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05/21/08 1:00 AM ET

Velez sent down; Denker recalled

Utilityman needs to 'get his game back on track,' Bochy says

DENVER -- Eugenio Velez will receive the playing time he needs, but it'll happen in the Minor Leagues.

The Giants optioned Velez to Triple-A Fresno after Tuesday night's 6-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies, and replaced him with infielder Travis Denker, who was recalled from Fresno.

"This was a move to get Eugenio playing again every day so he can continue his development and get his game back on track," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Velez, the fleet, switch-hitting utilityman, was widely considered the Giants' most dynamic player in Spring Training and early in the regular season. After hitting .286 with 16 stolen bases in 19 tries in Cactus League play, he batted .292 in the Giants' first eight games and was at .262 as late as April 29.

But Velez's batting average dwindled to .207, including an .065 (2-for-31) slide in his last 13 games. Lacking a true position, he struggled defensively at second base, where he played most often. Moreover, his stolen-base percentage plummeted once opponents, realizing his hunger to steal, began to pick him off with regularity. Velez left for Fresno tied for the team lead with eight steals, but he had been caught five times.

"It didn't matter what he did. It wasn't going right for him," Bochy said.

Although Velez started 25 of San Francisco's first 38 games, Ray Durham's return to second base and the relative steadiness of the Giants' outfield contingent limited the 26-year-old's playing time.

Velez began to sense that a demotion could be imminent. "I was thinking about it, like, two days ago," he said.

Bochy remained upbeat about Velez, who will play both second base and the outfield at Fresno.

"This has happened to a lot of good players," Bochy said. "His confidence was shaken a little bit. He'll go down and find it. You're usually a different player when you come back up."

Denker, 22, was hitting .315 with one home run and 12 RBIs in his first 17 games with Fresno.

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