Countdown to Opening Day: San Francisco Giants Roster Takes Shape
Seven days. You have seven days.
Don't worry, there's no unmarked videotape. There's not a girl in a well waiting to crawl out of your television.
In fact, in seven days, you should be glued to your television/radio/computer. In seven days, you will be watching Giants baseball. It will be early in the game against the Milwaukee Brewers, and Tim Lincecum will be striking out Ryan Braun to end the inning.
With Spring Training winding down, the pieces for the 2009 puzzle are falling in to place. In some cases, these pieces are going to unexpected places (Jack Taschner, Kevin Frandsen, Juan Uribe). In others, they're going just where we thought they would (Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum).
A few story lines have developed since last week, and they affect the makeup of the roster. The pitching staff will still have eleven members, as of now, but Jack Taschner will not be a part of it. The bench will be deep, but Juan Uribe is in, and Kevin Frandsen is out.
Last week the Giants coaching staff announced that they would carry an 11-man pitching staff, increasing their flexibility on offense. So far, the locks are the five-man rotation (Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito, Sanchez), closer Brian Wilson, and new additions Bobby Howry and Jeremy Affeldt.
Bruce Bochy has said that Alex Hinshaw is still on the bubble, and the trade of Taschner to Philadelphia would possibly leave Affeldt as the only lefty in the pen. Assuming that Hinshaw does make the team, the other two spots will most likely fall to Rule 5 pick Luis Perdomo and possibly a return of Keiichi Yabu or the addition of Ramon Ortiz, both of who have the ability to either spot-start or make long relief appearances.
Taschner was solid last year, but his high ERA and lack of control this Spring raised some red flags. He was not by any means a left-handed specialist, and both righties and lefties hit over .250 against him.
Hinshaw, however, had a very strong rookie campaign, going 2-1 in 48 appearances, impressing everyone with 47 strikeouts over only 39.2 innings. This spring he has showed that strikeout consistency, but is a little shaky with his effectiveness, giving up 13 hits in 10.1 innings.
Perdomo, plucked from St. Louis, has impressed, and the Giants may work out a trade with the Cardinals so he can develop more at Triple-A.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Giants announced that Emmanuel Burriss has beat out Kevin Frandsen for the second base job. Frandsen was (once again) given the short end of the stick and optioned to Triple-A Fresno.
The bench will consist of Rich Aurilia and Uribe as the backup infielders, Steve Holm as the backup catcher, Nate Schierholtz as the fourth outfielder, and Eugenio Velez working both at second base and outfield.
The Frandsen-Burriss rivalry looked like it might end up with them both making the team, but the Giants made the decision on Monday to option Frandsen to Fresno.
They were neck and neck for most of the spring, but Burriss pulled away, and as of yesterday, was batting .357. Frandsen had tailed off, and was batting .274. Frandsen will most likely join the team later this year, especially if Uribe or Velez show any sign of faltering.
The rest of the Opening Day lineup has been hitting very well in the preseason. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is hitting an absurd .460. Left-fielder Fred Lewis is hitting .373 and first baseman Travis Ishikawa is batting at a .319 clip with six homers and 14 RBI.
Perennial stalwarts Randy Winn and Bengie Molina are not blowing the cover off the ball. Fellow starters Aaron Rowand and newcomer Edgar Renteria are also batting in the low-.200s. But this is where you have to be optimistic and say that Spring Training is not a preview of the season (except if the stats are good).
Uribe has almost assured himself a spot on the bench because of his spring success and his versatility to play either of the middle-infield spots or third base. Rich Aurilia also looks to lock down a spot as the backup at either corner spot.
Eugenio Velez, who was seen as a player in the mold of the Angels’ Chone Figgins, has been hitting very well so far, and has showed that he has the ability to learn the nuances of multiple positions.
This gives the Giants the ability to play a number of different defensive alignments without anyone being terribly out of position. Sandoval can catch as well as either corner spot. Aurilia can play either corner. Uribe can play the three infield spots stated earlier. Velez can play second and outfield. Even Frandsen was given a shot at the outfield as well as second and third.
Now, that’s a lot of information, but you have seven days to figure it out. Here’s how I see the Opening Day lineup. Last year’s stats are in parentheses.
1. Randy Winn, RF (.306, 10 HR, 64 RBI)
2. Edgar Renteria, SS (.270, 10, 55)
3. Fred Lewis, LF (.282, 9, 40)
4. Bengie Molina, C (.292, 16, 95)
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B (.345, 3, 24)
6. Aaron Rowand, CF (.271, 13, 70)
7. Travis Ishikawa, 1B (.274, 3, 15)
8. Emmanuel Burriss, 2B (.283, 1, 18)
9. Tim Lincecum, P (18-5, 2.62 ERA, 265 K)
Seven days. Get ready. It’ll be here before you know it.
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