Jan. 13, 2010Mychael Urban
Just got off a conference call featuring Aubrey Huff, Brian Sabean and Billy Bob Thornton's character from Slingblade I mean, Bruce Bochy.Interesting stuff on that call, and I'll get to some of what was said in a moment.It's something that wasn't said that grabbed my attention. A great many players were mentioned during the course of the 30-minute call, but not Fred Lewis.Lewis, whose star has fallen more quickly and dramatically than any player in recent Giants history, seems to be the odd man out after the offseason shuffle. A corresponding 40-man roster move to the Huff addition hasn't yet been announced, but Sabean said that a player will soon be designated for assignment (DFA). And while he didn't come close to hinting that it would be F-Lew, and a Giants source told me this morning that Lewis is not a DFA candidate, it was made clear on the call that Lewis isn't a candidate for much of anything in orange and black in 2010.
He's also out on minor-league options, so if Lewis doesn't make the team this spring -- if he's not traded or otherwise 86'd in the meantime -- he'll have to be placed on waivers.Amazing what a calendar year can do to a career. Lewis, you might remember, had a pretty nice season in 2008. He batted .282 with a .351 on-base percentage, 45 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bags. But he also made six errors in 112 games in left field for a fielding percentage under .970, and as one scouting report on him read heading into 2009, "there's not really any room for growth left in the 28-year-old."Nonetheless, the fan base seemed mildly enthused about Lewis going into last season. He'd seemed to establish himself as a player on the come, a guy on the verge of figuring it all out, a present and future lineup staple.Alas, after a decent April (.299 BA.420 OBP), he simply fell off the map, lost in a haze of bad at-bats, bad routes and more of the mental mistakes on the bases to which he was prone the year before. He put together a nice August (.412.524), but it was too little, too late -- as evidenced by the fact that he only got 34 at-bats for the month.So what happened? A Lewis apologist would say that Bochy gives up on his younger players too quickly, and Lewis is an example of such. Lewis detractors would point out that 28 isn't exactly young in baseball terms. Lewis turned 29 in December.What happened is that Lewis, somewhere along the line, lost his swagga. You could see it in his body language and on his face. You could even see it in his eyes, wraparound shades or not. And when you lose your confidence in professional sports, you're done. Is Fred Lewis done? Probably with the Giants. He certainly looks the part of a dynamic player -- chiseled frame and face, oozing athleticism. He just doesn't play the part very well anymore, and that's a little bit sad. Likable fella, F-Lew.But with Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholtz, Mark DeRosa, Andres Torres, Eugenio Velez, John Bowker and now Huff as outfield options, not to mention some near-ready prospects, the best F-Lew can hope for is a change of scenery.And that's all I have to say about that. Here's what else went down on the call Bochy said his 1-5 hitters will mirror what I suggested in yesterday's lineup blog: Rowand, Freddy Sanchez, Panda, Huff, DeRosa. He didn't go any deeper than that, but we know it'll be some permutation of Edgar Renteria, the right fielder and the catcher in front of the pitcher. Huff will play some left field and right field during camp, just in case, but he's essentially been penciled in as the starter at first base. There will be no platoon at first. Not sure what that means for Travis Ishikawa, but you can bet he'll be used a lot as a defensive replacement. Huff says he's better on D than his rep suggests. Said it's hard to shake that bad-D label, and he's right. The label isn't inaccurate, though. Sabean confirmed what I said on Chronicle Live on Monday: Sandoval has gained weight since being left to his own devices after CampOperation Panda and returning to Venezuela. Sabean said he isn't worried, though. Said Pablo is "serving many masters" as a baseball god in his home country but will be coming back soon to get back to work. Schierholtz is the front-runner in right field but not a lock. Bochy mentioned Bowker and said "it will be competitive." Uncle. Free Nate! Sabean reiterated that he's prepared to go into the season with Madison Bumgarner as the No. 5 starter and suggested that his priority now is getting another reliever. That sound you hear is me banging the Kiko Calero drum. Again. Still. And finally, Sabean backed off on hisLarry Baer's recent Posey's-our-guy stance, intimating that a glorified backup catcher remains a possible get. All together now: Zzzzzzzz.That's all for now, folks. Peace, collard greens and "Just Breathe" by Pearl Jam to all --Mychael Urban