Results tagged ‘ Fred Lewis ’

RF up for grabs; long look for Posey; new pact for Cain?

Friday, March 26
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Don’t assume that Nate Schierholtz will be the Giants’ Opening Day right fielder.

Schierholtz was virtually handed the right-field job before Spring Training began, but his pedestrian offense and John Bowker’s torrid hitting prompted the Giants’ braintrust to rethink matters.

Schierholtz is a superior defender who has proven capable of handling AT&T Park’s tricky acreage in right field. But he’s batting .234 with a .280 on-base percentage and 12 strikeouts in 47 at-bats this spring. By contrast, Bowker began Friday tied for the Major League lead with 18 RBIs — due largely to his seven-RBI outburst Wednesday against Kansas City — and is hitting .298 with a .596 slugging percentage and a team-high four home runs.

Bowker also has been strikeout-prone, with 11 in 57 at-bats.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean confirmed that Schierholtz had slipped from his all-but-certain starting perch.

“He’s struggled to the point where you have to pay due respect to the other guys who are going well, including Bowker,” Sabean said Friday.

The Giants’ other reserve outfield candidates are Fred Lewis, who’s batting .222 but has a .528 slugging percentage; Andres Torres, who’s hitting .289 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .578 slugging percentage; and Eugenio Velez, a .298 hitter.<p/>

Referring to the preponderance of qualified outfielders, Sabean said, “Maybe our bigger challenge is how many infielders we keep over outfielders.” He cited left fielder Mark DeRosa, who can play every infield spot, and Velez, who made his first Cactus League appearance at second base Friday and booted a grounder for an error, as “dual-position guys” who can provide flexibility.

*****

Sabean also said that the Giants will keep Buster Posey with them through the conclusion of the exhibition season — though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the organization’s top prospect will make the Opening Day roster.

Reading between the lines of what Sabean said, it seems — <i>seems</i> — that Posey will begin the season with Triple-A Fresno. If that’s the case, Posey probably will join the Giants at the first sign of trouble.

“We’ll keep him to the end,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that the actual decision will need to go to the end. I think, internally, we know what we’re going to do, but obviously we’re going to hold that close to the vest because it’s subject to change and you never know what might happen.”

With the Giants trailing, 3-2, in Friday’s eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels, Posey hit a windblown ground-rule double that tied the score and lifted his average to .415 with nine RBIs. He has a .442 on-base percentage and a .585 slugging percentage. Manager Bruce Bochy said that there are no plans to try Posey at any position other than catcher and first base.

*****

Friday ended with no official announcement regarding the reported contract extensions for relievers Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt. This prompted speculation that the Giants are engineering an extension for a third player.

A likely suspect is right-hander Matt Cain, whose ridiculously affordable $6.25 club option for 2011 surely will be picked up by the Giants barring a disaster. It would behoove the Giants to reach an agreement with Cain. Otherwise, they’d enter the 2011-12 offseason facing the burden of negotiating with both Cain and Tim Lincecum, whose two-year deal will have expired.

– Chris Haft

Sanchez intends to stop thieves

MESA, Ariz. — Jonathan Sanchez distinguished himself last year by pitching a no-hitter and ranking fourth among National League pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings and opponents’ batting average.

But that wasn’t all.

Opponents stole 24 bases while Sanchez was on the mound, the NL’s highest total. Though the responsibility for some those thefts rested with Giants catchers, basestealers undoubtedly capitalized on Sanchez’s leisurely pitching motion.

Toward the end of last season, Sanchez began working more intently with pitching coach Dave Righetti on improving his slide-step to home plate and his pickoff move to first base. Sanchez’s improvement with the latter was evident against the Chicago Cubs in Wednesday’s first inning, when he picked off Ryan Theriot.

“I had too many stolen bases last year,” said Sanchez, who practiced his move in the offseason in front of a mirror.

The successful pickoff contributed to the impression that Sanchez is poised for a breakout season. He blanked Chicago for three innings in the Giants’ 5-1 victory and is unscored upon over five innings in two exhibition appearances.

“My fastball was jumping out of my hand,” said Sanchez, who also expressed satisfaction with his offspeed pitches.

Sanchez, who’s expected to start the Giants’ April 9 home opener against Atlanta, said that he’s not yet ready for the regular season. “But I’m close,” he said. “Almost there.”

*****

The competition for reserve roles on the Opening Day roster is too close to call at this juncture. Most of the contenders are playing well, and the remaining ones have not eliminated themselves.

John Bowker is batting .333 (6-for-18) with a team-high 11 total bases. He also has a .611 slugging percentage and a .429 on-base percentage.

Eugenio Velez and Kevin Frandsen are hitting .385 and .357, respectively.

Fred Lewis is hitting only .214 but has a .571 slugging percentage, thanks to a home run and a triple. Similarly, Andres Torres owns a .250 batting average but a .500 slugging percentage.

*****

Manager Bruce Bochy knows that the Giants’ 7-1 Cactus League record is largely meaningless, though he pointed out that it does carry some significance.

“The one thing it indicates is that the kids are playing well,” he said, referring to San Francisco’s rookie corps. “They’re playing half the game and doing a great job.”

Bochy added that this will end after the weekend. Next week, he said, San Francisco’s regulars will begin playing together more frequently.

*****

Right-hander Joe Martinez is experiencing soreness in his right shoulder and is expected to undergo an MRI to determine the source of his discomfort.

– Chris Haft

Burriss hurts foot; Huff starts slugging

PEORIA, Ariz. — Despite their 8-7, 10-inning victory Wednesday over the Seattle Mariners, the Giants endured an ominous beginning to the Cactus League season, as infielder Emmanuel Burriss apparently aggravated his injured left foot.

Burriss, who considered himself fully healed after breaking a bone in his foot last July, hit a two-run double in the fourth inning and stole third base. He left the game after doubling again in the sixth inning.

“He said he felt something in the same foot, same area,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He looked very dejected and discouraged. It’s been a long road for him.”

With second baseman Freddy Sanchez (left shoulder) likely to begin the season on the disabled list and Juan Uribe expected to replace him in the lineup, Burriss entered Spring Training with a strong chance to make the Opening Day roster as a backup middle infielder.

*****

Cleanup hitter Aubrey Huff immediately asserted himself by belting a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw from Mariners starter Doug Fister with one out in the first inning.

“He wants to make a good first impression,” Bochy said.

Huff downplayed his prowess. “[Fister] happened to throw a fastball right there,” he said.

*****

Huff was more impressed with left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who threw two shutout innings.

“His pickoff move — holy cow! He caught me off guard,” Huff said. “He has one of the best pickoff moves I’ve seen.”

Bumgarner’s fastball was clocked in the 89-90 mph range, a tad slower than his best velocity readings. Then again, pitching coach Dave Righetti advised him not to overthrow. “He said, ‘You’re not going to make the team on the first day,’ and that makes a lot of sense,” said Bumgarner, who’s competing for the fifth starter’s spot.

Bumgarner said that he maintained his concentration despite the recent death of his half-sister, Dena Byrd. “I think it would be hard for me to get distracted,” he said. “It’s a huge loss, but when I get on the mound, everything goes away and it’s just me and the catcher.”

*****

Bengie Molina, for one, doesn’t anticipate any retaliation directed toward Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder on Thursday, when the Giants and Brewers meet in Scottsdale.

“I think we don’t want anybody suspended to start the season,” Molina said.

Fielder angered the Giants last Sept. 6 when he punctuated his game-winning, 12th-inning homer with an obviously choreographed home-plate celebration.

*****

Aaron Rowand more than did his job as San Francisco’s leadoff batter, collecting two hits and a sacrifice fly in five innings.

“It’s always exciting to be the first guy up there, especially in the first game,” said Rowand, who singled to open the game. “But nothing overwhelming.”

Three pitches after his game-opening hit, Rowand was on the move as he scored on Fred Lewis’ triple.

“It was actually kind of neat to get that out of the way right away,” Rowand said. “Hopefully, I’ll have to do that quite a bit this year.”

*****

Referring to the game’s three-hour, 44-minute duration, one Giants coach sarcastically declared before heading for the team bus, “I can’t believe the sun’s still out.”

– Chris Haft

Tuesday’s Winter Meetings leftovers

INDIANAPOLIS — Each manager attending the Winter Meetings participates in a half-hour question-and-answer session with reporters. Here are highlights from Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s stint Tuesday:

– On Eugenio Velez’s on-base percentage, which has been lower than desired for a leadoff man (the role he’s expected to play in 2010): “It’s something to work on. We know how important that leadoff guy is in getting on and on-base percentage. Your hope is the experience of getting playing time is going to help increase his on-base percentage and his discipline at the plate and his hitting ability. This kid just continues to get better and better. So that’s part of the growing process for young players, especially a leadoff hitter. I think the more Eugenio leads off, you hope that he does get better and finds more ways to get on base for you.”

– On Edgar Renteria’s position in the batting order if Freddy Sanchez bats second: “Where we are right now, Sánchez could hit second or third. You know, it’s not etched in stone that he will be our No. 2 hitter depending where we are at going into Spring Training. It’s nice to have that flexibility with him, because I think he would be a pretty good No. 3-hole hitter, and I think he does a pretty good job in the 2-hole. I think we could put Edgar in the 2-hole, who has a lot of experience in there, and drop Freddy to the 3-hole.”

– Where does Fred Lewis fit in? “Right now, Fred is one of our outfielders who will compete for a spot with John Bowker and Nate Schierholtz, Velez, (Andres) Torres. I know that’s a lot there, but where we’re at right now, he’s in the mix with the other guys.”

– Any chance you might consider Fred as the leadoff guy, since he had a decent on-base percentage? “I put him there last year. Fred actually came up to me. He wasn’t too comfortable leading off, and so I took him out of that spot. But that was my hope for him, to lead off, because he does see pitches.  He does get on base. You know, he has speed and he could be a good leadoff hitter, but the guy has to want to do it and be comfortable.  He admitted that he was not real comfortable with it.”

– How do you see right field playing out? “It’s going to be competitive. Nate obviously is going to be in the mix there. He’s playing winter ball and doing a nice job in Puerto Rico. My guess is it will be deep into spring before we know how we are going to have those guys placed in the outfield.”

– Is there any reason for optimism about Aaron Rowand putting up better numbers overall? “For me, Aaron had a good first half.  Second half, he did tail off a little bit. But really, going into probably mid-August, his numbers were pretty good. … To have a normal year for him, that might be hitting .270 (with)15 to 20 home runs and driving in 75, 80 runs. Sure, I expect Aaron to have those kind of numbers at the end of the year.”

– You mentioned last year around this time that he may play fewer games, and he did. Seeing that he did tail off again, might you have the same mindset? “Yeah, I have talked about this, too. I haven’t with Aaron, but I did try to call him the other day. With the tailoff the last couple of years, it’s something I’ll sit down with Aaron this spring and talk to him about, maybe try to give him a break now and then in that first half to see if that can help him in the second half.”

– Chris Haft

Lewis is a lucky charm; contemplating Bill Hall

CINCINNATI — Fred Lewis will take the Giants’ lineup to home plate for the umpires before Wednesday night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.

That’s because he did it before Tuesday’s game, which the Giants won. And before Monday’s game, which the Giants won. Baseball folks are superstitious that way.

Typically, bench coach Ron Wotus does the honors. But the Giants will ride Lewis’ luck as long as they can. Besides, Bochy and Wotus pretty much know each ballpark’s ground rules. They can adjust to Lewis’ interpretation.

“We had to talk to him for a while to get them all figured out, but he was pretty close on them,” Bochy said jokingly.

*****

The Milwaukee Brewers have until Friday to try to engineer a trade for utility man Bill Hall, who they designated for assignment last week. I heard third-hand that the Giants might be among the interested teams. Now, I’ll readily admit that “third-hand” is a pretty flimsy source. Except that this particular source often knows what he’s talking about.

Still, it’s difficult to figure out why the Giants would need Hall. They’ve already got Juan Uribe as an infield handyman, and though they could use a spare right-handed-hitting outfield, it’s not a crying need. I’m guessing nothing will happen, though I’ve been wrong a few million times before.

*****

FYI: Catcher Buster Posey, who needed a few days off to nurse a minor injury, returned to Triple-A Fresno’s lineup Tuesday and went 2-for-5 with an RBI single and a run scored. 

– Chris Haft

Thursday leftovers: No ifs, ands or bunts

ATLANTA — A discerning manager does not ask his players to perform tasks they’re incapable of handling. That largely explained why Bruce Bochy didn’t order Fred Lewis to bunt in a pair of situations Thursday when most players might have been asked to sacrifice.

Lewis has one career sacrifice bunt. Bochy figured the Giants were better off letting Lewis swing away.

Bochy had an additional reason to avoid the bunt when Lewis batted in the fifth inning with Barry Zito on second base, Randy Winn on first and nobody out. With Zito as the lead runner, Bochy said, “I didn’t have any speed there.”

Lewis’ next at-bat followed Randy Winn’s leadoff double in the seventh. Lewis flied to center without Winn advancing. That wasn’t the sort of “productive out” the Giants had hoped for. Besides, said Bochy, “I wanted three shots” at driving the run in. As it turned out, Winn was marooned on second base, but the Giants scored four runs in the eighth to settle matters.

*****

Jeremy Affeldt hiked his Major League-leading total of double plays induced to 14 during his scoreless eighth. He’s having one of the best years I’ve seen from a reliever.

“The guy really could have made the All-Star team, when you look at the job he’s done,” Bochy said.

*****

Nate Schierholtz is one tough dude. His left leg looked as if a saber-toothed tiger had tried to have it for lunch.

Schierholtz nearly mangled his leg while leaping at Turner Field’s right-field wall, which has a cyclone fence “padding” in some parts.

“Just wait until you see my leg,” Schierholtz said after the Giants’ 5-1 win as he greeted reporters at his dressing stall.

We could have waited a little longer. The outside of Schierholtz’s leg was scraped almost from top to bottom. Discoloration — budding bruises? — were spread throughout.

*****

Has anybody noticed:

Barry Zito is 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four career appearances against Atlanta?

Infielder Matt Downs wears No. 37 — same as late-1980s right-hander Kelly Downs?

– Chris Haft 

Burriss seizes chance to swing

SAN FRANCISCO — With, two outs, a run in, Fred Lewis on third base and the Giants leading 3-0 in Friday night’s fourth inning, the St. Louis Cardinals elected to pitch to Emmanuel Burriss, San Francisco’s eighth-place hitter. The alternative, which some teams might have selected, would have involved walking Burriss to face pitcher Matt Cain.

But St. Louis refused to bypass Burriss, who singled home Lewis for what proved to be a key run (they all are in close, low-scoring games) in the Giants’ 4-2 victory.

Burriss actually wasn’t surprised that the Cardinals pitched to him.

“Cain swings the bat pretty well,” Burriss reminded. “He’s not like a run-of-the-mill pitcher. He probably has more pop than I do. So having him behind me, I knew I was going to see some pitches.”

More pop, indeed, Cain has hit four career home runs to one for Burriss.

Burriss continued the Giants’ recent productivity with two outs. They’ve recorded 22 of their last 30 RBIs in those situations.

– Chris Haft

Lewis finds power source: Griffey

SEATTLE — Fred Lewis politely said that he didn’t want to delve too deeply into his home run surge, which consists of two in two days.

But another Giant helpfully pointed out that Lewis tends to flex his muscles whenever he’s playing in front of his baseball hero, Ken Griffey Jr.

There’s definitely something to this theory.

The first time Lewis played against Griffey, during a 2007 Giants-Reds series in Cincinnati, Lewis hit a grand slam on July 4 at Great American Ball Park.

Last year, Lewis homered on April 26, the middle game of a Giants-Reds three-game series at AT&T Park.

Now this, with Griffey in the Seattle Mariners dugout. Maybe the Giants should leave a life-sized cardboard image of Griffey in Lewis’ locker.

*****

As you might guess, getting to Seattle from Des Moines, Iowa, was quite an adventure for Eli Whiteside.

Summoned to the Giants to provide catching depth, Whiteside learned of the move Saturday night after Triple-A Fresno’s game at Iowa, too late to go anywhere. So he caught a 6:30 a.m. flight from Des Moines, changed planes in Minneapolis and headed for Seattle, where he arrived at 11 a.m. He reached Safeco Field at about 45 minutes later, not knowing he was in the lineup against the Seattle Mariners.

“That was the best thing about all of it,” Whiteside said, not minding at that he was thrust so quickly into a Major League game. “I didn’t have time to think about anything, pretty much. Just get in there and play.”

That’s something Whiteside hadn’t done in the Majors since the end of the 2005 season with Baltimore. Many players would have given up beating their head against the wall, but not Whiteside.

“It’s something I’ve been waiting for for four or five years now, since the last time I was up here,” he said.

– Chris Haft

 

Rowand ascends to leadoff spot

SAN DIEGO — At the very moment I started to write this, Aaron Rowand doubled off the left-field wall in Wednesday’s fifth inning for his second hit of the game against the San Diego Padres.

Perhaps that’s an indication that manager Bruce Bochy’s lineup innovation will help Rowand and the Giants.

Bochy moved Rowand to the leadoff berth, which he last occupied May 30, 2007 as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I just wanted to shake things up a little bit,” went Bochy’s simple explanation. After all, the Giants ranked 14th in the National League in runs scored entering Wednesday.

Rowand, who has hit fifth, sixth and seventh this season, backed Bochy’s decision.

“He asked me what my thoughts were, and I said, ‘I don’t mind,’ ” Rowand said. “If he wants to put me in the ‘one’ hole, I’m completely fine with it.”

Rowand also joked, “I told him it’s about time he realized he should put speed at the top of the lineup, anyway.”

Though Rowand began the game with a .246 batting average, he probably can’t do much worse than the recent Giants leadoff hittters. Fred Lewis and Emmanuel Burriss hit proficiently lower in the order but slumped when Bochy switched them to leadoff. Lewis and Burriss batted .197 and .148, respectively, at leadoff.

Overall, the Giants’ leadoff numbers have been dreadful. Their No. 1 hitters began this game ranked last in the NL in several offensive categories, including batting average (.208), runs (14) and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage, .555). The respective league averages in those categories were .265, 25 and .720.

Rowand spent some time at leadoff during his 2001-05 tenure with the Chicago White Sox, starting 59 games in 73 appearances at that spot before Wednesday. His performance as a leadoff man was respectable, demonstrated by his .293 average and .882 OPS. Rowand also collected 15 home runs and 43 RBIs in 259 at-bats while hitting leadoff.

Of course, a leadoff batter might actually hit first only once a game, as Rowand noted. Thus, he said he felt no pressure to change his hitting approach. “It’s not anything different from hitting anywhere else in the lineup,” he said.

– Chris Haft 

 

Leftovers from Wednesday, May 13: Zito, Pablo, Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Zito’s fielding goofs in Wednesday’s third inning ultimately seemed insignificant. After all, he escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam with no runs scoring by striking out Josh Willingham.

But both Zito and manager Bruce Bochy made the same point after the Giants’ 6-3 loss: The left-hander’s misplays forced him to throw more pitches, thus causing him to spend extra energy which he could have used later in the game.

First, Zito mishandled Shairon Martis’ comebacker for an error. One out later, he swatted at Nick Johnson’s grounder, which likely would have resulted in an inning-ending groundout to shortstop. Instead, Zito deflected the ball off course, leaving Renteria with no play.

“That was not a smart decision,” Zito said.

*****

Bochy said that he considered using Pablo Sandoval to catch Wednesday. But, said Bochy, “That would be pushing it.” Bochy was wary of how the position’s demands might have affected Sandoval’s left ankle, which the Kung Fu Panda tweaked while running out his would-be triple in Tuesday’s seventh inning. Sandoval’s trip ended with a pratfall between second and third base.

“He looked like a turtle on its back,” Bochy said. “But he was on his stomach.”

*****

Bochy opted to give one more day of rest to left fielder Fred Lewis, who sat out Tuesday’s game with a sore left toe. “It is, basically, a turf toe,” Bochy said, citing the malady familiar to athletes.

Fortunately for the Giants and Lewis, he lined a pinch-hit, RBI double in Wednesday’s ninth inning. That ended a stretch of 31 at-bats and eight games without an extra-base hit for Lewis.

 

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