Position Battle Update - March 11th

The prodigal Giants have come back—back to the Bay and back to playing good baseball. The race for backup outfielder is becoming a sport unto itself. And if Rich Aurilia was assured to start at first it is a forgotten man challenging him.

The Spot: First Base
The Contenders:
Rich Aurilia: 6-19, 4 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 3 SO, 1 SB,
Ryan Klesko: 2-6, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SO,
Mark Sweeney: 2-14, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 4 SO,
Lance Niekro: 7-15, 5 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 2 SO

Did well: Lance Niekro is making the most of his chance to play. He hit his first home run of the spring in Friday's game. Rich Aurilia is penciled in as the starter at first base but has a battle ahead of him with Niekro's hot bat. The former shortstop kept pace with his younger competition with three hits in two games played.

Did not do well: Ryan Klesko is out with a strained muscle on his left side. Mark Sweeney made an appearance in one game and had nothing to show for it in two at-bats.

The battle so far: With opening day in three weeks Niekro is pushing for what may be his last shot to make the team. Aurilia will not give up the spot the team signed him to play without a fight. Klesko's injury should keep him out for a week but the team has to be concerned given his injury history. Sweeney looks like the odd man out, not held back by injury but with little time to play.

 

The Spot: 5th Starter
The Contenders:
Russ Ortiz: 8.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO
Jonathan Sanchez: 3.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO
Tim Lincecum: 2.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 SO
Brad Hennessey: 4.0 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO
Kevin Correia: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 4 SO

Did well: The return of Giants past is going well for Russ Ortiz too. Despite allowing four hits in his three-inning start on Friday he did not allow a run.

Did not do well: Jonathan Sanchez and Kevin Correia pitched in relief and did not impress. Brad Hennessey is slated to start one of Sunday's split squad games against the Athletics in Phoenix and looks to get back on track in the race for fifth starter.

The battle so far: Like Jamey Wright last spring Ortiz looks hard to beat for the last slot in the rotation. Not only is he throwing better than most pitchers already in the rotation, he is easily leading the candidates for fifth starter.

 

The Spot: Backing Up Bonds
The Contenders:
Ryan Klesko: 2-6, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SO
Mark Sweeney: 2-14, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 4 SO
Todd Linden: 14-27, 7 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 6 BB, 4 SO, 2 SB

Did well: Todd Linden had a huge day Saturday with three RBI including his first home run of the Cactus League. He is leaps and bounds above the others in the chase to back up Bonds and is even way ahead of his teammates.

The battle so far: Linden is healthy and he is getting playing time, besting Klesko and Sweeney easily.

 

The Spot: Closer
The Contenders:
Armando Benitez: DNP
Brian Wilson: 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO
Billy Sadler: 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 4 SO

Did not do well: Neither closer-in-waiting had a good time to begin the weekend. Billy Sadler was credited with a blown save and loss Friday. Brian Wilson's outing went as poorly without the detriment to his spring record.

 The battle so far: Armando Benitez is slated to make his debut Sunday in the split-squad game against Seattle. Wilson and Sadler have not put up much of a fight to challenge the big man for closer.

 

The Spot: Utility Guys (Up to 3 spots)
The Contenders:
Todd Linden: 14-27, 7 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 6 BB, 4 SO, 2 SB
Kevin Frandsen: 6-18, 5 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1 SB
Jason Ellison: 14-20, 10 R, 3 2B, 9 RBI, 5 BB, 2 SO, 2 SB, 1 CS
Fred Lewis: 8-25, 4 R, 2 2B, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 5 SO, 2 SB

Did well: If there is a player hotter than Todd Linden it is Jason Ellison. His batting average for the first week of the Cactus League is other-worldly and he is getting lots of playing time, much more than he has at the major league level. Fred Lewis made his presence known in a crowded outfield with an RBI in the game Thursday.

Did not do well: Kevin Frandsen had no hits in three games but scored two runs.

The battle so far: Ellison knows he needs to win a spot as a reserve just to stick with the team and with this talented and deserving corps chasing him he is doing everything he can. Frandsen has openly discussed playing outfield--clearly he is all about being a team player. Lewis is hanging in the race. Count nobody out yet.

 

The Spot: Bullpen Non-Closers (4 Spots)
The Contenders:
Brian Wilson: 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO
Armando Benitez: DNP
Kevin Correia: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 4 SO
Brad Hennessey: 4.0 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO
Billy Sadler: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 4 SO
Russ Ortiz: 8.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO
Jonathan Sanchez: 3.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO
Scott Munter: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
Jack Taschner: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 4 ER, 2 HR, 6 SO
Erick Threets: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB,
Pat Misch: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Did well: Scott Munter pitched a one-two-three inning in his one inning appearance Friday.

Did not do well: The rest of the bullpen contenders had poor outings in the last three days, Jack Taschner especially. He threw one inning Saturday to end the game and allowed a home run.

The battle so far: The bullpen has not yet begun to take shape as no reliever has taken a definitive stand.

The Spot: Fresno's Outfield
The Contenders:
Fred Lewis: 8-25, 4 R, 2 2B, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 5 SO, 2 SB,
Nate Schierholtz: 8-14, 4 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 1 SO
Dan Ortmeier: 1-10, 2 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 1 SO, 1 SB
Clay Timpner: 2-6, 1 RBI, 2 SO

Did well: Lewis is getting the most playing time of these four. More chances for him mean a better picture of where he will play in the new season. Schierholtz is hitting in his limited role with a pinch hit single Saturday.

Did not do well: Ortmeier and Timpner just cannot get into games to make an impact.

Eliminated: Eddy Martinez-Esteve was sent to minor league camp.

The battle so far: Lewis may win a spot on the major league roster and leave the battle for Fresno to the others. Schierholtz makes it happen when he gets the at-bats, perhaps enough to get him into Fresno's outfield.



Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 24th season of fandom. Love/hate mail can be sent to seasond_salt@yahoo.com, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.

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