StewartWhiteside competition will go down to the wire


StewartWhiteside competition will go down to the wire

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants won't choose a backup catcher based on who collects the most hits in the Cactus League. Either Chris Stewart or Eli Whiteside will make the club based on their ability to call a game, catch and throw.

But both will get a chance to take their hacks Sunday afternoon against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Stewart is catching Barry Zito and Whiteside is the DH.

One important detail in this competition: Whiteside has a minor league option. Stewart does not.

(A reminder: If Hector Sanchez makes the club, it'd be as a third catcher. Unless Buster Posey looks suddenly compromised late in camp, his backup is expected to be Stewart or Whiteside.)

In other morning news, Nate Schierholtz moves up to the No.2 position in the lineup. I'm guessing that is because manager Bruce Bochy wants to get him as many at-bats as possible. As I wrote a couple days ago, Schierholtz hasn't secured his starting job in right field. Brandon Belt has done much more this spring to warrant an everyday role.

I spoke to Ryan Vogelsong and he said he was allowed to test his back by taking 20 swings off a tee. He said everything felt fine, but he was only concerned about being able to get his bunts down. Vogelsong is a pretty good hitter (and former Kutztown shortstop), as you'll remember. He's due to throw 40 pitches against KC on Monday.

Finally, I asked Matt Cain if he had any update on his contract negotiations.

"Beat it, Baggs," he said, cordially.

The lineup:

CF Gregor Blanco
RF Nate Schierholtz
LF Melky Cabrera
1B Brett Pill
2B Joaquin Arias
SS Brandon Crawford
3B Conor Gillaspie
C Chris Stewart
DH Eli Whiteside
P Barry Zito

Bochy evaluates Arroyo's slump, does not rule out sending him down

Bochy evaluates Arroyo's slump, does not rule out sending him down

CHICAGO — Bruce Bochy planned to give Christian Arroyo the day off Thursday as more of a mental break than a physical one. Eduardo Nuñez’s hamstring had other ideas. 

Nuñez thought he was fine Wednesday, that he just had a cramp, but he felt continued tightness in his left hamstring when he went back to the team hotel and he was scratched from the lineup late Thursday morning. Arroyo is back at third, hitting eighth. He’s hitless in his last 15 at-bats and his average has dipped to .196. 

“I brought him in and talked to him,” Bochy said. “He knew the situation. He’s a tough kid and he wants to play and fight through this skid. He’s handling it well, he’s still playing good defense. I really like the way he’s handling it.”

Bochy went into scout mode when talking about Arroyo, saying he makes several evaluations when a player is slumping. He watches the way Arroyo takes the field, and he said the joy and swagger is still there. He watches the glove, and that hasn’t been an issue, no matter what the numbers at the plate are.

“It’s easy to play with zest and energy when you’re doing well,” Bochy said. “You watch when they have a tough day, an 0-for-4, and how he carries himself. Christian is doing a good job of that.”

Bochy noted that Arroyo isn’t trying to slug his way out of this. He went the other way with a runner on third last night, driving in a run. He has shown an ability to get runners in, which this team needs, but the numbers are what they are. Arroyo is batting .130 over his last 12 games with two extra-base hits, which have also happened to be huge ones. 

Two weeks ago, it seemed crazy to think Arroyo might be sent down. But Aaron Hill and Conor Gillaspie will return on the next homestand and the Giants don’t have that many spots to play with. There’s a lot at play here. There are service time implications in sending Arroyo down, and Nuñez could come into play if he can’t handle left with a sore leg. Perhaps the Giants move him back to third or 10-day DL him.

The Giants are talking about all this daily and there are questions to be asked. Isn’t the team better with Arroyo, even if he is fighting it at the plate? Are Hill and Gillaspie worthy of bumping a top prospect back down temporarily? Is Arroyo best served seeing tough pitches from big leaguers or going back down to continue beating up on Triple-A starters? On the last point, Bochy said he thinks seeing Major League pitching is invaluable. He wouldn’t, however, indicate a lean one way or the other on what the front office will do.

“I don’t want to make assumptions here on what we’ll do because we do have moves to make with Conor and Aaron Hill,” he said. “They’re not easy (decisions) but we have to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Giants lineup: Nunez scratched, Williamson in left field

Giants lineup: Nunez scratched, Williamson in left field

Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for today's series finale in Chicago:

Giants (20-28)
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Mac Williamson (R) LF
8. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P (1-5, 4.57 ERA)

Cubs (24-21)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) CF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Miguel Montero (L) C
8. Javier Baez (R) SS
9. Eddie Butler (R) P (1-0, 2.00 ERA)