SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Less than three weeks before the start of the 2013 season, things are getting dicey for young Giants catcher Hector Sanchez to be ready for the opener.
Sanchez has been troubled by shoulder and calf injuries this spring, and Thursday he had to be scratched from a start against Japan's World Baseball Classic team when his right shoulder flared up to the degree that he couldn't hit or throw without pain.
"The doctor told me that the muscle got tired because I was doing too much work," Sanchez said. "They told me I had to take a couple days off and then start working again."
If the pain doesn't subside, Sanchez said, the Giants will have an MRI done. And the team would rather not consider the alternatives if the new shoulder issue lingers.
The Giants don't have the safety net at catcher they once did. Other than National League MVP Buster Posey and Sanchez, the departed Eli Whiteside was the only other Giants player who saw time behind the plate last season, and that was for a mere three starts and 37 innings.
But Whiteside is with the Texas Rangers' organization now, and Tommy Joseph, a strong prospect, was sent to Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence deal. There are high hopes for Andrew Susac, but he already has been sent to minor league camp.
The leading candidate if Sanchez can't go would appear to be Guillermo Quiroz, a 31-year-old, 13-year pro who has played just 103 games in the big leagues, 56 of those with Baltimore in 2008. Jackson Williams, who was the primary catcher at Triple-A Fresno last year, is in the mix, and Double-A catcher Johnny Monell also might become a factor, largely as a result of his hot hitting this spring.
"We think we have some coverage there," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Obviously, we hope that Sanchez is going to be fine. But sure, there should be some concern at this point."
Even before this latest setback, Sanchez knew he was up against it.
"It's been difficult," the 23-year-old switch hitter said. "I just don't feel right now like my game is 100 percent. Because I hurt my calf and shoulder, my timing has been bad. Then when you have a couple of days when you're not playing, you try to do too much when you come back."
Sanchez was behind the plate Tuesday night with Tim Lincecum on the mound and had a miserable game that included a throwing error and a passed ball. Even beyond those mistakes, he just didn't look sharp.
"It was a rough night for Hector," Bochy said. "I have to get him back there as much as I can, because he's behind right now."
Sanchez has logged just 21 innings behind the plate this spring. He's hitting .211 (4 for 19) with no home runs. Contrast that to last spring, when he hit .383 with four homers and 10 RBIs to capture the roster spot he held all season as Buster Posey's only real backup.
Sanchez made 48 starts and logged 441 innings behind the plate in 2012, compared with Posey's 973. He spelled Posey as often as possible while Posey battled back from reconstructive ankle surgery in 2011. And it paid off when Posey hit .336 with 24 homers and 103 RBI.
Sanchez also had a solid season at the plate, hitting .280 with three home runs and 34 RBIs, although he walked just five times in 227 plate appearances.
Moreover, Sanchez established himself as Barry Zito's primary catcher, and later in the season, Lincecum's. Sanchez caught 25 of Zito's 32 starts -- developing a nice rapport with the veteran left-hander -- and was behind the plate for 16 of Lincecum's 33 starts.
As solid as Sanchez was in 2012, Bochy said the No. 2 catching spot isn't locked up based on his spring struggles.
"Hector did a good job last year, but we have to keep it competitive," Bochy said. "There are no jobs given out here, and these guys know it. We'll break with our best club."
Tanaka wasn't as happy when asked about the seven errors he made so far in spring training -- his latest in the Giants' 6-3 loss to the Japanese WBC team. He has made nearly half of the club's 15 errors.
Tanaka, 31, hopes to make the team as its primary utility infielder, a heady challenge considering he was primarily a second baseman during his 13 seasons playing in Japan for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
He played shortstop Thursday, his fourth game at that position this spring, and made a throwing error in Japan's three-run third inning. He's played nine games at second base and two at third. He hasn't looked very comfortable at any position he's played.
"I've played second base most of the time, so I'm not quite sure how strong to throw the ball (at other positions) to get an out," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I'm still working on that. I need to gain more experience and polish up."
"They played well, they swung the bats, pitched well ... they certainly outplayed us," Bochy said. "We didn't get many good swings off, that's what disappointed me. We were a little passive."
Yusmeiro Petit started for the Giants and gave up four runs on six hits, walking one and striking out three.