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03/28/08 1:21 AM ET
Giants expect mix-and-match lineups
Bochy's choices can emphasize either offense or defense
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Although the composition of the Giants' Opening Day lineup remains an intriguing unknown, it quite possibly won't be the contingent manager Bruce Bochy calls upon the most in 2008. Bochy used 124 different lineups in 2007, and he indicated before Thursday's 7-2 exhibition loss to the Seattle Mariners at AT&T Park that this kind of variety could emerge again as he searches for suitable combinations among the Giants' mix of veterans and relatively untested youngsters. Bochy might have to experiment actively early in the season, depending on the physical condition of various Giants. Left fielder Dave Roberts, a possible regular, missed his third consecutive game Thursday with a sore left knee. Second baseman Ray Durham played his second exhibition in a row, but his injury history suggests that his tight left hamstring could nag him at any time. Even after shortstop Omar Vizquel returns from left knee surgery, which could be as soon as mid-April, Bochy probably will have to rest him periodically to keep him fit. While Bochy would prefer to employ a set lineup -- what manager wouldn't? -- the Giants' tenuous health and instability at the infield corners might force him to mix and match constantly. Citing factors that could influence his selections, Bochy said, "It may be a matchup. We may give up defense to try to get some runs. [Or] we may go with our defense." Bochy prefers the term "matchup" to "platoon." Yet it's a near-lock that Roberts, who batted .156 against left-handers last season and owns a .238 career average against them, will sit against left-handed starters while Rajai Davis plays. Other choices might not be so obvious, aside from when a particular hitter-versus-pitcher confrontation favors the Giants. Bochy can employ a lineup featuring as many as four switch-hitters -- Vizquel, Durham, Randy Winn and Dan Ortmeier -- which minimizes the need for platooning. Yet Ortmeier, despite last year's statistics (.310 against right-handers, .257 against lefties), is more comfortable from the right side, which is his natural stroke. "Left-handed has been somewhat of a mystery. Right-handed, he's a threat," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. Since Rich Aurilia, the other prospective starting first baseman, also bats right-handed, Bochy still might elect to use Ortmeier against certain right-handers.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.