Bochy accepting lineup suggestions for last-place Giants

Bochy accepting lineup suggestions for last-place Giants
August 7, 2013, 5:45 pm
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He says he's comfortable out there, and he has some experience. So we'll see how that goes.
Bruce Bochy on playing Jeff Francoeur in center field

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have lost 11 of their last 16 and 16 of their last 26 games. Looking up at a 12-game deficit behind the first-place Dodgers, manager Bruce Bochy is open to suggestions and veterans Hunter Pence and Jeff Francoeur were happy to provide them.

After some politicking, Bochy has Pence slated to bat leadoff and Francoeur in center field Wednesday -- both firsts in Giants uniforms.

[NEWS: Giants lineup: Bochy makes major changes]

The video board in the Giants clubhouse displaying the lineup was met with surprise by nearly every passerby. "What the hell?" was mumbled more than once.

Indeed, that's what Bochy admitted saying to himself when he penned Pence up top, Francoeur in center and Brandon Belt in the three-spot -- where he went 0-for-8 with five strikeouts in early July.

[REWIND: Belt joins rare company in 16-inning loss]

The changes began with Marco Scutaro, who despite wanting to play Wednesday, was given the day off. With Gregor Blanco swinging underwater -- he's 3-for-45 (.067) since the All-Star break, "really struggling" as Bochy put it -- the manager turned to his most productive hitter to fill the leadoff spot.

Pence leads the team in hits (122) and home runs (14), is the fifth-hottest hitter in the National League since the All-Star break (.346), and he has experience atop the lineup, albeit five years ago with Houston.

"I don't even remember the last time I led off," joked Pence, who owns a .320 on-base percentage in 32 games batting first. The 30-year-old doesn't plan to change his approach after batting third, fourth, fifth or sixth all season.

"He's got energy. You like that," Bochy said of Pence. "He's going to go up there swinging. He's not going to see a lot of pitches, you know that. But he does give you the speed element."

Blanco has that speed element, too, but his bunt attempt Tuesday screamed lack of confidence at the plate, and the manager heard.

"More than anything, it's confidence with him," Bochy said. "So I'm going to give him a break. It could be a day, two days, or longer."

Bochy covered for Blanco offensively with Pence, but he faced a decision in center field.

Andres Torres is 0-for-August and Roger Kieschnick hasn't played center since high school. It left Bochy with Francoeur, who came up with the Braves in 2005 as a center fielder but was displaced due to one Andruw Jones.

"He says he's comfortable out there, and he has some experience," Bochy said. "So we'll see how that goes."

In nine MLB seasons, Francoeur has played four career games in center, going 1-for-10 in those contests.

More than anything, this team needs to string together hits. The Giants are 2-for-22 (.091) with runners in scoring position through the first two games of the Brewers series. They're 38-21 (.644) when they record two or more hits with runners in scoring position this year, but only 20-52 (.278) when they record two hits or fewer.

It's a statistic that has led Bochy to a familiar place in postgame press conferences.

"We need to get the bats going," he has repeated over and over in 2013.

With the manager yielding to players' suggestions Wednesday, maybe the Giants will finally take Bochy's advice. What the hell?