Giants’ back woes lead to flight upgrades

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PHOENIX – The Giants were concerned enough with the ergonomic health of their players that they invested in a larger chartered jet this season that features more first class seats.

And here you thought the term “wide body” only applied to Pablo Sandoval.

Well, it was a good thought, anyway.

Maybe it’s time to replace the flight attendants with chiropractors, make Barry Bonds’ old Barcalounger standard issue in the clubhouse and fit everyone for custom orthotics. Because this is officially the Year of the Bad Back.

Michael Morse could play outfield in a pinch Sunday after exiting Saturday’s game in the fifth inning because of back stiffness. That’s more than manager Bruce Bochy will get out of Angel Pagan, who hits home runs in batting practice yet remains unavailable for a sixth consecutive game because of his back discomfort.

Buster Posey has dealt with a bad back this season. And of course, Marco Scutaro hasn’t played at all.

“We’ve done things to make it more comfortable, more first class seats,” Bochy said. “We’ve done that to make the travel easier on the back.”

Morse jokingly blamed the soft beds at the Ritz Carlton for his back issues. He doesn’t believe they are significant, which is a good thing since Morse is the only backup outfielder at Bochy’s disposal behind Gregor Blanco, Tyler Colvin and Hunter Pence.

(Colvin had a bad back in the spring, by the way, and Pence has been icing his back as well.)

The disabled list isn’t out of the question for Pagan, although the Giants continue to delay the decision because their leadoff hitter still could return within a day or two. If he were to go on the DL, he’d miss the next eight games including Sunday.

“Angel’s about the same, which is good,” Bochy said. “It hasn’t gotten any worse with baseball activities. Morse is hoping to play (Monday) and we’ll have a pretty good idea on both of them by then.”

Outfielder Juan Perez, who was optioned to make room for second baseman Joe Panik on Saturday, didn’t leave to join Triple-A Fresno in Texas. Instead he’ll go back to San Francisco just in case the Giants need to bring him back to replace Pagan on the roster.

In the meantime, Panik is making his first big league start Sunday as the Giants try for a series victory behind Madison Bumgarner. They hope to follow that up with a happy – and comfortably short – flight home.

Zach Britton receives stem cell injection, likely done for the season

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Orioles closer Zach Britton is likely done for the remainder of the 2017 season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee, Peter Schmuck and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun report. Britton has been battling knee problems for most of the season.

The Orioles are still technically in the AL Wild Card race, entering play Thursday 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. With only nine games remaining, however, the 73-80 Orioles are likely being realistic about their chances and not taking any unnecessary risks with Britton.

Britton, 29, put up a 2.89 ERA with 15 saves and a 29/18 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. He will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason.

Dodgers can clinch NL West on Friday

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The Dodgers staved off a four-game series sweep at the hands of the Phillies, winning 5-4 on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. The win reduced their magic number in the NL West to one, meaning that a win against the Giants at home or a Diamondbacks loss to the Marlins on Friday will result in clinching the division.

Of course, the Dodgers winning and the Diamondbacks losing hasn’t exactly been a sure thing lately. The D-Backs rattled off a 13-game winning streak from August 24 through September 6. The Dodgers lost 11 games in a row from September 2-11 and were on a four-game slide before Thursday’s win.

The Dodgers will send Rich Hill to the mound to start opposite Jeff Samardzija. The Diamondbacks have Zack Greinke opposing Adam Conley.