Uribe strongly in Giants' infield mix
Veteran nearly assured of utility role with San Francisco
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's not a stretch to suggest that Juan Uribe could prove to be the most valuable free agent the Giants signed last offseason -- or, at the very least, among the most essential.Uribe signed a Minor League contract on Jan. 29, but the type of deal was a mere formality, since the Giants had no 40-man roster spots left. They know that he's a legitimate Major Leaguer who's capable of filling in at second base, shortstop and third base. Moreover, he can provide offense, having hit 20 or more home runs three times in his seven full big league seasons.
Uribe punctuated his Cactus League performance with an exclamation point Monday by homering twice, including an impressive opposite-field shot to right field, in the Giants' 7-5, 10-inning loss to the Texas Rangers. Uribe and Jesus Guzman, whose two-out homer tied the score, 5-5, in the ninth, share the team lead in RBIs with 15."I knew we were getting a good player, but he's played great this spring," manager Bruce Bochy said of Uribe, who's batting .400 (8-for-20) with runners in scoring position. At 30, Uribe has reached a juncture in his career where he knows that his best chance to stay in the Majors is as a utility man. Any former regular who becomes a reserve won't be proficient at the role unless he embraces it. Uribe sounded as if he has adopted this attitude. "I can't say, 'I want to play every day,'" said Uribe, a nephew of former Giants infielder Jose Uribe. "Where the team needs me, where the manager wants me to play, I'll do it." Briefly this spring, Uribe's status appeared to be in doubt. Since he signed that Minor League deal, the Giants were under no obligation to keep him on the Opening Day roster. But he improved his conditioning -- "He's gotten himself in great shape since he's been here," Bochy said -- and has virtually assured himself of a job.
Asked if Uribe was part of the team in every roster scenario, Bochy said, "Right now, that's the way it's shaping up."Bochy added that Uribe's versatility makes him ideal to use in double-switches, while his offensive potential would enable him to thrive as a pinch-hitter. Cast aside by the Chicago White Sox, for whom Uribe played from 2004-08, he's grateful just to be considered.
"I'm happy that the team has given me a chance to play," he said.But Uribe also knows that though his prospects look good, he shouldn't peruse apartment listings in San Francisco until the roster is finalized.
"I don't have control," Uribe said.Exactly how the Giants will set their roster remains mysterious. They appear to have an excess of qualified infielders, yet Bochy reiterated that Uribe, Rich Aurilia and the loser of the Emmanuel Burriss-Kevin Frandsen tug-of-war at second base all could make the Opening Day squad -- which might force the Giants into stocking the pitching staff or outfield with one fewer player than usual, or gambling by assigning third baseman Pablo Sandoval the duty of backup catcher. "We're discussing this club on a daily basis," Bochy said. "We've got some difficult decisions coming up."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.