05/14/2003 12:13 AM ET
Notes: The eyes have it
Benard to have surgery; Durham working hard at rehab
SAN FRANCISCO -- Some guys on a hot streak at the plate would just say they're seeing the ball better, but Rich Aurilia takes that a step further.
He's glad to be seeing the ball, period.
"What's going right for me, first of all, is that I can see again," Aurilia said. "That's a big part of everything. It's hard to hit something coming at you when you can't see clearly."
Aurilia took an eight-game hitting streak into Tuesday night's game against the Expos, including a 3-for-4 performance with two doubles Monday. He went 14-for-32 in those eight games, all coming since he returned from a three-game respite caused by irritation in his left eye that seriously affected his vision for more than a week.
His final at-bat of Monday night's game proved as much as anything that Aurilia indeed is seeing the ball better.
After falling behind 0-2 to Expos closer Rocky Biddle, Aurilia looked at three straight balls to run the count full before drilling a double to left. That brought Barry Bonds to the plate as the tying run, and Bonds narrowly missed a homer as the Giants eventually went down to a 4-3 defeat.
Aside from proving his eye is back, literally, the clutch at-bat was a perfect example of recent conversations between Aurilia and hitting coach Joe Lefebvre.
"We just talked about being ready to hit all the time, being passive and aggressive, swinging aggressively at the pitches you can hit," Aurilia said. "The last 10 days or so, I'm not swinging at as many bad pitches as I was earlier. I'm being aggressive, but at the same time I'm taking more walks."
Giants manager Felipe Alou definitely sees the aggressiveness, and he likes the results.
"Rich is going to the plate to hit," Alou said. "He's adopted a very aggressive approach to hitting since he came back from the eye problem."
Being able to see the ball does wonders, doesn't it?
"People will tell you all the time, this game's about confidence," Aurilia said. "It's hard to have any confidence in yourself when you're not seeing well and there's nothing you can really do about it. Now that I can see up there, I have that confidence back.
"I'm confident about what I can do up there, and I'm confident about the type of year I'm going to have."
Benard to undergo surgery: Outfielder Marvin Benard, who was placed on the disabled list Friday, will undergo a diagnostic arthroscopy Wednesday to determine the cause of continued swelling in his right knee. Dr. Gary Fanton will perform the exploratory procedure. No timetable for Benard's return will be available until after the operation.
Rehab report: Ray Durham is making a full-time job out of the rehabilitation of his sprained right ankle, spending close to seven hours doing various exercises and getting treatment to cut down the estimated 3-4 weeks of recovery time as much as possible. According to trainer Stan Conte, Durham was taking batting practice and throwing while seated in a chair Tuesday.
Meanwhile, left-handed reliever Jason Christiansen was in Modesto pitching for Single-A San Jose on Tuesday night on his rehab assignment, walking one but allowing nothing else in one inning of work. He told Conte he wanted to make sure that he pitched the seventh inning to simulate his actual role once he returns.
Lineup ideas: With Durham out of the mix, Alou was thinking of having Jose Cruz Jr. bat leadoff Tuesday night and even told Cruz of the idea after Monday night's game.
But Alou changed his mind, instead going with Marquis Grissom in the top spot.
"I bet you he's surprised he's batting cleanup again today," Alou said. "I changed it because he's there every day. He hasn't been swinging the bat really well, but nevertheless he's a threat. He gets on base. He's hard to double up on ground balls and things like that."
Whatever he does with the leadoff spot, Alou knows he has a tough job of trying to replace Durham in that role.
"He's a great on-base guy and speed guy," Alou said. "You just don't have that many leadoff hitters on one team, especially of that caliber."
Alou previously had said that he might try to get Cruz a day off, but said Tuesday it might be tough considering the state of the team's health with Durham out.
"I don't see that right now," Alou said.
Coming up: The Giants host the Expos in the series finale Thursday at 12:35 p.m. with Giants rookie right-hander Jesse Foppert (2-2, 5.18) meeting Expos right-hander Claudio Vargas.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By John Schlegel / MLB.com