Sanchez could return to Giants soon

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez has started playing in extended spring training games and could rejoin the big league club as early as mid-May.

The three-time All-Star missed all of spring training after undergoing surgery on his non-throwing left shoulder in December. He's also coming off left knee surgery that he had late last year and began the 2010 season on the 15-day disabled list.

San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that Sanchez is progressing well and could return to the team in two weeks.

"It looks like he's on his way now," Bochy said. "He's playing defense, swinging the bat ... he's doing everything. I'd put it right around two weeks."

Sanchez, the 2006 NL batting champion, was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a trade on July 29. He played in only 25 games for San Francisco last season while battling a variety of injuries.

Sanchez's progress is encouraging news for the Giants, who are awaiting results of an MRI on infielder Juan Uribe's right elbow. Uribe, who has been starting at second base in Sanchez's absence, left Saturday's 2-0 win over the Cardinals in the top of the third with elbow tightness.

Mark DeRosa, who replaced Uribe, started at second on Sunday after being hit twice in the left elbow by Adam Wainwright on Saturday night.

Bochy said the Giants won't rush Sanchez back even if Uribe is out for an extended period.

"No, he needs to play," Bochy said. "He missed spring training and he needs to get some games under his belt to get to where he's comfortable and see how that shoulder reacts, too, to some playing time. He'll have to go up the ladder and play hopefully at Triple-A and get his timing."

Sanchez signed a $12 million, two-year contract extension with San Francisco on Oct. 30. He batted .293 with seven homers and 41 RBIs last season in 111 combined games with the Giants and Pirates.