SAN FRANCISCO -- Closing his batting stance may have opened new vistas for Nate Schierholtz.Schierholtz began hitting with his front (right) foot pointed a few inches closer to home plate shortly before the Giants began their two-city trip to Chicago and Detroit last week. The results have been dramatic for Schierholtz, who entered Thursday batting .395 (15-for-38) in his previous 10 games. Schierholtz had been hitting proficiently in batting practice yet failing to take that swing into games. So he tinkered a little until he found satisfaction with the closed stance. "I tried to get something that felt more comfortable and wasn't as forced," said Schierholtz, whose 14th-inning homer won Wednesday's game against San Diego. "I felt like I was forcing my swing all this time. I feel a lot more natural now. I know it's only been a couple of weeks, but I'm seeing the ball better." Schierholtz didn't try to explain why a closed stance might work to his advantage. "As long as I keep having good at-bats, that's really the key for me," he said. "Just not thinking -- see the ball, hit the ball -- and laying off pitches I shouldn't be swinging at."
Sabean open to trading for 'difference-maker'
SAN FRANCISCO -- Departing from his standard operating procedure, Giants general manager Brian Sabean indicated Thursday that he would consider trading for players who will become eligible for free agency after this season."You have to, because of the situation we're in," Sabean said. The situation involves unique factors. The Giants are reigning World Series champions and are striving to return to the postseason. Their stable of relatively young and exceedingly talented pitchers gives them a window of opportunity to remain contenders for several years. Their numerous injuries have left them with needs at multiple positions. They're drawing sellout crowds daily to AT&T Park, so they seem to be able to accommodate a high-salaried player. But, as Sabean said, "You have to be pretty sure that that 'rental' is a difference-maker." Normally, a remark such as this would revive the Jose Reyes trade rumors. But the Mets shortstop is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Sabean estimated that he has spoken with about 15 teams but isn't close to reaching a deal with any. One factor is the tightly bunched standings in both leagues, generating a plethora of aspiring contenders. "People are still trying to figure out what's in their best interests," Sabean said.
Belt, Fontenot won't be back with Giants soon
SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Belt and Mike Fontenot won't be returning to the Giants quite as soon as expected.
Belt was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Fresno on Thursday. And after projecting that Fontenot would likely return on Friday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday that the utility man will need a little more time on his rehab assignment.
"We don't feel there's a sense of urgency that we have to get [Fontenot] here tomorrow, and if we think that he needs some more time, then he's going to stay down there and play," Bochy said. "We're not going to bring him up if we don't think he's ready, and we don't think he's quite ready, to be honest. Fontenot may be in a holding pattern."
Bochy said the decision is based more on Fontenot's health than his ability, as he's not quite running at full speed due to his strained left groin. He will be evaluated after each game with Fresno, and as soon as he is back to feeling 100 percent, Bochy said, Fontenot will be back with the Giants.
As for Belt, Bochy said the left-handed slugger just needs more time and more at-bats. Bochy couldn't give an answer when asked when he expects Belt to rejoin the Giants, classifying Belt as an option right now only if someone gets hurt.
"He's playing down at Fresno and getting his playing time, which he needs. If something happens up here, it's nice to have him available," Bochy said. "I can't tell you when we may need him. Hopefully we stay healthy and play well and we don't need him for a while -- not that I don't want to see him. He's a nice player to have available when we do need him."
Bochy, Flannery recall their time with Williams
SAN FRANCISCO -- Dick Williams, the Hall of Fame manager who died Thursday at age 82, had no obvious connection to the Giants. But Williams had an indirect effect on the reigning World Series champions, given the presence of two of his former Padres players, manager Bruce Bochy and third-base coach Tim Flannery, on San Francisco's staff."What he gave us is in this team," Flannery said. "He's the reason I coach the way I coach. He was the reason I played the way I played. And he showed us two things: He showed us there's a way to win and there's a way not to win. And I think anybody who played for him would tell you the same thing." Williams was anything but touchy-feely or tactful. Bochy recalled playing a Spring Training game in Las Vegas after having caught a streak of games in which Padres pitchers allowed about 10 runs each day. Said Bochy, "Dick comes up and says, 'Do you think there's any way you can hold this team under five runs?' That was his way of motivating you. He'd get on you in a way that had an edge. That made me a better catcher." Flannery remembered weathering considerable criticism from Williams, who told him the following season, "I made a mistake. As long as I'm here, you're here." But, Flannery added, "That's a happy ending. There are a lot of stories that don't have that type of ending, because some of the guys couldn't deal witih it. Those guys would be run out the next day.
"He'd go to the mound and say, 'If you don't get this guy out, you're going to be in Triple-A tomorrow.' And he would do it. He didn't ask you to move a runner from second base. He demanded it. And if you didn't get it done, if you were a young player, you were gone. That's how he managed young players, by intimidation."
Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, on the 15-day disabled list with left biceps tendinitis, threw off the bullpen mound Wednesday and said Thursday he felt fine aside from some normal soreness. He played light catch Thursday and will do so again Friday before throwing another bullpen off the mound Saturday.
"Nothing different, no pain," Sanchez said. "I'm not 100 percent, but I'm getting there."
Bochy said injured second baseman Freddy Sanchez, out with a dislocated right shoulder, is taking swings off a tee and was excited to be able to do that. Bochy wasn't sure if Sanchez was swinging with a fungo bat or a wood bat. The next step -- trying to throw the ball -- will be the true test for whether or not Sanchez can return this season.
After a 14-inning victory Wednesday night in which the bullpen contributed eight scoreless innings and struck out 13, Bochy said everyone was available on Thursday. That includes left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who was unavailable Wednesday night with a sore calf he tweaked while celebrating on the mound Tuesday night.
Bochy liked what he saw out of Miguel Tejada at second base in his first two games at the position, and he said the career shortstop/third baseman will continue to see time at second base, noting that Tejada was excited to contribute however he can.
"I like Miggy's arm on the backhand play. He's got a short, quick release and arm strength," Bochy said. "He's only going to get better. He went out there two days ago, and he's never played second, and he looked comfortable. That's what I look at."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.