SURPRISE, Ariz. – Andres Torres knows Bo. Or at least, his quadriceps do.
In a burst of rage that made the crowd gasp Monday at Surprise Stadium, Torres snapped a bat over his knee after striking out with the bases loaded in the fourth inning of the Giants' 2-1 victory over Texas.
No, Torres didn’t also run up the center field fence like Spider-Man. Only one of Bo Jackson’s signature moves allowed in one day, apparently.
It was an extreme act for a player, especially in a spring training game that counts for nothing. It was especially out of character for Torres, the 2010 Willie Mac Award winner, who is so genial that he makes Mr. Rogers look like a brooding malcontent.
But it’s also been a frustrating spring as Torres seeks to reestablish himself and win at-bats in a left field platoon with Gregor Blanco. So far, just getting on the field has been a battle. Torres had a strained oblique that knocked him out of action for the better part of two weeks; he was unable to swing from the left side until recent days, and entered Monday with just two at-bats all spring.
Torres, rapidly pedaling an exercise bike after the game, was asked: How is his knee?
“My knee is fine,” he replied. “The bat is broke.”
He was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts Monday, while batting left-handed against Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish. And he wasn’t going to keep anything pent up after he chased a high fastball.
“Bases loaded, I want to do good,” Torres said. “I want to get the guys in. I know it’s early. I just got mad. … Sometimes you have to let it go. Not every time. Once in awhile. Everybody gets mad, you know?”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy appeared more concerned than amused at Torres’ display, saying he knows the switch-hitter is frustrated and he needs to get more at-bats.
Torres made an impression on more than his lumber.
“I need to learn how to break a bat over my knee,” center fielder Gary Brown tweeted while on the team bus back to Scottsdale.
Uh oh. Somebody alert head trainer Dave Groeschner.
Infielder Tony Abreu made his spring debut with a start at third base and it’s clear he isn’t 100 percent. He looked balky running out an infield hit, and acknowledged he’s still dealing with left knee pain. He said he had tests that showed inflammation, but nothing more.
Bochy planned for Abreu to play just three innings Monday. He’ll be reevaluated and the plan is to see if he can play again on Wednesday, Bochy said.
Dan Runzler took the term “let your defense work for you” to new lengths in the ninth inning while preserving the Giants’ 2-1 victory. The Rangers scalded three pitches, but third baseman Nick Noonan made a diving stop to take away one hit and center fielder Juan Perez got a terrific jump on a Jeff Baker drive to take away another.
Noonan is hitting .143, but he tripled Monday and looks to be coming around with the bat. He might have the best blend of offensive and defensive upside, and Bochy remarked he was encouraged at how the one-time top prospect “has picked up his play, both defensively and with the bat.”
Asked to what degree Noonan is a viable candidate for the backup infield job, Bochy said, “I don’t want to put a number on it, but you’ve heard me say we’ll stay open minded on this. We’ll see what our needs are at the end.”
Reading between the lines, I think it’d take an injury for Noonan to make the club. But odds are he’ll be up before long.
In fact, with Noonan, Francisco Peguero, Roger Kieschnick, Chris Heston, Mike Kickham, Heath Hembree and others, I think the Giants might have their most talented Triple-A roster in a long, long time. These aren’t just 4-A players, but guys with upside who have a chance to be big league contributors.
Hembree struck out the side in his inning, by the way. It was quite an improvement over the rough one he had against the Indians in his previous outing, when Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi took him deep.
Hembree threw extra pitches in his last side session while trying to make a few delivery tweaks.
“For him to bounce back, that’s what you look for,” Bochy said.
Kensuke Tanaka is getting tons of playing time and every chance to show he’s worthy of a bench job. The results have been mixed, but he does know how to handle the bat.
Tanaka had perhaps his spring highlight Monday, when he faced former Nippon Ham Fighters teammate Yu Darvish and singled off the right-hander’s glove. Then Tanaka stole second base on a pitch that struck out Torres. (And that’s after Darvish had pitched out earlier, when Tanaka stayed put.)
Tanaka has three steals this spring, and Bochy likes his aggressiveness.
We still haven’t seen Brandon Belt play an inning in left field, or even take fly balls out there. The longer that goes on, the less likely the Giants will be to think about beginning the season with just four full-time outfielders
That’s a good thing for Cole Gillespie, who is trying to make the club as a fifth outfelder. But the non-roster invitee is taking no chances. He found a first baseman’s mitt, took grounders and practiced scoops for the first time. Looked like he had pretty smooth actions, too.
Turns out he played first base as a freshman and sophomore at Oregon State.
“Brings back memories,” he said, smiling.
Good news on Chris Stratton, the right-hander taken with the Giants’ top draft pick last June: He pitched in a minor league intrasquad game on Sunday, and all indications are that he will be ready to start the year with a full-season affiliate – likely Single-A San Jose.
Stratton was hospitalized last August with a concussion after getting hit by a line drive in batting practice, and was still feeling the effects several months later.
The Giants will play Team Japan in an exhibition game Thursday at Scottsdale Stadium. The game has been on the schedule for months but the opponent wasn’t finalized until Monday.
Yusmeiro Petit will pitch for the Giants, which disappointed a Japanese reporter I spoke with on Monday.
“If Lincecum, it’s a big story,” he said.
In case you missed it, Japan and the Netherlands are the two teams to emerge from the second-round pool that played in Tokyo. Both clubs advanced to the semifinals at AT&T Park, and the Oranje punched its ticket by beating Cuba in what amounted to an elimination game early Monday morning.
The Dutch manager, of course, is Giants hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens, who continues to raise his profile.
A professional, level-headed baseball man who speaks five languages, wins plaudits from players, knows how to handle media obligations and was part of two World Series titles in the past three years? Yeah, I think Sir Hensley’s resume would go to the top of a lot of piles.
One thing you can always count on: There will be managerial vacancies at season’s end.