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02/22/07 7:17 PM ET

Notes: Ortiz impressive vs. hitters

Lincecum draws crowd; 'Giants Idol' encore on tap next week

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If Russ Ortiz wins the No. 5 starter's spot in the Giants' rotation, he shouldn't have trouble motivating himself to face the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Ortiz said Thursday that Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes informed him by telephone that he was being designated for assignment last June 13 -- rough news that any ballplayer would prefer to receive in person.

"It was the worst news I've ever heard in the game," said Ortiz, recalling that he was on his way to a physical therapist for extra stretching when the fateful call came. "I did wish, I still do, that we would have done something face to face in the proper manner."

That was just part of a nightmarish year for Ortiz, who was 0-8 with an 8.14 ERA last season with Arizona and Baltimore. Now, however, Ortiz is a leading candidate to claim the final spot in the Giants' rotation, and the job could be his if he continues to throw as he did in live batting practice Thursday against Rich Aurilia, Barry Bonds, Dave Roberts and Randy Winn. A simple mechanical adjustment -- taking the ball from his glove and extending his arm behind the pitching rubber and into a reverse "C" instead of straight up -- has helped Ortiz, 32, regain his zip.

"You ask any of the four guys who faced him today -- they'd tell you, where was that guy the last four years?" said Aurilia, who played behind Ortiz when the right-hander posted a 67-44 record for the Giants from 1998-2002.

Manager Bruce Bochy also was suitably impressed.

"He certainly looks like the Russ Ortiz we all know," Bochy said.

Looking at Lincecum: Right-hander Tim Lincecum again attracted extra onlookers as he faced hitters for the first time. The elbow-to-elbow crowd behind the batting cage included veterans Bonds, Ray Durham, Ryan Klesko, Steve Kline and Noah Lowry, as well as fellow pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, Bochy and the usual gathering of coaches.

Mark Sweeney, one of the hitters to face Lincecum, relayed a remark from Bonds: "Barry said, 'His ball's pretty straight.' Usually big-league hitters hit a fastball that's pretty straight."

But, Sweeney added, "That's Barry talking, too. He probably feels good about pitchers that I don't feel comfortable with."

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It's also worth pointing out that Lincecum, the Giants' top pitching prospect, isn't imparting full force or movement on his deliveries yet.

"I'm still just trying to throw strikes," he said. "As I throw more bullpens and get more pitches under my belt, I'll start airing it out more and more."

Lincecum's stuff was tough enough for the good-natured Sweeney, who triumphantly bellowed, "Yeah!" as he weakly topped a Lincecum fastball toward first base.

Barrys will be Barrys: Another lively BP moment came with Barry Zito's final pitch, which nicked Bonds in the right shoulder. Pretending to be angry, Bonds charged the mound before he and Zito both dissolved in laughter. They later shared more laughs and a high-five.

Encore performance: The second "Giants Idol" no-talent show, a takeoff on FOX's "American Idol" television program, will be held Sunday and Monday at Scottsdale Stadium.

Most of the "contestants" will be rookies participating in their first Major League camp, although right-hander Matt Cain performed last year and utilityman Kevin Frandsen is expected to go on stage this year. There's no word yet on whether Bonds, who stole the show by portraying "Idol" judge Paula Abdul, will repeat his role.

Eliezer wiser: After 10 Minor League seasons, catcher Eliezer Alfonzo had a super rookie season in 2006, filling in for injured Mike Matheny and hitting .300 for several months. He finished at .266 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs.

Alfonzo is expected to back up veteran Bengie Molina. But the 28-year-old hardly considers it a demotion.

"It was my dream to make the big leagues and now I want to stay here and finish my career in the Majors," said Alfonzo. "I'll learn a lot from Bengie, and maybe I won't make so many mistakes like I did last year. A lot of them were mental because it's a faster game."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.