Results tagged ‘ Rich Aurilia ’

Nifty one-liners from Monday, Aurilia bats cleanup

SAN FRANCISCO — Rich Aurilia, king of the one-liners among the Giants, spun another good one as he described the odd eighth-inning play that was instrumental in San Francisco’s 5-4 victory Monday over the Dodgers.

After fielding Aurilia’s nubber up the first-base line, Dodgers right-hander Ronald Belisario gloved the ball and unwisely flipped it home — while positioned smack dab in front of Aurilia and directly over his head.

“I ‘Matrixed’ him,” Aurilia joked.

Right-hander Merkin Valdez, who earned Monday’s decision, delivered a perhaps unintentionally witty response when asked how he felt on the mound upon pitching for the first time since April 16.

“Fresh,” Valdez said.

***

Aurilia also made a funny remark referring to Barry Bonds’ presence in the park Monday. “It felt weird hitting cleanup with that guy here,” Aurilia said.

Certainly Aurilia hasn’t been the offensive dynamo that Bonds was in the middle of the order. But Aurilia wasn’t a slouch in his limited appearances batting fourth, either.

With Cincinnati in 2006, Aurilia accumulated 227 at-bats as a cleanup hitter, sometimes with Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn surrounding him and sometimes when either one of them needed a rest. Aurilia hit .269 – not bad for a so-called bench player — with 11 home runs and 33 RBI. His slugging percentage was .485.

For his career, entering Monday, Aurilia’s .835 slugging percentage in 77 games (including 68 starts) at cleanup is his best from any spot in the batting order, except for leadoff (a spot he has occupied only 10 times and just once as a starter). His lifetime batting average at cleanup was .295 (84-for-309) with 12 homers and 43 RBIs.

– Chris Haft  

It’s Ishikawa, not Aurilia, at first base

SAN FRANCISCO — Contrary to what he announced Tuesday, manager Bruce Bochy started Travis Ishikawa at first base instead of Rich Aurilia on Wednesday afternoon against the San Diego Padres.

Bochy’s explanation was simple: He liked what he saw Tuesday night, when Ishikawa went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Keeping his bat in the lineup was the right thing to do, Bochy reasoned.

“This is where, as a manager, you have the right to change your mind,” Bochy said. Of Ishikawa, Bochy said, “He looks like he’s being more selective, yet at the same time when he gets his pitches, he’s letting it go.”

Center fielder Aaron Rowand, bothered by a mild ankle injury, received Wednesday off. This, combined with Thursday’s scheduled off-day, should enable Rowand to rejoin the lineup Friday at Arizona.

Patience will be necessary

SAN FRANCISCO — An update: Unfortunately, more showers were expected to hit between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m., endangering Tuesday’s 1:25 p.m. scheduled starting time. Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom urged fans to be patient, indicating that the teams will try to wait out the weather for at least another hour or so.

Meanwhile, most hitters didn’t even bother taking batting practice. Why expend energy prematurely or even unnecessarily? One exception was Aaron Rowand, who strode into the clubhouse with a bat in his hand at around 11:30, having apparently spent some time in the batting cage.

Barry Zito played long toss, but this was part of his usual between-starts routine, not just a way to kill time. Pitchers Brian Wilson, Alex Hinshaw, Joe Martinez and Brandon Medders played bridge, and Rich Aurilia sorted out wristbands, batting gloves and other equipment at his dressing stall. Not too many players watched the Royals-White Sox telecast. Fascinating stuff.

– Chris Haft

 

Is signing Pudge really necessary?

MASSILLON, Ohio — As I finish helping my daughter Samantha celebrate her 18th birthday, I admire from afar the typically solid reporting by my San Francisco Chronicle counterpart, Henry Schulman, who confirmed that the Giants have explored signing Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

Pardon me for not summoning the same enthusiasm for the notion of acquiring Rodriguez. By bringing Rodriguez aboard, the Giants would be admitting that the personnel strategy they’ve considered since the 2008 season ended was flawed. It’s not flawed, if only because they haven’t given it a chance to work yet.

Rodriguez’s arrival would reflect a vote of no confidence in Travis Ishikawa and Pablo Sandoval, who likely would lose playing time at first and third base, respectively. So much for the youth movement.

It’s also quite possible that Rich Aurilia, who has been expected to back up at the infield corners, would be sent packing if Rodriguez joined the Giants. Rodriguez has had an outstanding career and might win election to the Hall of Fame, but at this point in his career it’s debatable whether he’s better than Aurilia.

Rodriguez is 37. He hit all of seven home runs in 398 at-bats last year with the Tigers and Yankees (Aurilia, also 37, homered 10 times in 407 at-bats). How anybody can believe that he’d suddenly regain power while playing in AT&T Park is behind me. Moreoever, since recording a .510 slugging percentage in 2004, Rodriguez has slipped in that category each year, to .444 in 2005, .437 in 2006, .420 in 2007 and .394 last season. The trend is obvious; his career is headed in one direction. At least Ishikawa and Sandoval have youth and a modicum of talent on their side.

Anywhere from six to 16 years ago, the Giants shouldn’t have hesitated to pick up Rodriguez if they had a chance. Now, they shouldn’t hesitate to run from such a deal. I’ve consistently given club management a break when considering their player moves, but this one ranks right down there with the proposed Tim Lincecum-for-Alex Rios trade in Dec. 2007. How can the Giants possibly think that Rodriguez can significantly help them?

– Chris Haft

An ode to Dave Roberts

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Dave Roberts’ value cannot be measured by statistics.

Roberts is that rarest of ballplayers: Somebody who’s good for the team even when he’s not playing. Unfortunately for the Giants, that was all too often over the last couple of years, partly explaining why they released Roberts on Thursday.

Sentiment is a luxury the Giants can’t afford. Eugenio Velez is proving capable of handling the backup outfielder’s role Roberts would have occupied. Velez also switch hits, plays second base and is faster than Roberts. As Giants general manager Brian Sabean said, “I told him [Roberts] we’re on a path to get younger and healthier. Right now that’s not on his resume.”

Still, as Roberts prepares to clean out his Scottsdale Stadium locker — his gear remained in it after he departed Thursday; he had mentioned dropping by one more time to bid goodbye to players he had missed — it’s only right to salute a truly fine individual.

Aaron Boone, another player I’ve known whose character eclipses his statistics, said upon being traded from the Reds to the Yankees that in the end, the relationships a ballplayer forges within the game are the richest assets he derives from it. Certainly a guy can feel fulfilled by making a lot of money or winning a World Series ring. But baseball, which throws disparate men together for 200 or more days a year, forces you to bond. Pity those who are incapable of forming or unwilling to relish those bonds. The best things in life, after all, are free.

Roberts knows this. So he savored the people who surrounded him. He offered a hello and a big smile to anybody who crossed his path, whether it was a clubhouse attendant, a reporter or a teammate.

On the Giants, he was closest to fellow veterans Randy Winn and Rich Aurilia. They were dubbed the “Rat Pack,” owing to the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. triumvirate of the 1960s (no, we’re not forgetting Joey Bishop or Peter Lawford, but let’s face it, the others were the Big Three). But Roberts didn’t confine himself to any clique. When Emmanuel Burriss, Rajai Davis or Velez showed their inexperience on the field, Roberts counseled them afterward, doling out fatherly advice on how to avoid repeating such transgressions. When Matt Cain had endured one luckless defeat too many, Roberts was there to remind him that there was nothing wrong with him and assure him that he’ll ultimately be rewarded. This might sound like self-evident stuff, but it’s easy to lose perspective under the pressure big leaguers face. Roberts was always willing to offer that perspective in a patient, understanding, caring package.

During Barry Bonds’ final ascent to the home run record in 2007, Roberts tirelessly answered reporters’ incessant questions about the slugger. Roberts didn’t do this to win points with the media or seem better than the other players. He did this because he knew the media’s demands wouldn’t subside, and by answering a question here or a question there he could spare teammates some of the hassle. In short, he took one (in this case, hundreds) for the team.

I’ve been blessed to cover baseball for most of my career since 1991, and when I grope through my memory for other players who possessed the same intangible worth that Roberts brought the Giants, I find few parallels.

There was Casey Candaele, who everybody thought was too small, too slow and just not physically gifted enough to play Major League baseball. His mere presence (never mind his outrageous sense of humor) inspired teammates to give their best.

There was Pete Harnisch, who pitched only every five days but provided influence constantly. Like Candaele, Harnisch had a stiletto-sharp wit that he could use to motivate, ridicule, or lead his teammates. I also remember how he literally gave up a start toward the end of the 2000 season with Cincinnati so Ron Villone could get a shot at his 10th win. Not only did Villone reach double figures, he also struck out 16 in a 150-pitch complete game that remains one of the most stunning efforts I’ve seen.

Roberts has been the same way, always there for others. It’s no surprise that he was a championship-winning quarterback in high school — playing the most important position in the ultimate team sport. He’s no longer a Giant, and he might have trouble finding a Major League job. But any team that picks him up ought to hold onto him. He’s a winner in a profound sense of the word.

– Chris Haft  

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