Programming note: Giants-Marlins coverage starts this afternoon at 3:30 with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
MIAMI – Joe Panik is in an unusual position for a rookie second baseman.
He has to prove he’s better than Bruce Bochy’s alternatives on the Giants roster. But he also has prove he’s better than the alternatives that could be acquired by trade.
That’s not entirely under his control, of course. But for now, he is showing enough for Bochy to keep him not only in the lineup, but in the No. 2 spot in the order.
“He’s done a nice job at second base and handling the bat,” said Bochy, who left Panik in the lineup Saturday, one day after the rookie had two hits and was robbed of a third in a 9-1 victory over the Marlins. “He seems much more relaxed. His at-bats are quality at-bats.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants rout Marlins 9-1 to open second half]
And because Panik doesn’t strike out too often (seven in 56 at-bats), he’s an ideal hit-and-run candidate. Bochy put Hunter Pence in motion in the third inning Friday and Panik did his part, slapping a ground ball to the very spot on the left side that Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hecharavvia had vacated in order to cover second base. It took an acrobatic play by Hechavarria to rob Panik of a hit.
The previous tenant of the No. 2 spot, Brandon Belt, was striking out far too often to risk putting runners in motion. Plus Belt’s back is still bothering him a bit. So Bochy said he’ll leave Belt in the No. 6 spot for now until he gets his timing back at the plate.
In the meantime, Panik is getting a long look as Giants GM Brian Sabean weighs his trade priorities against the potential alternatives. With 12 days to go before the non-waiver deadline, the club is not close to making any deals.
Panik probably won’t start on Sunday, though, because Marco Scutaro’s stiff neck has improved and he’s likely to get a start. It’s probably no coincidence that the Marlins are starting a left-hander, Brad Hand. The Giants just need Scutaro to be healthy enough to hold down the lighter, right-handed portion of a platoon. Panik’s lefty bat should still get the bulk of time against right-handers.
[RELATED: Considering Uggla, Scutaro's health, etc.]
Panik is hitting just .232, but he has multiple hits in three of his last six starts.