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01/23/09 9:00 PM EST

Healthy Frandsen ready for his shot

Giants infielder eyes second-base gig following Achilles injury

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ordinarily, this would be labeled a comeback season for Kevin Frandsen. But he knows that he must demonstrate ability as well as health.

Frandsen, who missed essentially all of last season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon, already has left his injury in the rear-view mirror, although he still performs some rehabilitation-type exercises to help him remain sound.

Frandsen will have to be fit for what awaits him. He faces what's expected to be a spirited competition with Emmanuel Burriss and Eugenio Velez for the Giants' second-base job. Manager Bruce Bochy has steadfastly refused to name a favorite for the position, guaranteeing that Spring Training will feature its share of drama.

Even if Frandsen doesn't win the job and assumes a utility role, he senses the need to assert himself as a big leaguer. At 26, he's approaching what should be his prime years. Frandsen has spent parts of the last three seasons with the Giants yet has played only 151 Major League games. Still defining themselves as they continue their transition toward a younger roster, the Giants would welcome a breakout performance from Frandsen, the San Jose native whose roots have made him a favorite among local fans.

"I'm coming to a time when you need to prove yourself," Frandsen said during a recent visit to AT&T Park. "Is that an added pressure? Not at all."

Frandsen, 26, began last spring under similar conditions. He and Ray Durham were pitted against each other at second base. Frandsen was considered a legitimate contender for the spot after hitting .370 in September 2007. Then Omar Vizquel underwent knee surgery, prompting the Giants to switch Frandsen to shortstop. Frandsen's unsteady performance created a path for Brian Bocock to become the Opening Day shortstop. But Frandsen still seemed bound to begin the season with San Francisco as a utilityman before injuring his Achilles in a March 24 Minor League exhibition game.

When he wasn't exercising fiercely to meet his goal of playing by September -- which he accomplished by pinch-hitting against Los Angeles in the season finale -- Frandsen tried to use his idle time wisely. He didn't merely watch his teammates play; he scrutinized them.

"I had basically a whole year when I was in the Masters program working on my thesis," said Frandsen, who has a degree in finance from San Jose State University.

Frandsen demonstrated what he learned while playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. Citing baserunning subtleties he discerned by watching Giants outfielder Randy Winn, who stole 25 bases in 27 tries last season, Frandsen collected 10 steals in 13 attempts over 32 games. This represented a huge increase, given Frandsen's 36 thefts in 396 professional regular-season games. "That was a big thing for me," said Frandsen, who also hit .331 and was named to the AFL's All-Prospect team.

Frandsen started 16 games at shortstop for Scottsdale, reaffirming his versatility and increasing his fielding range.

"At second base, you just sit back on a lot of things," he said.

Frandsen's refusal to just sit back at second base may have enhanced his value to the Giants. Said Bochy, "I'd say right now that he'll spend most of his time at second base. That being said, we'll need to give him more work at shortstop, because we'll need some depth there."

It has been a typical offseason for Frandsen. He has resumed training at Athletes Performance Institute in the Phoenix area alongside his personal workout partner, American League Most Valuable Player Dustin Pedroia of Boston, and other Major Leaguers such as the Dodgers' Andre Ethier, the Pirates' Freddy Sanchez and the Rangers' Josh Hamilton.

Frandsen fully expects to reach their level.

"If I get the opportunity," he said, "I think a lot of people know what I can do."

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