Saturday started with smiles for Nate Schierholtz. It ended with a loss.
Now you know how the rest of your ex-teammates on the Giants feel.
During batting practice Saturday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy presented Schierholtz with his World Series ring.
When presenting the ring, Bochy told Schierholtz: “Thanks for everything you did for us. If not for you, we never could have rallied around Hunter Pence‘s inspiring pre-game speeches.”
OK, so he didn’t say that.
But as a member of the 2012 Giants, Schierholtz received his ring Saturday. It was cool that Bochy packed away Schierholtz ring on the trip to Chicago. It was a little odd that he would decide to wait until before the third game to give it to him.
Oh well, better to wait two days than three months, when the Cubs visit San Francisco in late July.
It could have been that Bochy was waiting to give the ring to Schierholtz in the first game that Nate was not in the lineup.
And even though he was on the bench, Schierholtz (or his absence) factored in Saturday’s game.
In the seventh with one out and pitcher Madison Bumgarner on second, Marco Scutaro looped a single into right. Bumgarner waited to see if the ball would fall, so he got a late break off of second. Still, third-base coach Tim Flannery sent Bumgarner. Any kind of a good throw would have easily got MadBum at the plate. But right-fielder Scott Hairston‘s throw was anything but good, and Bumgarner scored to make it 3-0.
If Schierholtz is in right, there’s no way Flannery sends Bumgarner home. Pablo Sandoval followed by grounding into an inning-ending double play. So instead of being 3-0, it might have been 2-0, and Dioner Navarro‘s pinch-hit homer in the seventh might have tied the game.
Schierholtz again could have been a big factor in the eighth. The Cubs put the first two runners on, and Alfonso Soriano hit a ball sharply off the chest of Sandoval. But shortstop Brandon Crawford picked up the ricochet and threw out Soriano at first. BARELY (if at all). If Soriano had been called safe, then Schierholtz comes to the plate as a pinch-hitter with a chance to do big damage.
But with the out called, it left first base open. So Bochy walked Schierholtz. Then Wellington Castillo hit the first pitch into a double play to end the inning.
- Bumgarner had his third outstanding start of the season, giving up just the two-run pinch-hit homer to Navarro on his 110th pitch of the day. He finished allowing two runs on six hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. He fanned six and has a 1.77 ERA on the season.
- Santiago Casilla was outstanding in posting a six-out save. He only allow one baserunner, and that was on the intentional walk to Schierholtz.
- Marco Scutaro is back. After starting the year 2 for 23, he’s now hitting .286 after going 3 for 4 on Saturday.
The Giants are committed to get more aggressive on the basepaths in 2012. And that doesn’t just involve the addition of Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera near the top of the lineup.
The coaching staff has been stressing the running game this spring.
“Running the bases is something we’ve done more than anytime in my life,” Brandon Belt told Henry Schulman of the Chronicle. “They made it clear on the first day this is something they want to improve upon. There’s a lot more effort going into it.”
The Giants stole 85 bases in 2011, ranking 13th in the National League. To make matters worse, four of the top five base-stealing teams in the NL were from the NL West.
To make matters even more worse, the Giants base-stealing percentage of 63 percent ranked 15th in the NL.
One player the Giants would like to see attempt more steals is outfielder Nate Schierholtz.
“By the time I leave here, I plan to make the stolen base part of my game,” Schierholtz told CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly. To read more about the thievery attempts of Schierholtz, click here.
But this spring’s focus is about more than stealing bases. It’s about beating out infield hits, stretching singles into doubles, going from first to third.
While the Giants are on the run this spring, one Giants who has not been a big part of those drills is Buster Posey.
While running the bases has been part of Posey’s rehab from last season’s ankle injury, he has yet to run all-out and make hard cuts on the bases.
Because of that, the Giants are debating whether or not to have Posey start in Saturday’s spring training opener against the Rockies.
THIS AND THAT
- BRETT PILL: The San Jose Mercury News and CSNBayArea.com featured Brett Pill in their coverage Tuesday. Pill is battling for a roster spot and took some grounders at third base. He’ll also see time at second base and left field as the Giants assess his versatility. Although he’s a right hander with some pop — something that appears to be lacking on the Giants bench — he remains a dark-horse candidate to make the club, as he still has minor-league options. Players like Emmanuel Burriss, Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot would need to be released if Pill makes the club, or (gasp!) Brandon Belt would need to open the season in the minors. To read more on Pill, see the Mercury News or CSNBayArea.com reports.
- JOE PANIK Alex Pavolic of the Mercury News had an interesting blog post on infield prospect Joe Panik. Apparently, the Giants still consider him a shortstop prospect, even though previous reports had him slotted as a second baseman. And he got rave reviews from Felipe Alou. To read more, click here.
- BACK IN ACTION: Two players hindered by sore backs returned to the field Tuesday. Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong threw for a second straight day without problems. It’s good news but the pitcher will need to avoid any setbacks if he wants to remain on pace on be ready for season. Also, Freddy Sanchez took some grounders a day after sitting out with back problems.
After failing to deliver a Splash Hit in the first three months of the season, the Giants added their second Splash Hit in a week on Friday, when Nate Schierholtz blasted an R.A. Dickey pitch into the Bay on Friday.
It was the 57th Splash Hit at AT&T Park, and Schierholtz become the 14th Giants to record a Splash Hit.
1, Barry Bonds 35
2, Pablo Sandoval 5
3, Aubrey Huff 2
3, Andres Torres 2
3, Ryan Klesko 2
3, Michael Tucker 2
3, Felipe Crespo 2
8, A.J. Pierzynski 1
8, J.T. Snow 1
8, John Bowker 1
8, Randy Winn 1
8, Jose Cruz Jr. 1
8, Fred Lewis 1
8, Nate Schierholtz 1
Actually, it should have been Schierholtz’s second Splash Hit of the week. One of Schierholtz’s two home runs on Wednesday against the Padres hit halfway up the right-field foul pole. If it had not hit the foul pole, the ball would have landed in the bay.
All hail Nate the Great.
Here’s the link to the video of Nate’s Splash Hit.
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.
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.