Urban: Tejada reclaims starting job at SS

July 19, 2011, 1:17 am
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July 18, 2011

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Mychael Urban
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Saddled with an inconsistent offense missing its two most pure hitters and featuring precious few steady contributors, Giants manager Bruce Bochy doesn't have the luxury of running out the same lineup day after day. As a result, he has no choice but to play whatever hot hand he might have on any given day. He's used those very words -- "hot hand" -- countless times this season, to the point that you can see him struggling to write out his lineup card every afternoon while fumbling to wrap oven mitts around his pen or pencil.He used them again Monday before the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Dodgers at AT&T Park in explaining why Miguel Tejada, who lost his starting job at shortstop when rookie Brandon Crawford came up from the minors sporting a scalding stick to match his slick glove, has essentially reclaimed that job."He's earned it," Bochy said of Tejada, who was signed to a one-year deal worth 6.5 million last November 30. "I like the way he's swinging the bat, and this gives us a chance to give 'Craw' a little bit of a break."Tejada, 37, was a massive disappointment in the season's first two months, batting .217 with little pop through June 1 while displaying little of the range and athleticism that made him one of the better shortstops in baseball during his prime years with the Oakland A's. The 2002 American League MVP has since turned things around a bit at the plate, however, batting .286 with seven doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs, and he's been particularly strong in July, batting .341 (14-for-41) with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs in 12 games through Sunday.Crawford, meanwhile, is mired in a 1-for-21 slump over his past six games through Sunday -- including 0-for-9 in the just-concluded four-game series in San Diego, where Tejada went 3-for-10 with a home run."I'm searching a little bit," Crawford said. "But we're working on some things, me and hitting coach Hensley Meulens, and I think we're heading in the right direction."Special instructor Shawon Dunston said Tejada, even while sitting on the bench behind Crawford, has served as something of a mentor and one-man cheer squad for the rookie."Miggy's good for Brandon, no matter who's playing," Dunston said. "I wish every young player had a guy like Miggy to help show 'em the ropes."Tejada's defense remains a concern; he's made eight errors for a .945 fielding percentage in 36 games at shortstop, faring better during his 42 games at third base while Pablo Sandoval was out and in four games at second base recently. Crawford, 24, has made seven errors for a .960 fielding percentage in 40 games at shortstop since his promotion on May 26.But unless there's a situation in which a double switch makes sense, don't expect Crawford to be used as a late-game defensive replacement."Rarely will I do that with a young player, especially a rookie," Bochy said of a one-for-one defensive swap late in a tight game. "It's not that easy for a young player to come off the bench like that late in a game, come into a tight ballgame where the pressure's on. Miggy'll have to find ways to get it done unless there's a double switch."Monday marked the second consecutive game in which Tejada, a right-handed hitter, got the nod at shortstop over Crawford, a lefty hitter, with a righty on the mound for the opponent.
UPDATE: Tejada suffered a lower abdominal strain while failing to field a ground ball in the hole in the third inning Monday and was immediately removed from the game; Crawford replaced him.
Dribblers : Bochy said no decision has been made on whether the team will skip Barry Zito's turn in the rotation Friday to keep the rest of the starters on regular rest. Were that move made, and given the Giants have this Thursday and next Monday off, Zito might not be needed to start a game until the July 29-31 series at Cincinnati. A decision could be announced as early as Monday night after the game. Lefty Jonathan Sanchez (biceps tendinitis) will make his next rehab start Friday for Triple-A Fresno. Asked if Brian Wilson might wear his skin-tight latex tuxedo to the White House on Monday, Bochy smiled and said, "I don't think they'd let him in."