Urban: How much rope do Giants give Huff?

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Urban: How much rope do Giants give Huff?

July 27, 2011

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Mychael Urban
CSNBayArea.com

PHILADELPHIA -- As Frank the Tank from "Old School" might tell some wide-eyed frat pledges, the Giants had a nice little Wednesday in Philadelphia. They picked up a big bat in Carlos Beltran to boost the anemic offense, and perhaps buoyed by news that said bat was en route to Philly, the anemic offense bulked up just enough to pick up a win over their newest and most fierce and frightening rivals.They had to overcome the oddity of catcher Eli Whiteside appearing intent on sabotaging Matt Cain's standard excellence, but key hits by former Phillie Aaron Rowand, recent pickup Jeff Keppinger and Nate Schierholtz -- not to mention a haunting reminder for the citizens of Citizens Bank Park from Brian Wilson -- got the job done. Alas, it was not a nice little Wednesday for Aubrey Huff, who went 1-for-4 without an RBI on the heels of a hitless, RBI-less Tuesday, and together the pair of unproductive days made it all too easy to forget that Huff showed some signs of life -- 5-for-9 with a walk -- last weekend at home against the Brewers.

Now that the Giants have likely concluded their July shopping spree -- Beltran and Keppinger for three minor-league arms -- it's time for the team to turn its focus inward, and it certainly can't like what it's seeing from Huff.Huff, of course, isn't alone among Giants who aren't pulling the same kind of weight they did last season. But he's alone in that only he got a two-year, 22-million deal for the weight he pulled on the way to the World Series, and as a projected middle-of-the-order banger who's banged so little that he's often been dropped from the middle of the order, he's the most visible problem in the lineup.That Beltran is as good as gone as a free agent this winter, and that the Giants so willingly parted with three pitchers said to be virtual locks as future big-league contributors (if not outright stars), makes it quite clear that the Giants are again going for all the marbles right now. They have the starting rotation, they have the bullpen, and with Beltran aboard they have the makings of an offense stout enough to support all that pitching and make another run deep into October.But only if Huff picks it up. And if he doesn't pick it up soon, change might have to be considered. On July 27 of last season, Huff was batting .306 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs on his way to a top-10 finish in the National League MVP voting. He entered Wednesday's game batting .239 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs. That's a pretty dramatic drop-off, and it's a realization of some well-founded fears. Huff, over the past several years of his career, has established a pattern of following a strong season with a weak one, and it's happening again before our eyes.So as Huff's struggles continue, the question is obvious: How long is Huff's rope?On one hand, you have every reason to believe the rope is as long as Rapunzel's locks. As a strong clubhouse presence and a respected veteran leader, he fits the mold of struggling players that Giants manager Bruce Bochy tends to stick with well past the milk turns sour. To wit: Randy Winn and Aaron Rowand in 2009, Bengie Molina in 2010, pre-trade.On the other hand, 2010 also offered evidence that Bochy -- maybe Giants GM Brian Sabean and ownership have a say in such matters as well -- had changed his tune in regards the aforementioned. Rowand and his big contract spent huge chunks of the season on the bench, and Barry Zito and his huger contract spent the entire playoffs on the bench.Might the Giants reach that point with Huff? It's not like they don't have a viable option in reserve. Rookie Brandon Belt is a better defensive first baseman, runs much better, appears to have more power at present, and he's at the stage in his career where he needs to play every day. Belt, who is batting .333 (4-for-12) with a homer, three RBIs and a game-winning double against the Dodgers since his most recent call-up to the bigs, escaped the reaper when it came time to creating roster space for Beltran. He is ready, willing and able to step in whenever Huff runs out of rope.
Could Huff "poison the well" were his playing time diminished? Unlikely. Way too good a guy. What he'd probably do is get right to work on trying to rediscover that gorgeous backspin-producing stroke that proved so instrumental last season. Meanwhile, Belt would be getting the playing time he needs and deserves.And if Belt struggles? Go back to Huff. Bochy's been juggling all year.He hasn't juggled much with Huff, though. It might soon be time to at least consider starting.

Casspi thanks Kings after trade to Pelicans: 'Definitely isn't easy'

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Casspi thanks Kings after trade to Pelicans: 'Definitely isn't easy'

The Kings traded Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the forward to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

I want to thank the Sacramento Kings organization for the opportunity to play basketball in front of the great fans of Sacramento. My wife and I felt in Sacramento like being home and this is something we both will cherish for ever. This definitely isn't easy for me and my family to leave, and you all know how much I love our city, organization and fans but the time has come. I want to wish nothing but success to my Kings. I will definitely will follow and cheer from afar. 
Always a big part of my heart, 
Omri #18

Casspi, 28, averaged 5.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 18 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

A's spring training Day 7: Rosales readies himself everywhere

A's spring training Day 7: Rosales readies himself everywhere

MESA, Ariz. — Adam Rosales has a real simple plan for which infield position he chooses to try to get work at.

“Wherever there’s less guys, I go over there,” he explained with a smile.

The sun came out and the A’s finally got on the field for their first full-squad workout Monday after being rained out Sunday. That meant Rosales, back for his second go-round as an Athletic, got his first chance to prepare for what figures to be a super-utility role, which is how he’s carved out a nine-year major league career.

All indications are that he’ll be the primary backup infielder, capable of spelling Jed Lowrie at second base, Marcus Semien at shortstop, Trevor Plouffe at third and even fill in at first base or left field in a pinch.

Though Rosales, who spent 2010-12 with Oakland and re-signed in January on a one-year $1.25 million deal, is well-versed in preparing himself all over the diamond, one position in particular is one that he says is most difficult to master in limited time.

“Shortstop,” he offered without hesitation. “There’s a lot more going on there, a lot less room for error. At shortstop, especially with a guy like Mike Trout running, you’ve got to be in good rhythm, good timing, get rid of the ball and make an accurate throw.”

Depending on how the A’s prioritize their 25-man roster, Rosales could very well be the only backup infielder. That means fellow infielders Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder would start in the minors if the A’s were to keep a fifth outfielder or third catcher. But because the A’s have some players who can fill in at multiple spots, there’s numerous ways they can choose to configure the roster when it comes time to pare it down.

Rosales, 33, said walking back into the A’s clubhouse for the first time made him “feel like I’m back home.” So much of the support staff — equipment guys, clubhouse guys — are the same as when he was here before. He was also happy to see former infield mate Mark Ellis walk through the door Sunday. He says Ellis, a teammate from 2010-11, instilled in him the importance of being a great defender. Ellis is working as a part-time spring instructor.

“He told me, the No. 1 reason he was in the big leagues was because of this,” Rosales said, holding up his glove. “I was such a young player then. I’d always work with him, how to turn double plays. Just to have him around is awesome.”

NOTEWORTHY: Sonny Gray and Kendall Graveman were among the pitchers who faced hitters for the first time this season. Bruce Maxwell caught Gray, his first time behind the plate with Gray other than the one inning Gray threw in an abbreviated start at Anaheim toward the end of last season. Maxwell said Gray’s changeup in particular looked good.

Manager Bob Melvin has been very impressed early on with Graveman’s command. Graveman said he’s trying to improve his changeup, in an effort to induce weak contact from righties and get them on the their front foot, which could then make him more effective on the inside corner.

CAMP BATTLE: There could be a good fight for the seventh and final spot in the bullpen, and it would seem being left-handed could give someone an edge. Sean Doolittle is the only lefty currently projected among the A’s top six relievers. Melvin had good things to say about Daniel Coulombe, a lefty who made 35 appearances in relief last year and also saw a bit of time with Oakland in 2015. Coulombe posted a 4.53 ERA last season but struck out 54 in 47 2/3 innings.