Brett Pill Demoted As Giants Rush To Address Trouble at First Base

Ted SillanpaaAnalyst IMarch 17, 2010

There isn't any real reason for San Francisco Giants fans to worry about who'll fill the fifth spot in the starting rotation, or whether injured Fred Sanchez will ready sooner rather than later.

There are alternatives to rushing 20-year-old Madison Bumgarner into the rotation.

Juan Uribe's a big league hitter who can play second until Sanchez returns.

There's a growing concern that the woeful defensive play of first baseman Aubrey Huff will require more than a right-handed hitter to play first against some left-handed pitchers.

Huff, a longtime American League designated hitter, has played so poorly with the glove that the club continues to deal with the first base situation on the fly. Huff himself mentioned possibly playing some right field.

Now, the club has made a roster move that indicates they are looking for a first baseman who could, in theory, handle the job on Opening Day.

Brett Pill, a 25-year-old power-hitter who starred in Class AA last summer, was sent down to Class AAA Fresno on Wednesday along with seven other players. The organization wants Pill to get as many plate appearances and innings on defense as he can this spring. He'll get them in minor league camp.

Pill, a big right-hand hitter, belted 19 home runs and drove in 109 runs at Connecticut last summer. The Giants announced their intention to give the former Cal State-Fullerton player an extended chance to earn a spot on the big league club this spring. They hoped that the young slugger could emerge as the right-swinging first baseman to play behind Huff.

The Giants are no longer in position to give Pill a chance to prove he can make the jump from Class AA to the big league club.

Instead, the organization has given Buster Posey a chance to play first base during the exhibition season. Posey made his first start there on Tuesday, went 1-for-3 against Cleveland, and handled a series of defensive chances without any trouble.

John Bowker, the outfielder who actually began his big league career when he was called to San Francisco to play first base, has returned to the infield as he continues his battle to earn a spot on the 25-man roster.

Posey entered Wednesday's games hitting .462 with three extra-base hits and seven RBIs. The club is still not sure how best to deal with Posey, the organization's catcher of the future. Huff's not making things easier.

Bruce Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle the things the club considers as they mull whether or not to keep Posey in San Francisco.

"Buster's situation is a little different," Bochy said. "We don't want to sit him. It's a matter of whether he'd get enough playing time to warrant being on the club to help us or to continue his progress (in the minors) and have him ready."

On Sunday, Bochy acknowledged that Posey would play some first base but added, "I like how he's catching, and I want to keep him sharp back there."

Huff's defensive shortcomings could complicate the Posey decision and make it harder to set the outfield.

Popular Nate Schierholtz is batting .304 and remains the best defensive right fielder in camp. What happens to him if Huff winds up in the outfield?

The club could consider projected starting left fielder Mark De Rosa for first base.

Huff's problems also intensify the battle for a job between Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres. They're the only two backup outfield candidates who can play center field as well as the corner positions.

The possibility of using Pablo Sandoval at first base and Uribe at third base once Sanchez returns still exists.

The outfield fills up quickly if Bowker and Huff are both infielder-outfielders.

  • Huff is providing the expected punch. He's hitting .364 with two home runs. Posey's .462 average is a bit deceptive. Two of his hits came on Sunday—a bloop that dropped in short right field and an infield hit. In the spring, all hits aren't created equal and Posey needs to prove he can drive the ball against big league pitching.
  • Veteran Todd Wellemeyer has emerged as the top contender for the No. 5 job in the rotation. The veteran has looked sharp in nine innings pitched this spring. Kevin Pucetas has worked nine innings without giving up a run—including a superlative outing against the Seattle Mariners projected starting lineup.
  • The guess here is that Bumgarner will absolutely open the season in Fresno.
  • General manager Brian Sabean never said the No. 5 slot was Bumgarner's to lose. The GM simply said the club was comfortable with either Posey or Bumgarner playing a prominent role with the big league club in 2010. Then, the Giants re-signed catcher Bengie Molina and signed Wellemeyer to a $1.5 million, one-year deal.
  • Torres is having the superior spring, but Velez is coming off a strong second-half last summer. Bochy said that Velez has to make the team this spring and that his play last year doesn't merit him being given a roster spot. "He doesn't have the track record," Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle .
  • The other players assigned to minor-league camp were outfield prospect Thomas Neal, second baseman Nick Noonan, shortstop Ehire Adrianza, outfielder Wendell Fairley and three catchers.



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