SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Aaron Hill has not started a big league game at shortstop since 2006. Jimmy Rollins has never started a meaningful game at second base. Yet there they were Monday, lining up in a strange alignment for a coaching staff that is trying to piece together a 25-man puzzle.
Manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll start to throw guys into new spots over the next couple of weeks, and the returns Monday certainly didn’t harm the opening day chances of the two veterans. Hill smoked an RBI double in the second and got a great read while scoring on a bloop to left, and he looked fine at short. Rollins, who has been a bit slower to come around at the plate, made two diving snags in the field.
Bochy said the staff isn’t really looking at spring numbers yet. The Giants are more concerned about seeing where all the veterans might fit in.
“I think this early, it’s hard to judge them, it really is,” he said. “I know it seems like we’ve been here quite a while, which we have because camp started earlier, but as we get into the later weeks of spring these guys should have their swings and their comfort and a sense of timing. It is hard to evaluate right now.”
Hill will continue to see time at short, Bochy said, especially with Brandon Crawford off to the World Baseball Classic. Rollins has done daily work at second. Bochy is looking at other permutations, too …
- He said Chris Marrero, who has swung a hot bat early, will see time in left field. Marrerro has played first base all spring. Kelby Tomlinson will also see time in left field.
- Trevor Brown continues to work out occasionally at first, second and third. The staff hasn’t ruled out carrying three catchers.
- Jae-gyun Hwang will see some time at first base and Bochy also wants a glimpse of him in the outfield. Hwang has played third base all spring. This could be particularly meaningful if he’s in Triple-A, where Christian Arroyo will play third.
- Ty Blach came in with one out in the fourth. He said this is the first time he can remember ever coming in during the middle of an inning, and it was done on purpose. “It’s a good situation for Ty to come in,” Bochy said. “It could be his role. I’m not saying it will be, but it could be. We’re going to keep those options open. Early on we’re going to keep options open on the pitching side and position player side. You’re trying to get that flexibility.” Blach is still competing for the No. 5 spot, but Matt Cain hasn’t done anything to make the staff think he won’t win that job, so Blach could be a long reliever or short-stint lefty to start the year.
GAME RECAP: The Giants won 3-2, snapping an eight-game losing streak that cost them any shot at the prestigious Cactus League title. Kyle Blanks had three hits and drove in a run. Cain was charged with a couple of runs but Blach, Dan Slania, Derek Law and Hunter Strickland took it home.
A DIFFERENT LOOK: Strickland threw only splitters and two-seamers while picking up the save. He’s looking to get hitters off his four-seam fastball a bit.
“That felt good today,” he said, smiling. “It felt effortless.”
The returns were positive; he faced three Indians in the ninth and got three ground balls, with the final two outs coming on a double play. The addition of a reliable third pitch would certainly be a huge boost for a guy who should be pitching the seventh or eighth. A year ago, he threw 57 percent four-seamers and 23 percent sliders.
TRAINER’S ROOM: Will Smith remains on track to pitch in a game around March 20 or so. “Smitty will be ready (for opening day),” Bochy said. “I’m confident in that. He’ll be ready.” Conor Gillapie (sore arm) said he’s ready to get back in the lineup Tuesday. Jose Alguacil hoped to visit the clubhouse Monday afternoon.
ICYMI: From this morning, Crawford and Buster Posey are off to wear the red, white and blue. And if you didn’t see it yesterday, Crawford’s WBC glove is going to lead to a lot of fire emojis on Twitter.
QUOTABLE: “It’s always a tough at-bat. He’s going to give you a tough at-bat. He’s a guy who has got a great ability to put an at-bat together. He likes to play hard-nosed baseball and that’s what we’re looking for.” — Cain on Hill. It turns out the two go way back; they first faced off in Double-A and Hill lined a first-pitch curveball right back up the middle, nearly taking Cain’s head off.