San Francisco Giants: It's Time To Start Darren Ford In Center Field

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San Francisco Giants: It's Time To Start Darren Ford In Center Field
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Mike Fontenot calls Darren Ford the "fastest man in America"

Darren Ford is 0-for-5 in his major league career. 

That includes one at-bat in Tuesday's 3-2 Giants victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not getting his first major league hit, however, didn't stop Ford from scoring two of the three runs the Giants needed to get the win.

Ford was brought in to pinch-run for Aaron Rowand in the eighth inning and eventually scored the Giants' second run to tie the game on Buster Posey's sacrifice fly.

Then in the 10th inning after a leadoff double by Nate Schierholtz, Ford failed to sacrifice him to third when the Pirates fielded his bunt and threw Schierholtz out.

In the end, it wasn't Schierholtz the Pirates needed to worry about—it was Ford.

On a botched pick-off attempt, in which the Pirates threw the ball away down the first base line, Ford sped all the way to third. Then he added to his already growing collection of game-winning dashes.

Reminiscent of his amazing display of speed last Sept. 1 in a crucial stretch-run game against the Rockies, Ford made a split-second decision that proved to be the most critical in Tuesday night's contest.  With one out, Freddy Sanchez hit a ground ball to the drawn-in second baseman Neil Walker of the Pirates, who checked on Ford at third and, seeing that Ford was stopped near the bag, threw to first to get Sanchez.

As soon as the ball left the second baseman's hand, Ford took off. 

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Pirates first baseman Lyle Overbay's throw to the plate was off-line, and it wouldn't have mattered if it was on the money. Ford scored the go-ahead run and Brian Wilson closed the game out in the bottom half.

Dating back to last September, Ford has been in a game for the Giants 14 times. He's won two of those games simply by being on the base paths.

 

Why Bruce Bochy Should Start Darren Ford in Center

At the risk of adding to the already fierce debate over the Giants' crowded outfield situation, I'm going to say it's time to give this kid a shot. 

Ford's display of daring speed on the bases has given fans flashbacks of another bay area speedster: Rickey Henderson.

Henderson is widely regarded as the greatest leadoff man and base-stealer of all time, and comparisons to his all-around skill set are not being made here with Ford. But Mike Fontenot's description of Ford as "the fastest man in America," though surely a joke, may not be that far from the truth.

Ford's amazing speed, combined with the fearlessness and bold moves that he is willing to make when on base, could give the Giants the "Ricky Effect" of Ford changing the complexion of a game all by himself.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
C'mon Boch, let us see more of Darren Ford

While Bochy is surely concerned about whether Ford will hit, given his 0-for-5 start and his .268 lifetime minor league batting average, the Giants manager won't ever know what Ford can really do at the major league level unless he gives him more regular playing time.

Ford, despite past offensive struggles, has shown he can hit. In spring training, Ford homered against the Rockies. At Triple-A Fresno this season, before being called up to the Giants, Ford hit .323 with a home run, two doubles, six RBIs and, perhaps most importantly, seven stolen bases in seven games.

 

"Torture" Could Be Alleviated By More Ford

Giants Baseball: Torture. 

We all know the mantra of the 2010 club and if the Giants are involved in more tight one-run ballgames in 2011, Darren Ford could make all the difference. 

As he showed Tuesday night, Ford can turn a game in which a Giants starter pitches a gem only to get a no-decision because there's no run support, into a Giants victory because of the speed and daring he brings to the table. 

So Boch, try him out. At worst, he doesn't hit and can revert to his former role of pinch-runner extraordinaire.

At best, he could be the biggest surprise difference-maker for the defending world champions.

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