Five months have elapsed since last year’s Fall Classic. But little has changed.
The Texas Rangers still have trouble scoring more than one run off Giants pitcher.
Tommy Hunter still has trouble keeping the Giants off the bases and in the park.
The Giants are still scoring runs with two outs.
Cody Ross is getting clutch hits.
And Pat Burrell is raking.
Whoa! Wait a minute. That last one didn’t happen last fall.
Well, it did happen Monday during the Giants’ 4-1 win over the Rangers. And it’s a good sign that Pat the Bat is ready to get into the mix for the left-field job.
Burrell came into Monday’s game 2 for 17 (.118) in spring training. But he went 2 for 2 with a single and a two-run home run — both to right field.
“My first hits against Texas in two years,” Burrell told the San Jose Mercury News. “Too bad they don’t count.”
Here are more highlights from Monday:
JONATHAN SANCHEZ: Sanchez pitched four innings, giving up one run on two hits. He walked one and struck out five. “Felt pretty good,” he said. “I just worked on my splitter. I had it over the plate.”
CODY ROSS: Ross was 1 for 4 with a two-out, two-run single in the fifth inning. He’s hitting .375 this spring.
PABLO SANDOVAL: The Panda went 1 for 3, ran the bases well in scoring from second on Ross’s hit, and he had a walk.
ANDRES TORRES: Torres continues to work his way back from an oblique injury. He went 1 for 3 with a walk.
JEREMY AFFELDT: Affeldt threw two scoreless innings, with one hit and two strikeouts.
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.
Another piece of the Giants 2010 World Championship team is returning for 2011.
Pat Burrell has agreed to a one-year contract with the Giants on Wednesday. Value of the contract were not available, but More Splash Hits will guess it’s somewhere in the ballpark of $1 million or $2 million.
One the heels of the signing of Miguel Tejada, the Giants’ 2011 roster is beginning to take shape.
The next deadline to watch comes at 6 p.m. Thursday, when the Giants have to tender contract to arbitration eligible players. The Giants have eight players in that category. Five are a lock to be tendered: OF Cody Ross, OF Andres Torres, P Santiago Casilla, P Javier Lopez, P Jonathan Sanchez. P Ramon Ramirez is also candidate to be tendered, but More Splash Hits will still list him as a non-tender because the Giants have pitching depth. They could find a cheaper option. But they could also tender him, and then trade him by January. P Chris Ray and IF Mike Fontenot are good bets to be non-tendered.
With the Tejada and Burrell signings, the Giants payroll will likely rise above $110 million for 2011.
It’s not everyday you can title a blog post like that.
Even though Thursday was an off day for the Giants, there were some interesting developments.
First, outfielder John Bowker was optioned to Triple-A Fresno, leading to speculation that recent free-agent acquisition Pat Burrell would get called up to the big club.
Burrell played Thursday in Fresno, going for 0 for 2 with a walk before leaving the game in the sixth inning.
The thinking is that Burrell left the game to catch a plane to Pittsburgh, where the Giants open a seven-game road trip on Friday.
Also on Thursday in Fresno, Mark DeRosa played his first game for the Grizzlies in his rehab stint. He went 3 for 4 with a double and RBI. It was a far more encouraging outing that his game in San Jose, when his post-game comments sounded a lot like a guy who was headed to season-ending surgery.
Thursday’s performance gives a little more credence to the idea of DeRosa trying to battle his way through his wrist problems and play out the season.
But the big question now is how does an active roster than includes Pat Burrell and Mark DeRosa — not to mention a healthy Edgar Renteria by mid-to-late June — find enough playing time for Juan Uribe and Buster Posey?
The word is that Burrell will be used off the bench, mostly as a pinch-hitter. We can expect DeRosa, with his health issues, to possibly fill the utility role that Uribe was expected to fill.
As it stands right now, the Giants’ five bench players on the active roster are: C Eli Whiteside, 1B Travis Ishikawa, OF Nate Schierholtz, IF Matt Downs and (presumably) OF Pat Burrell.
If DeRosa eventually comes off the DL, we can expect Downs to head back to Fresno. If DeRosa stays healthy and Burrell is productive when Renteria comes off the DL, then what? Who goes down then? Ishikawa and Schierholtz are out of options. So that either leaves Whiteside or sending down a pitcher and carrying only 11 pitchers on the roster.
Something to think about.