SF@OAK: Kickham strikes out three in big league debut

SAN FRANCISCO -- In order to make room on the roster for Chad Gaudin when the Giants activated him in time to start Sunday, the club optioned left-hander Mike Kickham to Triple-A Fresno.

Kickham, who has pitched for the Giants in two stints this season as both a starter and a long reliever, will return to the rotation in Fresno. Manager Bruce Bochy said he liked what he saw from the rookie.

"I thought he did well," Bochy said. "He used his changeup better, he was a little more in rhythm out of the stretch. I thought he made some progress up here and it's all about growing. We gave him some things we want him to work on [in Fresno]."

Kickham, along with reliever George Kontos, saved the bullpen from overuse in Friday's 10-2 loss to the Dodgers. Kickham went three innings of relief in a game where starter Matt Cain lasted only 2 1/3 innings. Kickham allowed two runs on four hits while striking out five.

In four big league outings (three starts), Kickham is 0-3 with a 12.15 ERA. He has allowed 25 hits in 13 1/3 innings while striking out 15 and walking five.

Giants facing some of NL's best pitchers

ARI@NYM: Harvey strikes out nine over six-plus frames

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's been awhile since the Giants have tagged an opposing starting pitcher and, if the probable pitchers for this week are any indication, it might still be awhile longer.

Clayton Kershaw entered Sunday's start against the Giants with a 2-0 mark and a 1.13 ERA in three starts against San Francisco this season. He even clubbed a go-ahead home run April 1 to become just the second pitcher to throw a shutout and hit a home run on Opening Day.

On Monday, the Giants get their first look of the season at Mets hurler Matt Harvey. The right-hander, who's headed to his first All-Star Game, allowed two earned runs in six innings in a loss to San Francisco in 2012. This year, he's contending for a National League Cy Young Award with a 7-2 record and 2.27 ERA.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the two pitchers are both candidates to start the All-Star Game and that what he sees from them the next couple of days might slightly go into his final decision, though he added that he already has "a pretty good lean on which way I'm going to go."

"We face some really good arms the next few days," said Bochy, who added that Kershaw and Harvey are two of the best pitchers in the National League. "It's important that we pitch well and score some runs for our staff. You want to go out there and compete when you're facing the best."

On Wednesday, Mets rookie Zack Wheeler will pitch against the Giants for the first time, which is significant because the team dealt its 2009 first-round Draft pick to New York in 2011 for Carlos Beltran. Although Beltran produced for Bochy when he wasn't hampered by injuries, San Francisco missed the playoffs and the outfielder signed with St. Louis as a free agent.

Wheeler, meanwhile, is rated as the sixth-best prospect in the game by MLB.com and is 2-1 with a 4.29 ERA in four Major League starts.

Worth noting

• Injured reliever Santiago Casilla is scheduled to throw back-to-back rehab sessions Sunday and Monday for Class A San Jose. Bochy said both will be one-inning relief appearances, as opposed to two of his earlier outings, which were starts. Bochy said he anticipates Casilla to be activated before the break.

• Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong, sidelined for six weeks with a fractured right hand, played catch prior to Sunday's game and told Bochy Saturday that he feels good about where he stands in his rehab assignment. Bochy said it is possible Vogelsong will throw off a mound before the All-Star break, but that decision depends on how the pitcher feels in the next few days.

• Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco snapped an 0-for-25 streak Saturday when he went 3-for-3. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last player to go 3-for-3 or better in a game he entered with a hitless streak of at least 25 at-bats was pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who went 3-for-3 on June 3, 2006, to snap an 0-for-27 skid.