A lower back issue put Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik on the disabled list on Monday, one of the several problems that confront the defending World Series champions at the moment. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Panik’s back isn’t only Giant concern

There’s no Panik on the Giants these days. And that’s just one of their problems.

As if pitcher Mike Leake’s shaky debut one day earlier wasn’t bad enough, the Giants got worse news on Monday, when Joe Panik was placed on the disabled list because of a persistent lower back problem. The All-Star second baseman will undergo a battery of tests to determine the cause of inflammation.

Hours later, the Giants suffered their ugliest defeat of the season, 9-8, as the Atlanta Braves overcame deficits in the ninth and 12th innings. A.J. (Freaking) Pierzynski slammed a two-run homer off Santiago Casilla to tie it, then Adonis Garcia went deep off Ryan Vogelsong to win it. The loss underscored yet another soft spot — the lack of a lights-out closer.

But Panik is the more urgent problem right now.

After operations chief Brian Sabean failed to add a veteran infielder before the non-waiver deadline, he might want to scan the wire for one now. Trades can still be completed this month, but only if the player involved is not claimed by another team. Veterans such as Brandon Phillips and Chase Utley could be available.

For now, Ehire Adrianza and Kelby Tomlinson are the options. This season, the 25-year-old Tomlinson split time between Double and Triple A, where he hit .321 overall, but he has no major league experience.

None of this bodes well for a Giants team that started the week in a tie with the Chicago Cubs for the second wild card spot.

MOMENT OF TRUTH: In the first contact drills of training camp, the 49ers’ NaVorro Bowman will wear the green dot on his helmet at Levi’s Stadium today. It’s the moment the linebacker has waited for ever since he began to rehab the gruesome knee injury that took him down in the 2014 NFC championship Game.

“A hit. Yeah, that’s probably the only mental thing that’s on my mind — if I can deliver the hit I want to deliver,” Bowman said. “Once I do that, I’ll be ready.”

The retirements of veteran leaders Patrick Willis and Justin Smith have left the defense in a bad way. Bowman may never be his Pro Bowl self again, but if he can approach that level, the unit will be that much better for it.

The coaches were encouraged by what they saw of Bowman in the first few days of training cap. On one play, he executed a nifty spin move that opened some eyes.

“When you start coaching a guy and to see him work in the classroom, to see his work ethic on the field, the leadership that he’s shown — it’s been fantastic,” new defense coordinator Eric Mangini said.

“Wonderful,” coach Jim Tomsula said. “I mean, really good. You saw him moving around really well. You saw him running down the field. We’re rolling.”

REALITY CHECK: As Bowman saw in former teammate Marcus Lattimore, comebacks don’t always have happy endings.

Even though Lattimore had suffered two serious knee injuries in college, general manager Trent Baalke selected him ahead of running backs Andre Ellington, Latavius Murray and Zac Stacy in the 2013 draft. Lattimore retired before he could carry the ball in an NFL game last year.

“For that to come down the way that it did, it was sad,” Bowman said. “Because when it happened to me, that was the first thing I thought about — no matter how much work I put in, when that time comes where is he good or he is not, which side am I going to be on? But I’m passed that. I can see the light. I’m ready to hit.”

Now Lattimore works with kids in football camps in his native South Carolina.

CONNECT THE DOTS: In what could be an audition for next season, the Raiders made a smart move to hire Tim Brown and Matt Millen as their color analysts in the preseason.

Brown spent his first seven seasons with the Raiders in Los Angeles, while Millen played his final seven with them there. Both would have instant name recognition if the team relocates to Southern California after the season, which moves closer to reality each day.

CAL ON THE MOVE: Cal is the sexy pick in the North Division of the Pac-12 this season, and however cautiously, coach Sonny Dykes won’t disagree with the preseason forecast at this early stage.

“It’s that time of year when everybody’s optimistic,” Dykes said at the Bay Area media day at Levi’s Stadium on Monday. “You’re not gonna have any coaches saying, ‘Boy, we’re gonna stink this year.’ There have been times when I kinda wanted to say that.”

Yeah, like at the start of the 2013 season, which the Bears finished with a “1-and-350” record, as Dykes remembered his debut in Berkeley. Last season they were a semi-respectable 5-7 despite a slew of injuries that tested their depth down the stretch.

“I feel like we’re making strides,” Dykes said. “The great thing about growing pains is the payoff, and we’re anxious about the payoff this year.”

If the Bears upgrade their secondary, which last season was torched for 42 touchdown passes (that is not a misprint), they have a chance to live up to the hype.

RED SOX PAY HEAVY PRICE: Pablo Sandoval is four months into a five-year, $95 million contract, and guess what’s a hot topic in Boston already?

Yep, his weight.

Last week, Sandoval became dehydrated and had to be pulled from a game. A few innings earlier, the ex-Giant had tried to scored from first base on a long double and was gunned down at home plate. He’s listed at 255 pounds, but not even the Red Sox seem to know for sure.

“No, no, no, I’m still the same weight that I was last year, the weight that I finished my season,” Sandoval pleaded. “No, I don’t have complaints about it. I have to be working hard, yes, I do. But I don’t focus on those things. I focus on trying to do the best out there for my team.”

As if his .260 batting average and eight home runs aren’t bad enough, Sandoval has been even worse in the field. His 12 errors are already one more than last season. He also has cost his team 13 runs, most in the big leagues.

CalJim TomsulaJoe PanikLevi's SMarcus LattimoreMatt MillenNaVorro BowmanSan Francisco 49ersSan Francisco GiantsSonny DykesTim Brown

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Emergency transit-only lanes on Geary could help ease crowding on buses

SFMTA proposal intended to help commuting essential workers

Port Commission backs 850-unit development plan for Piers 30-32

Critics argue project may require voter approval under Prop. B

Supes approve $13.6B city budget in a 10-1 vote

Supervisor Stefani calls proposal ‘fiscally irresponsible’ in lone ‘nay’ vote

Market Musings: IKEA to the rescue?

Mayor Breed is among supporters of the retail giant moving to 945 Market St.

Filipino immersion proposal meets with resistance from school district

Bessie Carmichael parents say current program failing to teach language proficiency

Most Read