What to do about Brett Pill?


What to do about Brett Pill?

Brett Pill doesn't have anything left to prove in the minors. He's raked at every level, and he's been raking in the big leagues since being called up earlier this month.His 3-for-5 night Wednesday in a huge win against the rival Dodgers highlighted his clean and controlled stroke, raising his batting average through eight games with the Giants to .333 with two doubles, two triples, two homers and eight RBIs, giving him an eye-popping slugging percentage of .733 and an equally impressive OPS of 1.067.So what do you do with him next year? It's a question the club will have to think long and hard about over the winter.

Pill, you see, is a first baseman by trade. But so is Aubrey Huff, whom Giants manager Bruce Bochy recently said will be his first baseman in 2012, when Huff is again going to be pulling down 11 million in salary.And so is Brandon Belt, who made the Opening Day roster with an impressive showing at spring training that came on the heels of a ridiculously productive 2010 season, in which Belt ripped through the minors like he had a deadline to meet.Huff, by the way, could be in the mix through the 2013 season, too. The Giants have a club option on him for a cool 10 million. But unless he lives up to his recent career pattern of good season-bad season-good season, hello 2 million option buyout.It's been assumed since Belt burst onto the scene that he'll eventually replace Huff at first base, and given how badly Huff has struggled in 2011, more than a few folks would like to see that happen sooner rather than later.Yet Belt hasn't exactly been a man on fire this year himself -- unless you count his numbers at Triple-A Fresno, to which he was banished three times. During his time this season with the Grizzlies, Belt batted .309 with a .448 on-base percentage and a .975 OPS with eight homers and 32 RBIs over 49 games.Pill, meanwhile, batted .312 with a .341 OBP, .871 OBP, 25 homers and 107 RBIs over 133 games at Fresno. And suddenly it is Pill for whom Giants fans are pining, in part because Belt's numbers with the Giants have been pedestrian.Granted, Belt's stats for San Francisco -- .212 BA, .701 OPS, eight homers and 16 RBIs over 56 games -- could be the product of being a human yo-yo, and missing considerable time with a broken wrist didn't help, but this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and Pill has done more for Giants fans lately.So let's re-phrase the question: What do you do not just with Pill next year, but with Huff penciled in by Bochy as the starting first baseman, what do you do with Pill and Belt?Well, Belt can play in the outfield. He's far better at first base, where he's got Gold Glove ability, but he could handle left field with an offseason and next spring to prepare.Pill, though, despite having spent some time at second base in Fresno, isn't cut from any sort of legitimate middle-infield cloth. He's 6-foot-4 with average lateral range. Besides, the Giants have Freddy Sanchez (they hope) and Jeff Keppinger (under club control via arbitration) to man second base.Seems like a trade is in order. But which guy do you trade? Belt is 23 and has more upside, so his trade value is likely highest, but he's also a highly popular player and could very well blossom into the power-hitting first baseman for which the Giants have been searching for years.Pill, on the other hand, is 27. How much upside is there? He might not fetch much in return. And hey, if Belt can transition into the outfield, what would be so wrong with Pill serving as Huff's backup for 2012 and taking over at first in 2013?As for trading Huff ... yeah, right. Not after the season he's put together this year. Not with that salary looming.So again, the big question, and this time it's posed directly to Giants fans: What do you do?

Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday


Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

CHICAGO -- Joe Panik's leadoff homer in the series opener was a jolt, but the Giants are a much more dangerous offense when Denard Span is clicking atop the lineup, a spot ahead of Panik, and they hope to have that duo going Wednesday. Span got treatment all day Tuesday and said he could return to the lineup against Kyle Hendricks. 

"The swelling has gone down," Span said of his sprained left thumb. "The thing to do is to come in tomorrow, test it out, and if it feels good, you strap it on."

Span said an X-ray came back clean, but he didn't grab a bat Tuesday to test the thumb, focusing instead on treatment. He is batting .326 in nine games since coming off the DL. His replacement in center this week, Gorkys Hernandez, was 0-for-3 against Jon Lester, lowering his average to .160. 

--- The main story from the second game of this series: Johnny Cueto is now dealing with a second blister, and you can see the lack of movement on his pitches. The Cubs took advantage. Lester didn't need much help while throwing a 99-pitch complete game in two hours and five minutes. 

"He threw a lot more changeups than we've seen in the past," Buster Posey said. "He's shown it in the past but tonight he had good command of it. It wasn't just a show-me pitch. He used it a lot and threw it to lefties as well.

Posey twice grounded short rollers in front of the plate.

--- Posey's throw to nab Javy Baez on Monday was one of the best of the year, and on Tuesday afternoon, Bruce Bochy said, "If he's given a chance, I don't think there's anyone better in the game." That might be true, but Willson Contreras is threatening to get into the conversation. He threw an 85 mph rocket to second in the fifth to nab Eduardo Nuñez. If you're wondering how Lester -- who flat-out has the yips about throwing to first base and doesn't do it -- has allowed just six stolen bases this season, look no further than his young catcher. Long-term, Contreras is the guy I would expect to compete with Posey for Gold Gloves. 

"Nuney, with his speed, can go," Bochy said. "Their catcher made a great throw. Put it right on the money."

--- From before Tuesday's game, what do the relievers think of the new hidden bullpen at Wrigley? And if you missed the Power Rankings the other day, the records are outdated, but there are updates in here on old friends Matt Duffy, Chris Heston, Tommy Joseph, Adalberto Mejia, Yusmeiro Petit and others. Petit in particular is incredible ... just keeps doing his thing. 

--- This play was made by the shortstop. That's good for the old UZR.

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

CHICAGO — Even after losses, Johnny Cueto tends to find a way to flash a smile or two in post-game interviews. He is as competitive as it gets between the lines, but off the field he embraces a relaxed attitude. 

There was none of that Tuesday night at Wrigley. Cueto wore a dour look while describing a 4-1 loss to the Cubs, perhaps because he is a man searching for answers. Cueto was already pitching with a blister for the first time in his career. On Tuesday, he admitted he’s now trying to make the ball dance while dealing with a second blister. 

The first, on his middle finger, popped up at the end of the spring and has bothered Cueto off and on. The second, on his index finger, formed in St. Louis last week. 

“It’s not an excuse,” Cueto said several times. “I was getting hit.”

The Cubs crushed three homers, including a 470-foot bomb from Kyle Schwarber. All three pitches leaked right over the heart of the plate, and Cueto admitted that he can't get that final twist on the ball as he normally does. A tad of his movement is missing, and hitters are taking advantage. 

“It’s just those pitches I left hanging,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “When you leave pitches hanging or put them right in the middle of the plate, you’re going to pay the price.”

The homers — by Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo — represented 60 percent of the hits Cueto gave up. He struck out eight in six innings.

“It’s a little unlike Johnny to make mistakes like that,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You like to think you could make a mistake and get away with it, but he didn’t tonight. A couple of fastballs he pulled over the heart of the plate and then one cutter.”

Catcher Buster Posey said the Cubs were on Cueto’s heater, so the duo tried to adjust. You can’t pitch without your fastball, though, and Cueto’s isn’t quite as explosive as it was in his first year with the Giants. The velocity is down a couple of ticks, but it’s unclear if that too is related to the blisters. 

What is clear is that Cueto is a different pitcher in his second season in San Francisco. He has a 4.64 ERA and opposing hitters are batting .253 with 11 homers. Through 10 starts last year, Cueto had a 2.83 ERA and was holding hitters to a .229 average. He had allowed just two homers. 

“Gosh, it’s just probably a few more mistakes than he made last year,” Bochy said. “He’s still competing so well and he gives you a chance to win every game.”

Cueto made it through six despite the long-ball issues, but that wasn’t enough against Jon Lester, who would have faced Cueto in Game 5 last October. Lester needed just 99 pitches to carve up the Giants for a complete game. He threw 70 strikes. 

That’s the type of efficient performance the Giants came to expect from Cueto last year. Cueto still expects it from himself, but his fingers aren’t cooperating. Asked if he would take a short stint on the DL to get right, Cueto said he can’t. He needs to keep pitching and have callouses form. Plus, any break without throwing would be a significant blow to a team trying desperately to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot. 

“Basically, it makes no sense whatsoever,” to take a break, Cueto said.