02/11/10 10:00 AM EST
Hitting, health top Giants' spring agenda
Second baseman Sanchez doubtful for Opening Day
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
1. Who will hit?
The Giants have the makings of a mostly set batting order -- Aaron Rowand, Pablo Sandoval, Aubrey Huff, Mark DeRosa, Bengie Molina, Nate Schierholtz and Edgar Renteria. That's how the Opening Day lineup might look (with a second baseman thrown in) -- if nothing unusual happens during the Cactus League season. But manager Bruce Bochy will pay special attention to anybody who can contribute offensively. Plenty of others, such as Eugenio Velez, Fred Lewis, Andres Torres, Travis Ishikawa, Kevin Frandsen and Emmanuel Burriss, will push the players ahead of them on the depth chart. Juan Uribe is the leading candidate to replace injured second baseman Freddy Sanchez temporarily. But the Giants have other options if they decide that Uribe is more valuable coming off the bench. Expect Bochy to use numerous personnel combinations during exhibition games.
Three key performers -- Renteria, DeRosa and Sanchez -- are coming off surgeries and will be closely watched. Bochy expects Renteria (right elbow) to be ready to participate fully in the first full-squad workout on Feb. 23. Renteria, 34, also endured problems with both shoulders last year. DeRosa (left wrist) is said to be recovered, but the Giants probably will ease him back into action through the first week or two of workouts for fear of aggravating the injury. Sanchez, who needed arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Sept. 30, is doubtful for Opening Day. Sanchez also underwent a procedure on Dec. 23 to repair a torn labrum and an arthritic AC joint. That same shoulder bothered Sanchez last season after the Giants acquired him from Pittsburgh on July 29. With Uribe, DeRosa, Frandsen, Burriss and Velez capable of filling in at second base, the Giants won't have to rush Sanchez's recovery. 3. What's next for Buster Posey?
Conventional wisdom suggests that Posey will begin the season at Triple-A Fresno, gaining experience to prepare for his inevitable coronation as the Giants' starting catcher. But that's so obvious, boring and dull, isn't it? Molina, who returned on a one-year deal, almost certainly will regain his No. 1 status. But Posey, the organization's top position-player prospect, will challenge Eli Whiteside for the backup role. That will be a spirited competition because San Francisco is unlikely to keep three catchers (Sandoval can serve as an emergency backstop). If Posey hits proficiently, expect the Giants to find a way to keep him on the Opening Day roster. When Bochy hinted that he'll occasionally use the former shortstop in the infield to gauge his versatility, that was another sign that the Giants want to capitalize on Posey's skills sooner than later. 2009 record
88-74, third in the National League West Projected batting order
1. CF Aaron Rowand:
.261 BA, .319 OBP, .419 SLG, 15 HR, 64 RBI in 2009
2. 2B Juan Uribe:
.289 BA, .329 OBP, .495 SLG, 16 HR, 55 RBI in 2009
3. 3B Pablo Sandoval:
.330 BA, .387 OBP, .556 SLG, 25 HR, 90 RBI in 2009
4. 1B Aubrey Huff:
.241 BA, .310 OBP, .384 SLG, 15 HR, 85 RBI in 2009
5. LF Mark DeRosa:
.250 BA, .319 OBP, .433 SLG, 23 HR, 78 RBI in 2009
6. C Bengie Molina:
.265 BA, .285 OBP, .442 SLG, 20 HR, 80 RBI in 2009
7. RF Nate Schierholtz:
.267 BA, .302 OBP, .400 SLG, 5 HR, 29 RBI in 2009
8. SS Edgar Renteria:
.250 BA, .307 OBP, .328 SLG, 5 HR, 48 RBI in 2009
1. Tim Lincecum, 15-7, 2.48 ERA in 2009
2. Matt Cain, 14-8, 2.89 ERA in 2009
3. Barry Zito, 10-13, 4.03 ERA in 2009
4. Jonathan Sanchez, 8-12, 4.24 ERA in 2009
5. Madison Bumgarner, 0-0, 1.80 ERA in 2009
Closer: Brian Wilson, 38/45 saves, 2.74 ERA in 2009
RH setup man: Sergio Romo, 3.97 ERA in 2009
LH setup man: Jeremy Affeldt, 1.73 ERA in 2009 The new guys
INF-OF Mark DeRosa: Versatility made DeRosa one of the offseason's most sought-after free agents. He ultimately could play as many as five positions: the outfield, infield corners and second base. Assuming DeRosa recovers well from his wrist injury, he'll likely occupy a spot in the middle of the batting order all season. 1B Aubrey Huff: The 10-year veteran's production was down last year with Baltimore (.253, 13 homers, 72 RBIs), and it got worse when he was traded to Detroit (.189, two, 13). The Giants hope that Huff can regain the form that helped him exceed 100 RBIs three times and hit 203 career homers. Huff also can play third base and the outfield, but he's likely to stay at first base.
OF Thomas Neal: Rated the organization's No. 4 prospect by Baseball America, the 22-year-old Neal had a monstrous season last year at high-Class A San Jose, where he hit .337 with a .431 on-base percentage and a .579 slugging percentage to go with 22 home runs and 90 RBIs. He followed that with a respectable showing for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League (.284 batting average, .384 on-base percentage, 12 steals in 15 tries). OF Roger Kieschnick: Another of San Jose's stars, Kieschnick led the organization with 23 home runs and 110 RBIs. The left-handed batter uses the entire field, which is a good thing if he wants to play at AT&T Park someday. He's the first cousin of former Major Leaguer Brooks Kieschnick. SS Ehire Adrianza: The Giants are extremely intrigued by Adrianza's superior defensive tools. They're also well aware that the 6-foot-1, 155-pounder needs to go on a steak-and-milkshake diet while lifting some weights. He's only 20 and hasn't played above low-Class A, so there's plenty of time for him to develop. INF Nick Noonan: As an amateur, Noonan drew comparisons to Philadelphia's Chase Utley. He owns a .277 average with 64 doubles, 19 homers and 172 RBIs in three professional seasons and has played on championship teams the last two years. On the rebound
SS Edgar Renteria: Renteria's injuries resulted in the worst offensive season of his otherwise distinguished career. Being in the final year of his much-criticized two-year, $18.5 million contract might help stimulate him to excel. Nothing's wrong with Renteria's intangibles, as he became a much-respected figure in the clubhouse. 2B Freddy Sanchez: The 32-year-old took it personally late last season when his injuries prevented him from contributing as the Giants had hoped when they acquired him from Pittsburgh. So though he might not be ready for Opening Day, expect him to train and rehabilitate as diligently as possible to merit the two-year, $12 million contract extension he received this offseason. CF Aaron Rowand: Effort's never an issue for Rowand. The Giants simply would like to see his hard work pay off just a little more. He has hit .266 in his two seasons with San Francisco, compared with the .286 career average he compiled in seven seasons before signing his five-year, $60 million deal. Long gone
INF Rich Aurilia: The exceedingly popular Giant still hopes to receive a Spring Training invitation somewhere. But he's running out of time. When he does retire, an honored place on the Giants' Wall of Fame awaits him. 1B Ryan Garko: The Giants acquired Garko in a Trade Deadline deal, hoping that his bat would help carry them to the postseason. We all know how that turned out. What we don't know was whether Garko didn't receive enough of an opportunity (40 games), struggled with the expectations or simply wasn't good enough. He has a chance to re-establish himself with Seattle. RHP Bob Howry: Though Howry endured the dubious distinction of yielding three walkoff homers to rookies last year, he trimmed his ERA from 5.35 to 3.39. That was enough for Arizona to sign him. LHP Randy Johnson: The Giants were truly thrilled to have such a legend in their midst last year, even if a shoulder injury limited him to 17 starts. Johnson's younger counterparts in the rotation eagerly absorbed his wisdom. Next stop: Cooperstown. RHP Justin Miller: He was enjoying one of his best Major League seasons, maintaining a career-low 3.18 ERA, when an elbow injury ended his season prematurely. He signed a Minor League contract with the Dodgers. RHP Brad Penny: He positioned himself nicely for his free agency foray by finishing 4-1 in six September starts. The Giants tried to re-sign him, but he chose St. Louis' one-year, $7.5 million offer. OF Randy Winn: The 35-year-old, who has never participated in the postseason, will have an excellent chance to break that spell now that he has signed with the Yankees. Winn was a productive Giant for 4 1/2 seasons, batting .290 and playing adroit defense.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.