Kieschnick excels, execution lags, legends reunite

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t a regular-season Giants-Dodgers game, but rookie right fielder Roger Kieschnick sensed that he probably made a lot of fans happy on Monday.

With the score tied 2-2 in the 10th inning, Kieschnick cleanly fielded Angel Berroa’s single and made a strong, one-hop throw home that retired Ronnie Belliard, who was trying to score from second base. In the bottom of the inning, Kieschnick drilled a leadoff single and was replaced by pinch-runner Francisco Peguero, who scored on Ryan Rohlinger’s long single to right field to give the Giants a 3-2 victory.

Kieschnick, who excelled for San Francisco’s Class A San Jose affiliate last year, caught a whiff of hostility when the younger Giants would confront the Dodgers’ California League representatives, the Inland Empire 66ers. “They hated us just as much as anything,” Kieschnick said. “You definitely got a sense of the rivalry.”

Kieschnick, who’ll probably begin the season at Double-A Richmond, said that he was fully prepared mentally to handle Berroa’s single and Belliard’s fruitless dash home. “That play goes over and over in your mind before it happens,” he said.

*****

The Giants went hitless in their first five at-bats with runners on third base and less than two out, which didn’t please manager Bruce Bochy. “Our execution wasn’t very good today,” he said.

Example: Eugenio Velez grounded out to first base on the first pitch with runners on second and third and one out in the second inning. “He was too aggressive,” Bochy said. Noting that Velez hacked at a breaking ball from Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, Bochy added, “We have to do a little better job of pitch selection there.”

Velez atoned in the fourth inning by dumping a two-out RBI single to center field following John Bowker’s triple off Clayton Kershaw.

*****

Many “you-had-to-be-there” moments are often not worth retelling. But since this involved two Giants legends, I’ll give it a try.

Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction, arrived on the scene Monday for his annual Spring Training visit. McCovey was beginning to leave the training complex, walking slowly on his crutches. Then he suddenly made a U-turn and headed for the Giants’ clubhouse, where Willie Mays — who also needs no introduction — was seated at his usual perch.

McCovey entered the clubhouse and headed directly for Mays. “Hey, Buck!” McCovey called, addressing Mays by the nickname he went by in his playing days. “Where’s my book?” Mays, whose recently released biography is soaring on the best-seller lists, laughed as 1,181 home runs shook hands.

*****

The Giants’ shortage of first basemen worsened as Aubrey Huff remained home with an illness. Kevin Frandsen, who played 17 games at first base last season for Triple-A Fresno, started and played six innings capably. Buster Posey appeared in his second game in a row at first base, though he later switched to catcher.

Travis Ishikawa, recovering from torn ligaments in his left foot, took batting practice on the field for the first time. But Bochy wasn’t certain when Ishikawa, who had been expected to back up Huff, will be ready to play. Meanwhile, Frandsen, Posey, Matt Downs and Brett Pill will play first whenever Huff rests or is unavailable.

Mark DeRosa, who tested his surgically repaired left wrist by swinging off Minor League pitchers Sunday, felt fine and should play his first exhibition game Tuesday or Wednesday.

– Chris Haft

3 Comments

The Giants are getting on a roll with acquiring damaged goods: Is there a doctor in the house? (For medical exams before trades and free agent signings) Is this a function of losing for a few years and feeling desperate?

The Giants are getting on a roll with acquiring damaged goods: Is there a doctor in the house? (For medical exams before trades and free agent signings) Is this a function of losing for a few years and feeling desperate?

I guess the Giants don’t feel that Neal can play 1B with his bat: he started at 1B a few years back, but last year played mostly LF, though the scuttlebutt is that he’s going to swap with Kieschnick this year and play RF while Roger plays LF, for the Flying Squirrels. The way he hit in 2009, he could be ready to play in the majors by EOY or next season, if he continues to develop at that rate, and the Giants seem to want to get players ready for anything, anywhere, so that it would be easier to bring them up when the time comes.

My guess about free agents and damaged goods, is that the Giants either don’t want to spend the money for the better players and/or include the injury factor as part of the risk management when there are young players who could be ready to start, but then again, maybe not. The injured vet costs less and buys the Giants time to see if the young guy can show more evidence that they belong up here.

Meanwhile, if the guy is out injured, the young guy would jump in, but if not, then he is healthy and when healthy, these guys can really produce as hitters. They are $3-6M lottery tickets that if they pay off, benefit the club, but if not, we still have a young player as backup to take his spot. You just plan on enough of them being healthy plus young players producing, as a portfolio of performances that hopefully add up to an improved offense.

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