Position Battle Update - March 18th

With two weeks left in camp some answers are becoming clearer. Armando Benitez is back to claim the closer's role but it will not be easy for him. Rich Aurilia trumped his competition at first by playing at other infield positions. Todd Linden is as good as in if he keeps hitting. But who will be in the bullpen?

Position: First Base

The Contenders:
Rich Aurilia – 2-6, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SO, 1 BB
Ryan Klesko – 1-6, 1 2B, 1 SO
Mark Sweeney – 2-6, 1 2B, 2 SO, 1 BB
Lance Niekro – 1-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SO, 2 BB

Did Well: Rich Aurilia started at third base in a split-squad game Thursday, a scenario that should suit him and the Giants at times in the regular season. Aurilia is hitting at any slot in the lineup or any position on the diamond and brings added versatility with his willingness and ability to play every infield position. Ryan Klesko has seen limited action with his injury but everything he hits comes off the bat hard. Mark Sweeney made the rounds as left fielder Saturday to spell Barry Bonds and got a hit against Colorado starter Aaron Cook who threw exceptionally well. Lance Niekro did not have as many at-bats but made them count with a home run in Thursday's game.

The battle so far: The race for first is back on with Klesko's return to health and Sweeney getting more playing time.

Position: 5th Starter

The Contenders:
Russ Ortiz – DNP
Jonathan Sanchez – 2.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO, 1 HR
Tim Lincecum – 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR
Brad Hennessey – 3.0 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO, 3 HR, WP; L, 1-1
Kevin Correia – DNP

Did well: Tim Lincecum took some lumps Friday when he allowed a home run but he and the Giants remain optimistic. He kept his poise and pitched well aside from the home run allowed.

Did not so well: Jonathan Sanchez and Brad Hennessey did themselves no favors with poor starts. Hennessey allowed three home runs in the first three innings of his start on Saturday, two to Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe.

The battle so far: With Sanchez and Hennessey pitching themselves out of contention and louder rumblings about Lincecum starting the year in AAA Russ Ortiz is looking more and more like the winner here.

Position: Backing Up Bonds

The Contenders:
Ryan Klesko – 1-6, 1 2B, 1 SO
Mark Sweeney – 2-6, 1 2B, 2 SO, 1 BB
Todd Linden – 3-7, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SO, 1 HBP

Did well: Todd Linden continues to hit and has filled in at every outfield position this spring and will likely do the same in San Francisco.

The battle so far: This is Linden's spot to lose based on the level of his play this spring.

 

Position: Closer

The Contenders:
Armando Benitez – 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO
Brian Wilson – 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO
Billy Sadler – 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO
 

Did well: Armando Benitez turned up the heat on the closer debate and on his velocity. The big man threw in the mid-90s in his appearance Friday and ended the game with a strikeout. Brian Wilson and Billy Sadler kept pace with scoreless innings of their own.

The battle so far: Benitez has not allowed a run in three innings. He is throwing like he is one hundred percent healthy. His next goal is to hold off the younger pitchers looking to supplant him as closer.

Positions: Utility Guys (Up to 3 spots)

The Contenders:
Todd Linden – 3-7, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SO, 1 HBP
Kevin Frandsen – 2-10, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 SO
Jason Ellison – 3-7, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 E
Fred Lewis – 1-9, 1 RBI, 3 SO, 1 E

Did Well: Jason Ellison can hit in the spring but his defense is still suspect. He committed an error in Saturday's game well after the Rockies had built a ridiculous lead.

Did not so well: Two hits in a week is not bad for Kevin Frandsen but there is little doubt that the Giants want to see more out of the infielder. Fred Lewis survived the early minor league camp assignments to stick with the major league training squad but did not hit or field well. He made the other error in Saturday's game, the same inning of Ellison's miscue.

The battle so far: Frandsen is still getting the bulk of at-bats in this group and is needed like Linden or an otherwise competent backup outfielder is needed. If Frandsen and Linden are thought to be in this race comes down to Ellison and Lewis.

Position: Bullpen Non-Closers (4 spots)

The Contenders:
Armando Benitez – 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO
Brian Wilson – 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO
Billy Sadler – 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO
Brad Hennessey – 3.0 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO, 3 HR, WP; L, 1-1
Kevin Correia – DNP
Russ Ortiz – DNP
Jonathan Sanchez – 2.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO, 1 HR
Scott Munter – 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO
Jack Taschner – DNP
Erick Threets – DNP
Pat Misch – 2.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO; W, 1-0

Did well: Pat Misch is throwing well and getting innings and could force himself into the San Francisco bullpen come April.

Did not so well: Scott Munter took a step backward with another bad inning Saturday despite regaining snap on his sinker.

The battle so far: It may not come down to who pitches to get into the bullpen; the chosen ones could make it by virtue of not throwing poorly.

Position: Fresno's Outfield

The Contenders:
Fred Lewis – 1-9, 1 RBI, 3 SO, 1 E
Nate Schierholtz – DNP; Re-assigned to Minor League Camp
Dan Ortmeier – DNP; Re-assigned to Minor League Camp
Eddy Martinez-Esteve – DNP; Re-assigned to Minor League Camp
Clay Timpner – 0-1; Re-assigned to Minor League Camp

The battle so far: Lewis is the lone body left on the major league side of Scottsdale and still getting at-bats, still in consideration for a San Francisco roster spot. Since games began in minor league camp this week the other outfielders will have to make their cases there.



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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