It may have come on the second game of spring training, but any win over the hated Dodgers (is that redundant) is worth celebrating. The Giants spoiled the spring managerial debut of Don Mattingly with a 8-3 win on Saturday. Let’s see if we can spoil his regular-season debut on March 31.
Again, it’s early. But Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was filled with some encouraging signs.
PANDA POWER: Pablo Sandoval slammed his first home run of the spring training. Given that one of the biggest pieces of Sandoval’s dissapointing 2010 season was his lack of power, this was an encouraging sign.
“When that happens, you get excited about what you do in the cage and all the work you do in the offseason,” Sandoval told the Associated Press.
Sandoval has been working on getting deeper into counts this spring. Yet his home run Saturday came on the first pitch from Oscar Villarreal in the fourth inning.
“He threw that same little cutter to (Aubrey) Huff and Andres (Torres),” Sandoval told the San Jose Mercury News. “I know sometimes I get in trouble when I swing at the first pitch. But I was looking for that pitch.”
That’s exactly what Sandoval should be doing on the first pitch — treat it like the count is 2-0. He should look for a particular pitch and a particular spot. If he doesn’t get that pitch, take it. If he does, hammer it. That’s what he did Saturday.
DEROSA IS RAKING: Mark DeRosa had three singles in three at-bats on Saturday, looking like the player the Giants hoped for when they signed him prior to the 2010 season. DeRosa missed most of 2010 after wrist surgery.
“(Fans) don’t care if you’re hurt,” DeRosa told the Mercury News. “They look for production and it wasn’t there. … Now I’m feeling good. I really do. I’m not having to cheat on fastballs, to do certain things to relieve the pain, to force-feed every pitch to right field.”
STRIKES FOR SANCHEZ: When we last saw Jonathan Sanchez in the postseason last fall, he was struggling to find the plate on a consistent basis, and therefore struggling to get outs.
Throwing strikes is a focus for Sanchez this spring. And early signs Saturday were good.
Sanchez walked one in 1 2/3 innings of work, giving up no runs on four hits.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy discussed the battle for the starting left field job during the team’s first full-team workout on Saturday.
Bochy called left field an open competition. Up to this point, we figured the competitors were Pat Burrell, Mark DeRosa, Nate Schierholtz, Aaron Rowand, and maybe Aubrey Huff if Brandon Belt makes the club.
But here are some details that Bochy revealed:
Mark DeRosa will get most of spring training innings in the infield. This doesn’t take DeRosa out of the mix in left field. But Bochy said previously that DeRosa “would be using all his gloves” this season. Getting ready to play third base or second base takes more preparation than the outfield. And since DeRosa hasn’t played since last May, the Giants want to make sure he’s ready to play the infield.
MoreSplashHits’ take: We see DeRosa as the ultimate utility player – relieving Freddy Sanchez at 2B and Pablo Sandoval at 3B, as well as playing the outfield.
Aaron Rowand will play exclusively in center. Bochy said this is where Rowand prefers to play and where he’s most comfortable. And Rowand hasn’t play LF or RF since 2004. This doesn’t mean he won’t factor in the LF decision. It’s just that if the Giants decide to start Rowand, he’ll be in CF, with Andres Torres sliding over LF.
MoreSplashHits’ take: Rowand is making $12 million, possibly to be a backup outfield. So why is Bochy so concerned with his comfort. We think $12 million should make anyone nice and comfy. And what about Giants fans’ comfort? What about the pitchers’ comfort? Torres is a better fielder. He has more range (6.6 to 1.6 RngR) and his UZR150 (ultimate zone rating for 150 games) is much better than Rowand’s — 12.4 to 3.3. Basically that means that Torres saves about 12 runs a season in CF, while Rowand saves 3. Boch, stop coddling players and play your best players, i.e. Torres in center.
Nate Schierholtz will play all three OF positions this spring: Schierholtz was locked into RF most of last season, but the Giants say he’ll play all three OF positions to increase his chances of making the team.
MoreSplashHits: Poppycock. The Giants already know Schierholtz can play all three OF positions. But this job won’t be won with the glove. It will be won with the bat. The Giants just want to show other teams that Schierholtz can play all three OF positions.
Bottom line: Like we just said, this job is won with the bat, not the glove. The player who shows he can produce at the plate will win this job. And that includes Brandon Belt, who presumably would take over at 1B with Huff moving to LF.
The Giants enter 2011 with a rotation that is set, a roster that is almost set, and a lineup that is almost set.
The one daily lineup position that remains in question is the starting job in left field.
Pat Burrell, who handled most of the left-field starts in the latter half of 2010, returned with a one-year, $1 million deal. But that doesn’t guarantee Burrell will win the LF job, particularly if he struggles like he did in the postseason last fall. Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz also are in the mix.
So let’s look at the candidates:
Pat Burrell: If Burrell can recapture the production he had after joining the Giants in June (.266, 18 HR, 51 BI in 289 ABs), the job is his, even with his defensive limitations. But if he struggles like he did in the postseason (.146, 1 HR, 4 BI, 22 Ks in 41 ABs), there could be an opening for someone else.
Mark DeRosa: DeRosa opened 2010 as the starting left fielder, until his wrist wouldn’t allow him to continue. But even DeRosa said the injury was a blessing in disguise, as it made the Giants go out and get Burrell, who could do things that DeRosa could not. Not exactly a rousing endorsement for DeRosa. MoreSplashHits sees DeRosa fillling a more utility role, providing a day off for Freddy Sanchez at 2B, starting at 3B against particularly tough lefties and making an occasional start in left.
Aaron Rowand: With Andres Torres all but set to start in center, Rowand would be the most likely candidate to take the LF job — or play center with Andres Torres moving to left — if Burrell falters. Since joining the Giants, Rowand has been miscast in the lineup, first batting in the No. 5 hole and later at leadoff. But hitting in the No. 7 hole, Rowand could prove to be a productive hitter again. At the very least, we can see Rowand filling the late-inning defensive replacement role for Burrell.
Nate Schierholtz: Schierholtz enters this spring fighting for a spot on the roster. But he does possess assets that the other candidates do not. He’s the best fielder among the four — yes, even better than Rowand. And he’s left-handed. But there are liabilities, too. He doesn’t have power, and he’s failed to hit better than .267 since moving the bigs on a substantial basis in 2009. Out of options, this spring may be his last chance to produce. And, unlike the others, he doesn’t have a guaranteed contract.
More Splash Hits has been shirking their responsibility with blog posts recently. But we’re ready to get back to work.
And there’s a lot to discuss. And we start with some disheartening news from Mark DeRosa.
DeRosa, the biggest of the Giants’ offseason acquisitons, has been struggling to hit above .200 this season, and we have a good idea as to why.
The Giants outfielder underwent wrist surgery last season and now calls that procedure a “total failure.” He will remain out of the lineup over the next few days as he and the Giants decide on the next course of action.
DeRosa says he’s been feeling numbness his his left hand for the last two or three weeks. That may coincide with being hit by two pitches from the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright on April 24. He hopes that with a few days of rest he’ll regain complete feeling in his wrist and hand.
There’s good reason to believe DeRosa’s current issues are related to those pitches on April 24.
On April 23, DeRosa was hitting .267. Since then, he has gone 6 for 48 (.125) with one double.
Although it doesn’t explain his complete lack of power. DeRosa has one home run and three doubles. His home run came on opening day in Houston.
DeRosa says he would not rule out another procedure. The question is how long would recovery take. If surgery means DeRosa’s season is over, then it might be better to wait until the end of the season and try to rehab the injury to keep him playing. If you’re talking a couple of months, then getting the issue taken care of now could be the better move.
Either way, it’s clear that right now, the Giants are better off with Andres Torres or John Bowker in the lineup than DeRosa. Hopefully some rest will allow DeRosa to at least become a productive hitter, even if doesn’t return to being the power hitting the Giants had hoped.