Schierholtz picks himself up
Monday, March 29
PHOENIX — Don’t assume that Nate Schierholtz will easily give up in the Giants’ right field competition.
Schierholtz, whose status as the likely Opening Day right fielder was eroded by his inability to hit consistently, smacked an RBI triple and a double, drew a walk and scored three runs Monday in the Giants’ 8-6 exhibition victory over Milwaukee. “It was good for Nate to get a few knocks,” said bench coach Ron Wotus, who managed the final three innings after Bruce Bochy left to attend to a personal matter.
Schierholtz also played the entire game in right field, though that wasn’t tremendously significant.
Here’s what was significant: John Bowker, Schierholtz’s apparent chief rival for the job, kept hitting. Bowker hiked his team-leading totals to five home runs and 20 RBIs with a two-run homer in the fifth inning. He also doubled in the first, helping lift his batting average to .308. Schierholtz is at .241, but his superior defensive skill will continue to be a factor.
Bowker has a Minor League option remaining, but he could make the Opening Day roster if Fred Lewis’ ribcage injury lingers and forces him onto the disabled list.
The afternoon’s most entertaining hitter, however, had to be Eugenio Velez.
Velez cranked a long, long, l-o-n-g drive past the right-field foul pole in the first inning off Milwaukee starter Dave Bush. Velez’s clout was ruled foul.
Undaunted, Velez crushed the next pitch to straightaway right field for a legitimate home run. Everybody knows that Velez is capable of spectacular deeds. But this?
“You don’t see that often, do you?” Wotus said. “We were talking about it in the dugout. [Shawon] Dunston said usually when you do that, it takes the air out of you.”
Historical/personal notes: Ed Bailey followed a foul home run with a “real” homer on the next pitch in Game 162 of the 1962 season to open the Giants’ scoring in their 2-1 victory over Houston that put them in a three-game playoff with the Dodgers. Somewhere I have a collection of highlight tapes that includes Willie McCovey performing the foul-fair/back-to-back act in the mid-1960s (I have a feeling he did this more than once).
And I distinctly recall attending a Giants-Padres doubleheader at Candlestick in 1974 or ’75 when Randy Moffitt faced Bobby Tolan with the bases loaded. Tolan yanked one foul into the upper deck before clobbering Moffitt’s next pitch almost as far, and this time fair, for a grand slam en route to another Giants loss.
To nobody’s surprise, center fielder Darren Ford won this year’s Harry S. Jordan Award in voting by his teammates, the coaches and the athletic training staff.
The award is given to the player in his first Major League camp whose performance and dedication best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit. Past winners include Tim Lincecum (2007), Pedro Feliz (2001) and Russ Ortiz (1998).
Ford, 24, was San Francisco’s sensation of the spring, impressing all observers with his .500 batting average (10-for-20) and sprinter’s speed.
Reassigned to Minor League camp last Friday, Ford is likely to begin the season with Double-A Richmond.
— Chris Haft