Refreshed Huff hits first homer of the spring

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Refreshed Huff hits first homer of the spring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Aubrey Huff hit his first home run ofthe spring Monday night, which could be a hopeful sign as he tries to turnaround a forgettable run in 2011.Then again, Huff led the team with six homers last spring. Thattotal was tied for most in the Cactus League, too. So choose your talismanscarefully.Its more about the feeling than the result for Huff, and hesays hes feeling much more refreshed -- especially between the ears.

Yeah, I feel great, he told me. Just let last year goand come out and try to have some fun again. Up there, I feel comfortable andrelaxed. Its spring training, but the goal is to bring that feeling into theseason.Last year, Huff was the Giants only starting positionplayer to remain healthy all season. Hard to believe, but he was the only Giantto post enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.Not that he finished anywhere close.Huffs average fell from .290 to .246. His on-basepercentage plummeted even steeper as he drew barely half as many walks as theprevious season. In 2010, his .385 OBP was the 10th best in the NL.Last season, his .306 OBP ranked as the eighth worst.He was swinging at everything, and not to any positiveeffect.I wasnt getting into a loading position, Huff said. Myfirst movement was forward. Ive been working on getting a nice load back. Forsome reason, I lost it.By midseason, I was making so many changes. Its hard toget your front foot down when youre doing all that in the middle of a season.Im trying to work through that this spring, and so far, its working out.Huff's bat is looking quick so far. On Sunday, he hit what went down as a single in the box score -- but only because his line drive off the base of the right field wall was hit so hard.Huff is off to a good start in his competition with Brandon Belt and Brett Pill, both of whom will get plenty ofinnings this spring to show their readiness.In three games, Huff and Belt have started in the same lineup twice. Both times, Huff was at first base. Belt was either the designated hitter or played left field. Manager Bruce Bochy cautioned not to read anything into that, saying Huff will play plenty of left field this spring, too.(Belt is swinging it well, too. He hit a shot Monday night that died in the cooler air and was tracked down by Milwaukee center fielder Jordan Schafer after a long sprint. The ball likely would've been halfway up the berm in the daytime.)
But while unspoken, it's clear the first base position is Huffs to lose.Aubrey is part of this, Bochy said earlierthis spring. We need him.

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.