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Spring Training games are here!

February 27, 2011

The ever-readable and entertaining Splashing Pumpkins has a solid write-up on yesterday’s Spring Training game against the Dodgers, and Baggs is doing his usual excellent work, so we’re not going to bore you with any sort of play-by-play of the first few games, but a couple of things did catch our eye that we wanted to comment on.  Needless to say, there is some prospect love going on in these parts.  Also some head scratching.  Pretty par for the course for Giants baseball this time of year, really.

  • We were never particularly Pablo Sandoval haters, but we were a bit cagey about what to expect from him this season.  The two home runs he’s knocked, however, especially the scorcher he hit off the D-Back’s Daniel Hudson today that would have been in the Cove at home at AT&T, have gone a long way to giving us a big dose of faith.  Panda seems to have found a good balance of better discipline than we’ve seen from him at the plate before and the aggressiveness that was so successful for him in ’09.  He commented after his two-run shot against the Dodgers yesterday that he had seen Oscar Villareal  throw the same cutter to Huff and Torres before him, so he knew it was the pitch he wanted and went after it.  That’s the kind of attention at the plate that is going to go a long way to augmenting the raw power and hopefully give us a taste of what we were missing from him much of last season.
  • Buster Posey continues to be Buster Posey.  There is something about just listening to the crack of his bat that makes us all warm and fuzzy inside.  And no, that’s not a euphemism.  Probably.
  • Matt Cain also continues to be Matt Cain.  He pitched really about the way we’ve come to expect from him, which is pretty remarkable to see this early in the spring, though we really shouldn’t be surprised when it comes to him.  Cainer, for all the things we can love about him, is an absolute beast of consistency and durability.  Unfortunately, he got Cain’d today, leaving the mound after two shut-out innings only to have Jose Casilla and Alex Hinshaw get into trouble in the eighth and ninth after Ryan Vogelsong (hello 2001!) continued what Cain had set up.  For his sake, we really hope this isn’t a continuation of the Curse of Matt Cain.
  • Mark DeRosa seems to be going after a starting position we don’t think he’s real likely to get, but we do have to appreciate the fire he’s got.  He’s been strong at the plate and made some solid catches.  He doesn’t seem to be hitting with a lot of power, which does put a niggling doubt about his bad wrist in the back of our minds, but he’s tracking pitches well and placing his hits effectively.  He’s not going to replace Freddy Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval or Miguel Tejada in the infield, barring something fairly substantial changing, but we wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him staring in left field, at least some of the time.  Too bad that’s a pretty packed house, and destined to grow more so when Belt gets called up, whether that’s out of Spring Training or later in the spring/early summer.  I’d take the under on that if I were in Vegas.
  • Speaking of the outfield situation, we were less than enthused to see Aaron Rowand‘s name on the starting lineup today.  He hasn’t hit well and hasn’t displayed any particular defensive fireworks, which isn’t promising from a guy who has said that he understands that he’s got to fight for his spot on this team.  We’re quickly getting in the “just DFA him and be done with it” line, and we hate to be in that position.  He’s not leaving us a lot of choice, unfortunately, and if it’s down to him or Torres, that’s a no brainer.
  • Slightly related to the above, Nate Schierholtz legged out a solid triple yesterday.  There was quite a lot of gleeful screaming from these parts.  We’re really hoping that his rehabbed right shoulder (that he apparently played on most of last season in varying degrees of pain) improves his offensive production, because his defense is gorgeous and he’s high on the list of trading block candidates otherwise.
  • Brandon Crawford is proving to be as defensively sparkling as we’ve been promised.  His bat clearly still needs some work, but he’s far less than disastrous, and we’re definitely of the mind that a good defensive short stop doesn’t have to be much above the Mendoza line for us to be happy.
  • Crawford turned what at least sounded like a rather pretty double play with Brandon Belt yesterday, something that was high on the list of things we had hoped we’d get to see (or at least hear) during Spring Training.  We haven’t seen as much of Brandon Belt in the first few games as we would like (he had allegedly been supposed to start at first today, which was then changed to Huff starting with Belt relieving, which became Brad Eldred relieving), but what we’ve seen has overall been what we thought we’d see.  Good at bats, even if there hasn’t been a ton of production, and overall solid defense.  Look at us, being somewhat reserved about Brandon Belt!
  • Nick Noonan spent some time at third base today.  He put up a respectable if not overwhelming showing.  With Culberson and Crawford in the wings, it makes sense for him to try and make the shift to third.  Not that we see having an opening in San Francisco at third any time real soon, but he’d at least not be in line behind Culberson or Crawford/Adrianza in his move towards the bigs, and if the powers that be are wanting to keep him as a legit prospect, it seems the way to go if he can make the switch.
  • Speaking of Charlie Culberson, we admit to being on the way to changing our tune on him.  We’ve been a bit puzzled as to why everyone seemed to be so high on him, especially since we had heard some reports of his glove being less than stellar (though certainly not bad), but he made some nice catches, even with the tricky hard packed infield at Scottsdale Stadium.  He’s also shown a steady improvement in his offensive skills over the past few seasons, putting up .290/.340/.457 last season in San Jose, which we would be more than happy with when the time comes if his defense is solid.
  • Thomas Neal is fast.  This was apparently news to Jon Miller.  Not to us, though.  Blame Twitter?
  • Speaking of our intrepid gentlemen in the booth, Miller and Kuip were in rare form today.  Jon Miller gave an impromptu physics lesson, told us about how he apparently sometimes writes in a New England accent, and traded endless stories with Kuip in the midst of the endless parade of personnel changes that they (and us) pretty much stopped paying attention to.  At one point I looked up from my giggle fit and realized I had no idea who was at third, and neither did Maiya.  Gotta love Spring Training baseball!

That’s all from us for now!  All I’m really hoping for from the game tomorrow against the Brewers is an appearance from Zack Greinke.  If either of the Brandons do anything spectacular while I’m stuck at work, I am going to be most annoyed.  Just watch, now the universe is going to have to mock me for that.  And on that note, good night from us!

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