When the Giants open spring training camp next week, one key question that will need to be answered circles around the future of outfielder Nate Schierholtz.
Schierholtz went into spring training last year as the projected starting right fielder. He opened the season in a platoon with John Bowker. Eventually, he went to the bench when Buster Posey got called up (Poster went to 1B, Huff to the OF, Schierholtz to the bench). He spent the later portion of the season and postseason as a late-inning defensive replacement, usually for Burrell.
This spring, Schierholtz is at best a reserve outfielder, and he may just find himself off the roster completely. Schierholtz is out of options, meaning he can’t be sent to Triple-A Fresno without first passing through waivers — and he wouldn’t make it through waivers.
But even with that being the case, there may not be room on the 25-man roster for Schierholtz. Here’s why.
If the Giants open the season with a 12-man pitching staff — as they have been so prone to do in recent seasons — it leaves 13 spots on the roster for position players.
Eight spots get filled by projected starters: 1B Aubrey Huff, 2B Freddy Sanchez, SS Miguel Tejada, 3B Pablo Sandoval, C Buster Posey, LF Pat Burrell, CF Andres Torres, RF Cody Ross.
That leaves five spots left for bench players. They would presumably be filled by a C Eli Whiteside, 1B Travis Ishikawa, IF Mike Fontenot, IF-OF Mark DeRosa, OF Aaron Rowand. If Schierholtz makes it as a reserve, which of the aforementioned players does not?
And we haven’t even mentioned Brandon Belt (blog post for another day).
So here are scenarios that MoreSplashHits sees as why that Schierholtz makes the opening day 25-man roster.
1. An 11-man pitching staff. Manager Bruce Bochy has long preferred a 12-man staff. And given that Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner are all coming off career-highs for innings pitched, the Giants will want to limit the workload of their starters early in the season. But if the Giants decide to spot start Bumgarner in April when the schedule is littered with off days (another blog post for another day), he can work as a long man out of the pen, take a spot in the bullpen and make an 11-man staff workable.
2. Injuries. If just about any position player suffers a spring injury, it would open a spot for Schierholtz. Leading candidates include Mark DeRosa (who is coming off wrist surgery last spring) and Freddy Sanchez (who had shoulder surgery in December). Both players say they’ll be ready by Opening Day.
3. One-catcher option. This is a long shot, but the Giants could open the season with Buster Posey as the lone catcher on the roster, with Sandoval serving as emergency catcher. With five schedule off days in April, Posey would have rest days built into the schedule. It may seem unlikely, the Giants took a similar route with Bengie Molina to open the 2009 season. Molina was the lone catcher on the roster (with Sandoval catching three games in the first six weeks) until Eli Whiteside was called up on May 24.