Slump isn't cause for Sabean, Giants to panic
GM addresses concerns after team's fourth straight loss
SAN FRANCISCO -- General manager Brian Sabean understands the Giants' shortcomings. They're too slow. They lack left-handed/right-handed hitting balance. And lately, while losing four series in a row, four consecutive games and seven of their previous eight games, each of their mistakes seems magnified."Right now, unfortunately, we haven't much margin of error," Sabean said after San Francisco fell, 4-2, Tuesday night to the Los Angeles Dodgers. "That's what's happened in each one of these series." Yet the Giants have no need to panic. Though they've fallen to fourth place in the National League West, they trail first-place San Diego by only 4 1/2 games. Finding a semblance of a regular lineup is one factor that could help the Giants recover from their current slump, Sabean said. The Giants have used 58 different lineups in 76 games, often because of injuries to projected regulars. Now that the roster is mostly healthy -- infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa, who'll undergo left wrist surgery Thursday, is a primary exception -- Sabean believes that manager Bruce Bochy will be able to settle on a relatively constant starting eight. "If we can get some continuity with the lineup -- who's going to be out there every day, where are you going to hit -- I think in time that everyday group will have a chance to get more relaxed and build some confidence," Sabean said. Echoing Bochy, Sabean indicated that Buster Posey will appear more regularly in that lineup, including at catcher. Posey has started 22 games at first base. But with Juan Uribe playing third base and Pablo Sandoval playing first more often, Posey would have to move behind the plate to crack the lineup. "I think the juggling act now [for Bochy] will be to have more days with Pablo and Posey in the lineup," Sabean said. "Which means Posey's going to have to start picking up some games behind home plate. Which he will." Sabean addressed several other issues, including:
Tim Lincecum's occasional subpar performances. "The bar's been set high," Sabean said, referring to Lincecum's back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards. "Teams in the league are making adjustments and he's going to have to adjust back. He's going to have to fight back."Sabean observed that Lincecum must condition himself better to avoid his ongoing struggles in day games and hot weather. "He knows he's going to have to take his offseason training to another level," Sabean said. "The guys who have longevity don't do it on natural ability alone. And he's smart enough to understand that. So he's in the process of having to make some mental and physical adjustments." Sandoval's lack of offensive productivity. The switch-hitting Kung Fu Panda has 30 RBIs in 74 games. "We certainly expected him to be in the middle of things from an RBI standpoint more so than he is," Sabean said. "But there's plenty of season left, and it can turn." The alarming total of 83 double plays grounded into by the Giants, who are on pace to break Boston's Major League record of 174 in 1990. "It's obvious we don't have the team speed you need to stay out of being susceptible to double plays, because you can't beat out the back end of the double play," Sabean said. Sabean cited the club's preponderance of right-handed hitters as another flaw. "We're probably too right-handed for the right-handed pitching," Sabean said, noting that the Giants had only three left-handed or switch-hitters in Tuesday's lineup against Los Angeles rookie right-hander John Ely. But Sabean also praised the club's experience and depth. "It's a good group," he said. "They know what's at stake. They know the sense of urgency. Having said that, I don't see them, at least in the clubhouse, uptight or not understanding it's a long season." The course of the season could change if Sabean makes a dynamic deal or two by the July 31 Trade Deadline. Though Sabean declined to discuss specific needs, he emphasized that the Giants are unlikely to acquire players who are eligible for free agency this offseason. They'd prefer to obtain somebody like second baseman Freddy Sanchez, a pre-Deadline acquisition from last July who they knew they could retain. Too often, said Sabean, it's a "roll of the dice of finding somebody who may or may not make as big a difference as we might need. The downside is, you end up with a free agent-to-be and either no chance to re-sign him or not wanting to re-sign him and then you've lost prospects in the deal." Sabean acknowledged that the Giants have enough payroll flexibility to add a high-salaried veteran. But, he added, "There'll be a limit to that. It's not a bottomless pit. Nor would I expect it to be." Sabean does expect the Giants to improve their 8-16 record against NL West foes. That includes a 1-4 record against the Dodgers, who happen to be 20-5 against division competition. "The one thing we need to do -- and it starts with [Wednesday's] game -- is start winning some games in this division," Sabean said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.