In the weeks following the conclusion of the 2008 Arizona Fall League, people weren’t really sure what to expect from San Francisco Giants infielder Emmanuel Burriss.
While he hit .318 in 24 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions, his defense was absolutely abysmal. It seemed as though he was recording an error out in the field every day at shortstop, and the sight of him being the Giants’ start there to open the 2009 season looked slim to none.
Because of that, Edgar Renteria was signed over the winter and Burriss’ status as the Giants' shortstop of the future shifted into just another name in the competition for time as Renteria’s double play partner.
As spring training started, Burriss’ main competition was hometown favorite Kevin Frandsen, who himself was coming off missing basically the entire season due to an Achilles injury.
There was no doubting how important this spring was and still is for Frandsen, but it was equally important for Burriss to prove that he was worthy of all the talk before the 2008 season began.
And if this spring is any indication, the heated competition will go the way that many Burriss fans like myself hoped it would have.
His .283 batting average in his debut last season was a good jumping, but this spring he has almost been as hot as fellow youngster Pablo Sandoval. Burriss has hit to the tune of .397, more than 70 points higher than Frandsen, nine RBI, and five doubles in 26 games.
But it’s not just his average that catches your eye.
All we heard in the weeks leading up to and then following the Renteria signing was that it was based simply on defense; it would probably be Burriss getting the slight edge. However, his performance with the down in Arizona suddenly changed the notion and Burriss would have to prove that he could handle the ongoing transition to the other side of second base.
Burriss has committed just two errors this spring, a vast improvement over his showing in the AFL, something that the Giants will need if they want to win a lot of games with pitching and defense this season.
His showing in the field this spring certainly has to boost his confidence compared to where it likely was when his fall league season ended.
And as we know with all players, especially the young ones, having confidence is one of the most important things to have going for you.
That doesn’t mean that Frandsen is now out of a job. He has by no means hurt his standing with the Giants and has had a great spring, hitting .303 with one homer and five RBI.
Those kind of numbers usually win you a job in the spring. It is certainly not a case of Frandsen playing poorly, but just more of Burriss playing extremely well the entire month of March.
He should prove to be a valuable asset for Giants manager Bruce Bochy off the bench and will certainly see a lot of action at both middle infield positions, as well as time at third and possibly even the outfield.
A player like that is a manager’s dream, and Frandsen will provide the kind of flexibility that will allow struggling or tired players to get a day off or two.
And it’s quite possible that two who battled for the job at second in the spring will be double play partners as we had to the summer.
Bochy originally said that the battle for second base would last the entire spring. Because the Giants needed to see what each player had to offer on a more competitive basis head-to-head, it’s easy to understand why.
But now Bochy expects to name his starter at second before the Giants break camp in Scottsdale, Ariz. and head north to the Bay Area, a sign that the coaching staff has pretty much made up their mind on who will partner with Renteria up the middle.
All signs point to Burriss and it’s the right choice when it’s made official.
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