.

• Left-hander Javier Lopez, who surrendered seven runs in 3 1/3 innings spanning his first four outings, continued his recovery by making his third consecutive one-inning scoreless appearance.

• Former outfield prospect Todd Linden, the 41st overall selection in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, was summoned from Minor League camp to start at first base. He contributed a third-inning sacrifice fly and went 1-for-4. Linden spent parts of the 2003-07 seasons with San Francisco before the Marlins claimed him off waivers in May 2007. He rejoined the Giants organization last year and hit .280 in 127 games at Triple-A Fresno.