Urban: Giants' crowded outfield no problem


Urban: Giants' crowded outfield no problem

May 9, 2011

Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy finally got some of the love they've long deserved as bright, creative, forward-thinking baseball men of the highest order when the Giants stunned everyone by steamrolling through the playoffs on the way to the first World Series championship in San Francisco history.The challenges are very different for both men as the Giants attempt to defend their title, but Sabean, the general manager, deserves credit for anticipating what some of those challenges would be. Now the onus is on Bochy, the manager, and the irony is that Sabean's vision makes Bochy's job a bit more challenging.
This is about depth. Knowing full well that the Giants cheated the reaper in a sense by remaining relatively healthy during 2010, and that the odds of another such season were slim, Sabean made sure Bochy had options. And sure enough, a steady stream of injuries have been spraying the squad since spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz.Now that the team is starting to get healthy again, though, the luxury of depth threatens to become a bit of a burden for Bochy.Everyone saw this coming, of course. It was one of the hottest topics of March. The Giants' outfield, in particular, was overcrowded. More players than roster spots. Someone, maybe two people, would have to go.Nate Schierholtz seemed like the most obvious candidate, just a tick below Aaron Rowand on the dispensable meter. The notion of getting rid of either, though, came with it a less-than-ideal component. In addition to being a valuable reserve on the world championship team, Schierholtz was out of minor-league options, so unless he were sent out in a trade, the Giants would have to put him through waivers and likely lose him to a wire claim and get nothing in return. Rowand's huge contract and lack of 2010 production made him virtually untradeable -- unless the team was willing to eat the bulk of the 24 million (total) that Rowand is due for this year and next.Yet as we're told so often, baseball has a way of working things out. An injury to Cody Ross ensured that both Schierholtz and Rowand broke camp with the club, and an early season injury to Andres Torres ensured that they'd see more playing time than anyone expected. And all that Schierholtz and Rowand have done in 2011 is prove to be two of the more reliable, consistent offensive contributors.URBAN: Giants Insider Notes: Nate the Great
Heck, they've been absolutely essential in keeping the Giants' heads above water while the bulk of the lineup has been drowning in the choppy waters of the Mendoza Line Sea.That Ross, a cult hero for what he did last October, was a wreck upon his return from the DL made the surprising production of Schierholtz and Rowand all the more noticeable, but with a clutch double during Friday's comeback win over the Rockies and a home run and all three of the Giants' RBIs in Sunday's sweep-clincher over Colorado, Ross looks poised to break out and go on one of his extended, club-carrying tears.Schierholtz seemed to benefit when Pat Burrell's hot start turned cold, but Burrell has had some big hits of late, too. And here comes Torres, said to be ready for activation from the DL on Tuesday, and Bochy on Sunday said he's inclined to throw his 2010 sparkplug right back into the fire.Where, exactly, does that leave Schierholtz and Rowand? They certainly won't lose their spot on the roster; Darren Ford is the no-brainer to be sent out to make room for Torres, and Ryan Rohlinger will be demoted to make room for Mark DeRosa, whose absence with Pablo Sandoval out for an expected 4-7 weeks (depending on whose Twitter feed nourishes you) was glaring.
But where, and how often, will Schierholtz and Rowand play? Bochy has hinted that Torres might be eased back in by playing on a corner, and there's no way that Ross doesn't start most games on a corner himself, so that would suggest that Rowand stays in center field for a while. But it's hard to see Bochy telling Burrell he's now primarily a bench player, even though Burrell is exactly the type of right-handed power presence off the bench that the Giants have been lacking all year. So maybe Burrell stays put in left, Ross handles center until Torres is deemed ready after a few games in right, and when he is, Ross and Torres trade places.RELATED: Is the Giant tide turning?
That would leave Schierholtz and Rowand out of the regular mix, and that seems both unfair and, given how they've played, just plain wrong.Oh, and we're conveniently forgetting that there's this kid down at Triple-A Fresno, absolutely killing Pacific Coast League pitching, who was recently told to get his outfield on. You can't stash him down there forever, can you?See the problem? Bochy could, very soon, have to every day settle on three starting outfielders among a six-some of Burrell, Torres, Ross, Rowand, Schierholtz and Brandon Belt. And as of right now, a decent case could be made for each of them as a starter.Now, baseball does indeed have a way of working things out. And as A's GM Billy Beane is fond of saying, "Having too many good players is not a problem." True, true. Depth is good, and that's why Sabean made sure Bochy had it.But having unhappy players is a problem and that's at least a possibility here.Is it a probability? Not if the 2011 Giants are as cohesive as the 2010 club, and there's been nothing thus far to suggest that it isn't. It's the same group of outfielders that celebrated on the field in Arlington last Nov. 1, with the obvious exception of Belt. WATCH: Cody Ross talks about his clutch hits
It's a lot easier to swallow your pride, though, when all that stands between you and a ring is a couple of weeks of biting your tongue. Bite that bad boy for four months or so and there might be blood.Fortunately for Bochy, he's banked some goodwill for the way he masterfully handled egos and pulled all the right levers last fall. His players truly respect and adore him. That's going to help. But it's not going to make those daily decisions any easier if, say, Torres' career year proves to have been just that, and Pat the Bat again turns into a strikeout Machine. Or if Ross is less Boss than workaday clock-puncher. In the meantime, now's as good a time as any for Giants fans to do something they might not think to do a few weeks down the road.If you happen to be as AT&T Park on Tuesday for the opener of a three-game series against the Diamondbacks, try to get down there within earshot of Schierholtz andor Rowand. Get their attention somehow. Just say, "Thanks."
Their proverbial days in the sun could be coming to an end very soon.

No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series


No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series

CLEVELAND -- Wild Thing will have to stay in the bullpen during the World Series.

While actor Charlie Sheen, who played Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the movie "Major League" offered to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before one of this year's World Series games, Major League Baseball said the choices have already been made.

A spokesman told the AP on Friday that MLB has worked with the Indians to identify "former franchise greats" to throw out the first pitch for the games in Cleveland. An announcement is expected early next week.

The Indians host Games 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, Cleveland will host Games 6 and 7 on Nov. 1-2.

There had been a movement by fans on social media for Sheen to throw the first pitch and be part of the pregame festivities.

Sheen got wind of the buzz and responded on Twitter, posting a photo of himself as Vaughn in his Indians uniform and wrote, "Major League continues to be the gift that keeps on giving! if called upon, I'd be honored."

Sheen made an appearance during the playoffs at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday when the Chicago Cubs beat Los Angeles in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Released in 1989, "Major League" is a fictional account of the Indians finishing in first place with an unconventional group of players including Vaughn, who struggled to find the strike zone and warmed up to "Wild Thing," a No. 1 hit song in 1966 by The Troggs.

The real Cleveland Indians, who overcame injuries to win the AL Central, before knocking off Boston and Toronto in the playoffs, took a page from "Major League" this season.

Slugger Mike Napoli and second baseman Jason Kipnis constructed a shrine in an empty clubhouse stall between their lockers like one in the movie. In the film, character Pedro Cerrano practices Voodoo and prays to an idol named, "Jobu" to help him hit curveballs.

Like Cerrano, Napoli and Kipnis have their own "Jobu" and have left gifts, including small bottles of rum and cigars, to keep them out of hitting slumps.

Slimmed down Davis confident as he prepares to step in for Hyde

Slimmed down Davis confident as he prepares to step in for Hyde

SANTA CLARA -- Mike Davis’ first NFL season left him less than fulfilled.

He broke his hand and did not appear in 10 games. When he did play, his 1.7-yard average led to some whispers the 49ers’ fourth-round draft pick was already a bust.

Davis lived the disappointment. He heard the criticism.

On Sunday, he has his first big chance this season to prove himself. Davis is expected to see significant playing time – and, perhaps, his first NFL start – with Carlos Hyde out of action with a shoulder injury. The 49ers face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium.

Davis dedicated himself after his rookie season to a body makeover. He swore off Flamin' Hot Cheetos, his favored snack. He dropped from 217 pounds to 205 – his lowest weight since high school. Davis’ body fat dropped from 18 percent to less than 12 percent.

“I feel more confident in myself,” Davis said. “I feel my power is the same. The only thing I feel is really different is the speed and the mindset. My mindset has changed since last year as well.”

Davis opened this season as the 49ers’ No. 3 running back. He rose up the depth chart last week, supplanting Shaun Draughn, as Hyde’s backup. Coach Chip Kelly said Davis has made improvements that led to his promotion.

“Just hitting the hole, timing, making the right cuts,” Kelly said. “You’re burying yourself into the back of the guard or are you working off of the guard’s block and getting yourself to the second level and not getting touched by a linebacker, finishing runs, showing good vision. That’s kind of what you’re looking for in a running back when you’re going through practice.”

Davis carried five times for 13 yards in the 49ers’ 45-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills. In 12 career games, Davis has just 76 yards rushing on 45 attempts.

While Kelly rates Hyde and Draughn as more-accomplished receivers out of the backfield, he noted that Davis has improved that aspect of his game, as well as his pass protection.

“With coach Tom Rathman as your coach, he makes sure we know exactly what we’re doing,” Davis said. “He won’t put you out there if he doesn’t think you can handle it. I just made sure I go through the right steps and make sure I’m prepared into the game.

“I feel confident as ever. With Tom, we spend extra time and he makes sure our eyes are in the right place. That’s one thing we talk about more than anything.”