Results tagged ‘ Nate Schierholtz ’

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.

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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.

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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

Epic showdown: Lincecum vs. Sandoval

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Imagining Pablo Sandoval facing Tim Lincecum is the sort of fantasy many fans probably entertain to break up the offseason monotony.

Well, fantasy became reality Wednesday at Scottsdale Stadium, where Lincecum pitched “live” (full-speed) batting practice to the Kung Fu Panda.

What unfolded was predictable. With pitchers being ahead of the hitters (have you heard that one before?) at this stage of Spring Training, Sandoval did not make authoritative contact off Lincecum. But Sandoval did swing four times in five pitches against the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, so not much has changed.

Sandoval swung and missed on a Lincecum fastball and took an offspeed pitch before tapping two grounders to the right side. The first of those might have bounced through for a hit, depending on how the infielders might have been positioned. Sandoval finished his confrontation against Lincecum by fouling off a pitch.

“You’re always wondering if he’s going to hit one off the ground that you’re trying to bury, or that changeup right back at you that you left up by accident,” Lincecum said. “I see why he’s a tough guy to face.”

Lincecum, who’ll start next Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against Seattle, was pleased with his batting-practice stint overall. He also faced Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey, whose line drive to right field was the closest semblance to a hit.

“Everything kind of felt where it should have been,” said Lincecum, who threw all of his pitches.

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In other camp developments, infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa (left wrist) took live BP but only “tracked” pitches and didn’t swing. He’s still expected to be able to participate fully in workouts soon.

Manager Bruce Bochy said that second baseman Freddy Sanchez (left shoulder, left knee) could be ready to begin fielding groundballs by the weekend.

MLB Network will air the Giants’ “Inside the Clubhouse — Town Hall Meeting” on four separate occasions (all times Pacific): Sunday, 9:30 p.m.; Monday, 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 1:30 p.m.; Wednesday, midnight.

– Chris Haft

Wednesday’s Winter Meetings leftovers

INDIANAPOLIS — Could the New York Yankees’ acquisition of Curtis Granderson affect the Giants? Probably not. But if the Giants were so inclined, they might be able to coax an outfielder from the World Champions.

The Yankees probably wouldn’t want to trade Melky Cabrera, since he’s only 25 and relatively affordable, having earned a base salary of $1.4 million last season. But he could be deemed expendable if New York decided it had a glut of outfielders. Cabrera was linked to the Giants in trade rumors a couple of years ago, which of course means nothing.

The Yankees also have Nick Swisher, the former Oakland Athletic who probably wouldn’t mind returning to the Bay Area. Swisher propelled 29 home runs out of the Yankee Stadium launching pad and compiled a .371 on-base percentage despite hitting only .249 last season. But Swisher’s mildly pricey, as he’s owed $15.75 million over the next two seasons.

Though most speculation has linked the Giants to corner outfielders, general manager Brian Sabean said that one or two scenarios “possibly” exist in which the club could acquire a center fielder, who would prompt Aaron Rowand to move to left field. But, Sabean added, “We’re not asking Aaron to move and we don’t anticipate that he’ll move.”

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Nate Schierholtz has helped himself by playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. The 25-year-old candidate for the right field job entered Wednesday batting .339 in 15 games for the Gigantes de Carolina, helped partly by tutelage from San Francisco’s globe-trotting hitting coach, Hensley Meulens.

“I give Nate a lot of credit,” Sabean said. “We really appreciate what he’s doing to go to winter ball and he has made some changes with Hensley. Everybody’s pulling for Nate. He’s got too much passion for what he does and he works at it. He’s a good outfielder (with a) good arm, good baserunner. We just haven’t seen enough consistency with the bat, or more so the power that we thought we’d have at this time. But he certainly (has) a captive audience right now. He wants to be out there.”

– 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

Big weekend for Schierholtz

PHOENIX — Here’s Nate Schierholtz’s take on this weekend’s Giants-A’s Interleague series at AT&T Park:

“It definitely has a Bay Bridge Series meaning to me,” he said.

Obviously, Schierholtz is pumped, jazzed, stoked or whatever synonym you want to use for “excited.” This will mark the first time that he has opposed the A’s in the regular season, and it’s a series he has been anticipating for years.

Growing up in the East Bay, Schierholtz attended plenty of Giants-A’s games. Though he geographically was closer to the A’s, he left his heart … well, I don’t need to finish the sentence. “I definitely was always a Giants fan,” Schierholtz said. 

Let’s hope Schierholtz gets into a game or two. It’d be a shame if he languished on the bench, especially since he might care about these games more than anybody on the field.

– Chris Haft

 

Guzman’s first Giants project: First base

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jesus Guzman, who has impressed the Giants this spring with his hitting while dismaying them with his fielding, has played first base for three days in a row in Minor League exhibitions as the organization strives to find a position he can handle adequately.

“He can get nine innings of learning the peripherals of first-base play,” manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday.

Guzman has virtually no chance of making the Opening Day roster despite hitting .404 this spring. Not only has he looked inadequate defensively at first base and third base and in left field, but he also has played only 15 games above the Double-A level. Polished as Guzman seems at the plate, he must prove himself in all phases of the game.

Other items of note from Tuesday:

– Nate Schierholtz’s third-inning home run in the Giants’ 7-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks gave San Francisco at least one homer in 22 of its 29 Cactus League games. The Giants entered the afternoon with 37 homers, second in the Majors to Kansas City’s 41.

– Matt Cain lasted only five innings but was effective when necessary, stranding five runners in scoring position while yielding two runs and seven hits. “I probably felt more relaxed and comfortable toward the end. Sometimes it works that way,” said Cain, who struck out five during his 90-pitch outing.

– Closer Brian Wilson worked the ninth inning and allowed his first run in 10 spring appearances, though it was unearned. Bochy has been pleased with Wilson’s use of a changeup to complement his fastball and slider. “That can be a big pitch for him if he gets comfortable with it and feels like he can throw it anytime,” Bochy said.

– The Giants have re-signed right-hander Matt Kinney, who will pitch at Triple-A Fresno. Kinney, who pitched for the Giants in 2005, gives them more Minor League depth.

– Chris Haft

Non-roster sleepers awaken Giants; injury updates

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jesus Guzman and Andres Torres almost surely won’t make the Giants’ Opening Day roster. But they’re starting to show that if the Giants ever need them during the season, they’ll be ready when they show up.

Guzman, 24, is the more well-known of the two, although “well-known” isn’t a term commonly associated with non-roster players. Guzman commanded some attention in the offseason by hitting .349 with 13 homers in 61 games and driving in a Venezuelan Winter League-record 67 runs for Caracas. That earned the third baseman league Most Valuable Player honors. The Giants are his third professional organization.

Torres, 31, is a switch-hitting outfielder who has spent 11 years in professional baseball, including fractions of the 2002-05 seasons with Detroit and Texas. That’s the profile of a baseball journeyman.

Except that neither he nor Guzman have looked like journeymen so far in Cactus League games. Guzman ricocheted an eighth-inning RBI triple off the right-field fence Sunday, and Torres has made two excellent plays in center field in recent days. Torres also scored twice in the Giants’ 5-2 victory Sunday over Milwaukee.

Manager Bruce Bochy was especially impressed with Torres: “Those were impressive jumps he gets to the ball, and he has pop from both sides of the plate. He’s interesting.”

“Interesting” can lead to a mid- or late-season callup under many circumstances.

As for the injuries, outfielder Nate Schierholtz is expected to be sidelined for two to three days with back spasms. Those, said Bochy, could be related to Schierholtz’s tight hamstrings.

Left-hander Noah Lowry didn’t throw over the weekend, as expected, but could resume tossing sometime this week.

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