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04/01/08 11:07 PM ET
Young players adjusting to bench roles
Lewis, Davis, Velez take extra practice to stay ready
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Sitting on the bench is an activity -- or, as the case may be, an inactivity -- that's mostly foreign to the Giants' younger position players. Yet adjusting to playing off the bench is something they realize they must master quickly. "It's very difficult for me because I've never played that role before," said outfielder Fred Lewis, 27, who accumulated 512 at-bats at Double-A in 2005. "I've done it very seldom in my career," said outfielder Rajai Davis, 27, who has appeared in at least 120 games every year since 2003. In a sense, these Giants don't have to change a thing, since they're accustomed to taking the extra batting and fielding practice that reserves need to stay sharp. "You have to," Davis said. "You can't stop, because you lose whatever it was that got you to where you are if you stop. So I understand that concept." It's still not easy. Take Eugenio Velez, for example. Although the Giants believe that Velez's future is at second base, he also must spend additional practice time in the outfield and at third base in case he's needed there. "I don't know where I'm going to play," said Velez, 25, who has amassed 865 at-bats in his last two seasons. So when Velez filled in at left field for the eighth inning Monday, he felt only a little surprised. He wasn't nervous, either. "Last year, I was," said Velez, who appeared in 14 September games with the Giants in his first Major League action. Remaining physically limber is another challenge, even for spry types such as Lewis. Last June, he went on the disabled list with a strained right oblique. "Stay in the gym, stay loose -- that's the key to staying healthy," he said. "Sitting around not doing anything, that's how you get a pulled muscle."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.