The San Francisco Giants may become just a little less crowded in the outfield on Opening Day.
The Giants suffered a big blow during Wednesday's spring training contest against the Los Angeles Angels, who won the game 8-0. The score and Matt Cain's atrocious start were the least of the Giants' concerns, as Cody Ross pulled up lame coming in on a line drive to right field.
Ross left the game in the first inning with a strained right calf muscle. According to MLB.com, his immediate playing status remains uncertain, pending the results of an MRI Thursday, but playing on Opening Day against the Los Angeles Dodgers may be questionable.
Bochy has some interesting options in filling Ross' spot. Will rookie Brandon Belt or the maligned veteran Aaron Rowand benefit from Ross' injury?
Assuming Ross is unable to start the season, here is the current state of the Giants' outfield as the Giants break camp next week.
It seems as if he is penciled in to be the starting center fielder, even if Rowand replaces Ross on the field. Bochy has inserted Rowand in the corner outfield positions this spring to prepare for a change from his native center field position.
Mychael Urban of CSNBayArea.com said he believes Burrell was the front-runner to start in left field before Ross' injury. Urban also said that Brandon Belt may start at first base with Aubrey Huff moving to the outfield.
With Ross' injury, Huff just might be patrolling a corner outfield position in next Thursday's opener. Urban added that the Giants like Belt's bat and are confident he can handle first base. This appears to be the likely scenario if Belt continues to play well for the rest of spring training.
His hitting is atrocious, but he has a decent glove. He will have a shot to prove himself with Ross' injury, as the Giants will probably move people around until Ross comes back.
He is an exceptional fielder with a great arm, but he is out of options. Because of this, Urban said he might be given a shot to start right field. From an offensive standpoint, Huff in right field and Burrell in left make the most sense.
Who should replace Ross in the outfield if he cannot start opening day?
He played some left field for the Giants in 2010, but the team would rather have him bounce around the infield. However, DeRosa has hit the ball hard this spring and could force himself into the lineup, whether in the outfield or the infield (with Huff moving to the outfield).
Do not completely rule out Ross. If Thursday's MRI goes well, he might patrol right field on Opening Day after all. However, given how the injury looked, this probably will not happen.
Predicted outfield on Opening Day
LF: Pat Burrell
CF: Andres Torres
RF: Aubrey Huff (with Belt at first)
The bottom line is, the Giants are a versatile team who are well-equipped for a situation like Ross' injury. If Belt can contribute and continue his good plate approach, the Giants might not miss Ross all that much while he is healing from his calf injury.
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