Well, that was one option we had not considered.
The battle — if you want to call it that — for the final reserve infielder spot for the San Francisco Giants took an interesting turn on Friday morning.
The Giants released veteran infielder Wilson Valdez, who was previously thought to have the inside track of landing the job, if only by default. But Valdez hit only .194 this spring with spotty defense.
“It’s just respect for a veteran player who wasn’t going to make our club,” Giants VP Bobby Evans Evans said. “Let him go out and find another opportunity.”
The news was surprising because the Giants reassigned Kensuke Tanaka, the only other healthy candidate for the job, to Fresno on Thursday. Tony Abreu remains hurt and only has had two spring ABs, although Evans said Abreu is close to returning and wouldn’t need as much time to get ready for the season, as a reserve infielder.
But with Friday’s move, it opens the door again for Nick Noonan, who was optioned to Triple-A on March 15. Noonan was hitting .186 in 18 games before being sent down. However, he only struck out once in 43 at-bats and played the best defense of any of the middle infield candidates. Noonan played shortstop, third base and second base last season for Fresno.
Noonan, 23, was a first-round sandwich pick (32nd overall) in 2007 draft out of Parker High in San Diego. He was a Baseball America Rookie All-Star in 2007 after hitting .316 in 52 games for the Giants’ Arizona Rookie League team.
Then his career headed on a downward track. He hit .279 for low-Class A Augusta in 2008, .259 for high-Class A San Jose in 2009, .237 for Double-A Richmond in 2010 and .229 between San Jose, Richmond and Triple-A Fresno in 2011.
But he had his best season as a pro for Fresno last season, hitting .296 with a .347 OBP, nine home runs and 62 RBI, earning him a spot on the 40-man roster.
The Giants must have liked what the saw in Noonan after going to minor-league camp to make this move and give him a shot of being on the roster on April 1. Evans also said the Giants would consider options via a trade or waiver wire. But for now, Noonan moves to the forefront.
“We’ll continue to get a look at him,” Evans said of Noonan. “It does bode well for him if Abreu can’t get healthy.”
Friday’s move also bodes well for Cole Gillespie. With Noonan and Abreu both on the 40-man roster, the Giants now don’t have to create a spot for Gillespie if they decide to give him the reserve outfielder job over Francisco Peguero.
The Giants have two open spots on their 40-man roster and can create a third by placing pitcher Eric Surkamp on the 60-day DL. Now those three spots could potentially go to reliever Chad Gauin, catcher Guillermo Quiroz and Gillespie.
Also Friday, the Giants released reliever Ramon Ramirez in a less-surprising move.