PHOENIX, Ariz. -- It's a spring tradition of sorts, the veteran nonroster invitee who comes out of nowhere to top leader boards and open eyes.

In 2009, Andres Torres hit .400 in Cactus League play and become a Giants fixture. Three years later, Gregor Blanco hit .333 and stole 13 bases in 27 spring games to kick off a season that ended with Blanco starting in the World Series. This year's surprise has been Brandon Hicks, a 28-year-old infielder who is hitting .381 in 22 Cactus League appearances, with three homers and seven doubles. Those gaudy stats came as a surprise to Hicks.

"I don't like looking at my numbers," he said, smiling.

In that regard, Hicks stands alone. Teammates have marveled at his hot spring and management has taken notice. With Marco Scutaro virtually guaranteed to start the season on the disabled list, Hicks is in line to make the opening day roster, along with 24-year-old Ehire Adrianza. The two have outlasted several minor leaguers and veteran Tony Abreu, who was released over the weekend.

Scutaro underwent another procedure on his bad back Tuesday, adding a diagnostic nerve block to the two injections he has already had this spring. Giants trainer Dave Groeschner said he would update Scutaro's condition Wednesday.


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Hicks is hesitant to talk about his current spot, but the spring certainly has validated the offseason decision he made as a free agent. The Houston native said four or five clubs offered to bring him to spring training -- including his hometown Astros -- but after conversations with Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans, Hicks' agent suggested that San Francisco could provide the greatest opportunity.

"He thought it would be a great place for me," Hicks said. "And I felt this was the best spot."

Hicks has been a perfect fit, and not just because the Giants seem to have a thing for bearded infielders named Brandon. Scutaro's absence has allowed Hicks to play 1011/3 innings this spring, 50 of them at second base.

"He has played well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He has got experience and power. He lets it go (with the bat)."

Hicks has 90 big league at-bats with the A's and Atlanta Braves but has never stuck in the big leagues. He knows the 42 strikeouts in those at-bats are emblematic of a problem that always has held him back from reaching his potential as a power-hitting infielder. This spring, Hicks has worked on staying short with his swing and being more selective.

"I've always been able to hit the ball out when I'm not chasing bad pitches," Hicks said. "That's been my issue. I struck out a lot early here, but I've tried to work on it."

The results have been impressive, so much so that Hicks might find himself back in the big leagues on opening day.

  • Through his first 211/3 Cactus League innings, Madison Bumgarner had not allowed a run. The Milwaukee Brewers teed off in the middle innings Tuesday, with outfielders Khris Davis and Carlos Gomez and pitcher Wily Peralta hitting three deep homers over the span of five at-bats.

    "There must've been a home run derby I didn't know about," Bumgarner deadpanned.

    Bumgarner was actually kind of relieved by the semi-rough day.

    "In a way, I feel better now," he said. "You don't want to give up runs, but it's kind of a relief to give some up before the season starts, I guess, if that makes sense. There's a weight on your shoulder even if you didn't know it was there."

    Bumgarner still finished his spring with a 1.19 ERA and gave up just 15 hits in 222/3 innings. He had 22 strikeouts and just two walks. His next start will be opening day against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    "Regardless of what I did give up or didn't give up," Bumgarner said, "I feel ready to go."

    The Giants rallied for a 5-4 win after Bumgarner departed, with Pablo Sandoval hitting a homer and Mark Minicozzi driving in the winning run on a one-out sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth.

    For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/AlexPavlovic.