SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Francisco Peguero was standing at his locker a few minutes before the NLDS roster was announced last fall when Aubrey Huff approached.
"Pegs," Huff asked, "Do you know if you made it?"
The math was simple: If Peguero was on the roster, it was to serve as a pinch-runner for Huff, who ultimately made all three postseason rosters anyway. Peguero did not, but he was allowed to stick around as an insurance policy, and he's now reaping the benefits of that extra month of big league work.
Peguero went 2 for 4 on Tuesday in a 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians and actually saw his spring average drop 13 points to .550.
"It helped me a lot," Peguero said through interpreter Erwin Higueros, when asked about last season's big league cameo. "I feel ready. I think I'm playing very well and making a good impression."
Peguero certainly has made an impression on manager Bruce Bochy, who is looking for a fifth outfielder. In a crowded field that includes Cole Gillespie, Roger Kieschnick, Juan Perez, Gary Brown and possibly even Brett Pill, Peguero has been an early standout. He has 11 hits in 21 at-bats, along with six RBIs and four runs.
"It's going to be a tough decision, but he's doing what he needs to do," Bochy said.
Peguero, 24, was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2005 and has displayed a rocket arm, speed and the ability to hit for average and power while steadily climbing through the minors. He has a .305 average in seven minor league seasons and a year ago, at Triple-A Fresno, hit .272 with five homers, 10 triples and 20 doubles.
Peguero stole 40 bases in 2010 but has had two knee surgeries, the second of which slowed him last spring. He showed Tuesday that the knee is now healthy, nearly legging out an infield single on a routine grounder to third.
"Last year I didn't get a chance because of my knee," he said. "This year is completely different because I'm playing more and getting more opportunities. That's what you play for, to make a case for yourself."
With every hit, that case is getting stronger.
During his spring outings, Madison Bumgarner is focusing on sharpening a two-seam fastball that he's bringing back into his arsenal, and he also is trying to get better at holding runners. Those are small details, things that can be taken care of in March. In the offseason, Bumgarner had a bigger concern.
He called his fellow starters, all of them veterans by this point, and asked how they were preparing for 2013 after a long 2012 run.
Bumgarner, who threw 223? total innings last season, ultimately chose a routine that fell somewhere between Tim Lincecum's "only on flat ground" throwing program and the heavy mound work done by Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito. Until he got to Scottsdale, Bumgarner only played long toss, but he arrived in camp early and threw off bullpen mounds.
"I took it a little easier this year," Bumgarner said.
That has resulted in a little rustiness. Bumgarner has given up eight hits and walked four in his first 5? spring innings, but he wasn't concerned after Wednesday's outing.