Giants roster reflects youth over loyalty

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Giants roster reflects youth over loyalty

SAN FRANCISCO -- Proving if nothing else that they are not prisoners of a run-deficient status quo, the Giants churned up their Opening Day roster Wednesday.

Stuck with a conundrum at first base between Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt and Brett Pill, they kept all three. Looking for a cushion for Buster Posey, they dropped Eli Whiteside (who was optioned) and Chris Stewart (who was traded to the Yankees for pitcher George Kontos) and made a place for Hector Sanchez. Trying to remake their outfield, they finished with Gregor Blanco.

They also promoted Dan Otero to their bullpen, though that is mostly pro forma until Ryan Vogelsong returns.

Then again, it wasnt the pitching that needed the makeover.

Still, eight of their 13 everyday players were playing every day somewhere else last April, which is an impressive remodel for a team that won 86 games a year ago.

The problem, though, was that based on their run differential in 2011, they were lucky to have won those last six, and everyone who pays attention to baseball knew it. In other words, overachieving with no offense pays off just as poorly as not.

The decisions made Wednesday means that only Posey, Huff, Nate Schierholtz and Emmanuel Burriss are everyday players with 2010 World Series rings. There would be a fifth if Freddy Sanchez were healthy, but that is so yesterdays news.

Thus, the allegedly conservative Brian Sabean shows that he has overcome his one instance of romantic loyalty, and the stereotypically age-bound Bruce Bochy now has 13 players whose average age is a shade over 27.

In short, if the Giants are any kind of team at all, they are a team in flux, and they are because a team with 590 runs on their resume has to be. Wednesday was not the day it all blew up, but it was the day they committed to a new broom.

Sanchez made it because he had the best spring of the three backup catchers, so much so that he overcame Whitesides reputation as a handler of pitcher and Stewarts arm. Belt made it because he hit too well in Arizona not to, and Pill made it because Ryan Theriot could not be the right-handed bench power alone. Blanco made it despite Huff being moved to the outfield.

And they all made it because 2010 is a million years ago.

There is still the question of whether this roster will work better than the one last year although the Galactic Overlord is the only one who could imagine how it could be worse but it is considerably different, which means that Sabean and Bochy were as sick of looking at last year as the rest of you.

And if you are prone to self-absorption, you can pretend that they listened to you specifically. Nice work, Miscellaneous Giants Fans. Your incessant whining paid off . . . kind of. Maybe. Youll know for sure in 162 games.

But if you didnt whine for the right people, you could be just as gone as Cody Ross or Chris Stewart. So watch yourselves.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.