Programming note: Diamondbacks-Giants coverage starts today at 12:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area with Giants Pregame Live (Channel locations)
SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants are one of baseball’s last teams to play its home opener, and given the weather in the Bay Area last week, it was worth the wait to play under perfect conditions.
That’s what we’ve got Tuesday afternoon here on the shores of McCovey Cove. Even though AT&T Park is not exactly a lively place for hitters, the ball does jump and carry during these warmer afternoon games. So maybe the Giants will be able to add to the NL-best 11 home runs they hit on their season-opening seven-game road trip.
They have one more power threat in the lineup at second base, where Bruce Bochy is giving Brandon Hicks his first start against a right-handed pitcher. It’s quite a six-week impression that Hicks has made while going from non-roster invitee to starting the home opener.
“You’d always like to say you played in an opener, whether it’s the first game or the home opener,” Bochy said. “It’s really a credit to how well he’s played this spring and here early on. So I gave him the nod and I’m excited for him.”
Bochy still plans to mix playing time between Hicks, Joaquin Arias and Ehire Adrianza at second base while Marco Scutaro remains in limbo with his back issue. But it’s starting to look like Hicks could end up with a larger share that Bochy had intended for Arias.
“We’ll go with the hotter bat and right how Hicks is swinging the best,” Bochy said.
Perhaps most significantly, Bochy said Hicks has proven himself as competent a defender as Arias, who had a shaky opener with the glove. Hicks was never more impressive than at Dodger Stadium, when Santiago Casilla double-clutched before throwing to second base. Hicks was hung out to dry a bit, but with a runner bearing down on him, he still got off a strong throw to turn the double play.
The only other pregame news was about Jeremy Affeldt, who followed a rough rehab appearance for Triple-A Fresno on Friday (one of seven batters retired with two walks and a hit batter mixed in) with a solid one Sunday. Affeldt said his outing Friday wasn’t as bad as the linescore appeared, and that the “bat boy picked up a piece of the barrel” on all three hits he gave up.
He said his sinker was the best it’s been in years. Still, he understands why the Giants won’t activate him on Tuesday as originally planned. They want to see him go back-to-back, which he’ll do at Single-A San Jose this week, and also pitch multiple innings.
There’s no question the Giants need Affeldt to be a huge bridge piece in their bullpen this season, but right now the need isn’t dire because everyone else is pitching well. And the Giants have a roster issue, too, because Juan Gutierrez, David Huff, Yusmeiro Petit and Jean Machi are all out of minor league options.
“I want to be back, but I understand,” said Affeldt, as he prepared to go pitch off the bullpen mound.
We make light of Affeldt’s bizarre injuries, but this is a delicate situation and he’s handling it like a professional.