SAN FRANCISCO -- No pain, no gain?

Don't tell that to Giants left fielder Fred Lewis, who last year felt pain with nearly every step he took because of a nasty bunion on his right big toe.

Lewis underwent season-ending surgery on Sept. 12, and he reported to training camp with a bounce in his step.

"I feel like I'm a little bit faster than I was last year," Lewis said before Thursday's game against the Brewers. "Right now I'm just happy I'm pain-free."

Last year the toe affected everything Lewis did, from the way he ran to the way he took his stride in the batter's box.

"It affected the way I ran, because I was running on the outside of my foot," he said. "Late [in games] I could feel it in the upper part of my legs. I can tell a big difference. I'm just happy I had the surgery."

So are the Giants, who plugged Lewis into the third slot in their batting order and are hoping for a big season from the young, promising hitter. Lewis entered Thursday's game hitting .333.

Lewis isn't taking any chances this year, wearing a protective guard on his right foot when he hits. On Wednesday night he actually was hit by a pitch on his right big toe.

"I'm just happy that I had that guard to protect it and to take away some of the pain," he said. "That guard is just there to protect it and keep it from getting inflamed."