Giants open spring train­ing hop­ing their new-look lineup is im­proved

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

SCOTTS­DALE, Ariz. (AP) — The San Fran­cisco Giants spent much of last sea­son wast­ing some of the finest pitch­ing in the Na­tional League.

Up­grad­ing the of­fence was a top pri­or­ity in the off-sea­son, and as spring train­ing be­gins man­ager Bruce Bochy likes his new lineup.

Cen­tre fielder Aaron Rowand is the top can­di­date to hit first, Bengie Molina is back af­ter be­ing courted by the New York Mets, and free agent signees Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff were added to boost an of­fence that was 13th in the NL in runs, 15th in home runs and last in OPS (on base, plus slug­ging) in 2009.

“It’s a stronger lineup, one through eight. It is go­ing to be stretched out more. It’s a lineup that has ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Bochy, in his fourth sea­son with the Giants. “I think they will work the pitchers more, along with be­ing able to keep the line mov­ing, as we say. That’s get­ting big hits and more pro­duc­tion through­out the or­der.”

De­spite their in­ept hit­ting, the Giants won 88 games be­hind re­peat NL Cy Young win­ner Tim Lince­cum and fel­low hard-throw­ing starter Matt Cain.

Molina had 20 homers and 80 RBIs, sec­ond in both cat­e­gories be­hind third base­man Pablo San­doval, and is ex­pected to cede his cleanup spot in the or­der (San­doval will hit third) to Huff, who signed a one-year, US$3 mil­lion con­tract to play first base. Huff hit .241 with 15 homers and 85 RBIs at Tampa Bay and Detroit last year, and he has 203 homers in a 10-year ca­reer.

DeRosa, who had off-sea­son wrist surgery, signed a two-year, $12 mil­lion con­tract and is ex­pected to start in left field, al­though he can also play right field and first and third base.

He and Molina are ex­pected to fol­low San­doval and Huff in the bat­ting or­der. DeRosa is a ca­reer .275 hit­ter in 12 sea­sons and had a ca­reer-high 23 homers while play­ing in Cleve­land and St. Louis last year.

“It’s some­thing Brian (gen­eral man­ager Sabean) worked hard on, to get the kind of play­ers we wanted to get in here to im­prove this of­fence,” Bochy said. “And I con­sider Bengie one of those guys, be­cause even though he was with us, it looked like he might not be. To get him back, along with Huff and DeRosa, im­proves our sit­u­a­tion.”

Nate Schier­holtz is the fron­trun­ner to re­place Randy Winn in right field, al­though John Bowker and Eu­ge­nio Velez are candidates.

“ We’d like to see Nate run with this. We think he is our best de­fender, and we talked about how im­por­tant de­fence is in our ball­park. But that’s go­ing to be com­pet­i­tive, too,” Bochy said.

Rookie left-han­der Madi­son Bum­gar­ner and newly signed free agent Todd Welle­meyer are in com­pe­ti­tion for the No 5 start­ing spot, Bochy said, be­hind Lince­cum, Cain, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez.

Bum­gar­ner, 20, was the Giants’ No. 1 draft pick in 2007 and was 10 with a 1.80 earned-run av­er­age in four Septem­ber out­ings, one start. Welle­meyer has made 53 starts in the last two years, go­ing 13-9 with St. Louis in 2008 and 710 with the Car­di­nals last sea­son.

“It makes it more com­pet­i­tive when you sign a guy like Welle­meyer, I think it’s fair to say. There are no givens here,” Bochy said. We think a lot of Madi­son, but you al­ways want depth. It is al­ways good to have com­pe­ti­tion.“

Catcher Buster Posey, the Giants’ No. 1 pick in 2008, will also take ground balls at first in camp and could make the team as the backup catcher, Bochy said.

“ We are go­ing to stay open­minded with Buster. Ev­ery­body would be as­sum­ing he would go to triple-A and play ev­ery day and con­tinue his growth as a player. But if we think we are bet­ter with Buster here and I can catch him two, three days a week, that’s al­ways a pos­si­bil­ity,” Bochy said.

NOTES: Travis Ishikawa, last year’s starter at first base, suf­fered torn lig­a­ments in his left foot while de­scend­ing stairs at his home, Bochy said, and will have his foot in a boot for about a week. Ishikawa, who is bat­tling for a re­serve role be­hind Huff, has been able to hit in the bat­ting cage. Sec­ond base­man Freddy Sanchez, com­ing off shoul­der and knee surgery, saw the med­i­cal staff and will be re-eval­u­ated in a week to 10 days, Bochy said. “His knee feels great. We’ll have to see where we’re at with the shoul­der,” he said.

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