Feb. 20, 2011
URBAN ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEOMychael UrbanCSNBayArea.com
SCOTTSDALE -- The warm reunions are over, everyone knows what everyone else did over the winter, and the skipper has delivered his big speech.Now that all of the Giants have settled into camp at Scottsdale Stadium, it's finally time to set aside the glorious memories of Game 5 in Arlington and focus on the drama about to unfold over the next five weeks in the desert.Simply put, there are more players deserving to be Giants than the Giants can carry, many of them are in some way tied to the fate of multiple other players, and nobody's quite sure who will play where and when.Mark DeRosa, the starting left fielder on Opening Day last year, has been told by manager Bruce Bochy that he'll see much of his time this spring on the infield, presumably in preparation for a super-utility role. Yet Bochy wouldn't rule out the idea of DeRosa being his left-field starter on Opening Day this year, too.Pat Burrell, who lined a single off Tim Lincecum on Saturday and repeated the feat against Jonathan Sanchez on Sunday, is a candidate to start in left, too. That's where he spent most of last season after the Giants picked him up in May, but he lost the job with a miserable World Series and was quite clear that he'd have to earn it back when he signed a one-year, 1 million contract to return for 2011.And no matter how well Burrell plays this spring, there's a chance he still won't get the gig, and if that scenario plays out he'll be bumped to the bench by his best friend on the team.It's the Brandon Belt Effect. If Belt, the white-hot prospect already being unfairly burdened with the "Next Buster Posey" label, proves this spring that he's ready to handle big-league pitching, he'll be installed as the starting first baseman, and incumbent first baseman Aubrey Huff will move to left.Belt's roster status could have a far more profound impact on outfielder Nate Schierholtz and first baseman Travis Ishikawa. If Belt doesn't make the club, Bochy and GM Brian Sabean will have at least one difficult decision to make, and most signs point to Schierholtz being the odd man out. He's out of options, and his late-game defensive skills in right field aren't as valuable now that Cody Ross is the starter in right.Bochy said he wants Schierholtz to play all three outfield positions this spring to help improve his chances of sticking, but that can be seen as a kiss of death, too. And quite frankly, Schierholtz would probably be better served by a fresh start elsewhere.If Belt does make the team, Ishikawa might have to go, too. Like Schierholtz, Ishikawa is out of options, and Belt's defensive prowess negates the need for Ishikawa's slick glove.Of course, a trade of Aaron Rowand could change everything. It's unlikely, though, and not only because of the money Rowand is owed. The Giants won't come out and say it, but they're far too smart to not be hedging their bets at least a little on Andres Torres, whose breakout season at age 32 could just as easily prove to be a flash in the pan as it is to have marked the start of a classic late-bloomer's tale.When Bochy said he's decided not to play Rowand on the corners this spring, saying he wants Rowand to stay in center, where he's comfortable, he might very well have been saying something else between the lines. Like, "Rowand is our only center fielder with a track record."Some of these guys might even be affected by left-hander Madison Bumgarner, for crying out loud. Bumgarner, the projected No. 5 starter, might open the season at Triple-A Fresno because the Giants' schedule includes days off that would make a four-man rotation feasible early on, allowing Bochy to retain an extra position player coming out of camp.Eventually, of course, that extra player will lose his spot upon Bumgarner's return. Unless he goes nuts while Bumgarner is gone.Then the numbers game starts all over again, but it won't be nearly as difficult to decipher -- or handicap -- as the one that just started in Scottsdale.