Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Giants to start season with more questions than answers

I haven’t done much on the San Francisco Giants since the inception of this website.  It shouldn't be surprising, though – in fact, it's by design.  Maybe it's because the NFL - even in the heart of March - continues to steal the spotlight from all the other major sports.  Perhaps it's because the Giants are in the midst of Spring Training, that long stretch of baseball where player's stat lines are completely overblown and unjust panic is constantly created.
That’s not to say that some Spring Training occurrences aren’t meaningful.  When it comes to the 2012 Giants as a matter of fact, several things of consequence are actually happening. Here are a couple little tidbits to start sweating over, for whatever they may be worth.

Barry Zito  
After writing an article in which I suggested that Barry Zito's comeback story could be similar to Alex Smith's, a huge pundit of readers got after me, basically claiming that I had lost my marbles.  Let me be clear - I was not suggesting that Zito even has a comeback left in him.  After his performance against the White Sox, he may have been suggesting that he didn't have one left in him too.
Zito gave up 9 hits and 2 walks in 2.1 innings to Chicago. It was a performance so bad that he had to finish his outing in the bullpen.  He gave up back-to-back home runs to AJ Pierzynski and Alex Rios and generally looked like the old Zito that we’ve come to know and hate.  He had trouble getting his pitches over the plate, and when he did get ‘em there he left ‘em up high.  San Jose Mercury News Giants beat writer Alex Pavlovich described it as “batting practice” on the Damon Bruce Show.  It's become pretty clear that Zito's location and velocity problems have not been solved through extensive yoga and egg scrambling exercises.
True to form, Bruce Bochy stood pat behind his lefty. "Hopefully he can learn from this," Bochy said. "He's going to be out there (every fifth day)."  Giants fans should be getting used to this $126M charade by now.  But look on the bright side - if you're broke and looking for a cheap game to attend, it looks as if Zito's starts may be your chance.

Ryan Vogelsong
 Vogelsong is still dealing with his ailing back that he injured doing squats several weeks ago.  He is expected to start the season on the DL, but fans shouldn't be too concerned about his long term health.
The Giants may be taking the cautionary route with Vogelsong, ensuring that they don't risk re-aggravating the injury by throwing him back in the mix too early.  Who will replace him if he does miss starts is up for debate, as Eric Surkamp had an MRI taken on his left elbow on Monday, though it came up negative for any structural damage.
As Andrew Baggerly of CSN Bay Area reported, Vogelsong is expected to start the season in the Giants' Triple-A Club, the Fresno Grizzlies.  He may have one more rehab start after the Grizzlies’ season opener, and then be back with the big league club barring another injury setback.

Freddy Sanchez
Remember when Freddy faceplanted while diving for a ground ball and we all held our collective breathes?  He was helped off the field clutching is right arm while we tossed our ballcaps at the ground, certain that it spelled the end of the Giant’s 2011 playoff hopes.  Then, as the postseason became a blur in the rearview mirror, we all took comfort in the idea that Sanchez, with more than a full offseason of rehabilitation, would be back in the lineup as a contributor in 2012?  Not so fast.
Sanchez was the other name brought up as a guy who's probably not going to be on the field come Opening Day. Like Vogelsong, the Giants are taking the slow and steady approach when it comes to his recovery.  Unlike Vogelsong, his return will be much longer in anticipation - if it even happens at all.
According to multiple reports, Sanchez's shoulder isn't close to being at 100% strength, and Andrew Baggerly reported that it might even be "career threatening." He got a cortisone shot in his shoulder in hopes of alleviating some of the pain, but according to Giants head trainer Dave Groeschner, his recover has hit a "plateau."
This leads to more question marks regarding the Giants' middle infield situation.  Emmanuel Burriss has been a stand out at Spring Training and appears to be the leading candidate to start at second base for the season opener.  Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot are also on the roster, but Sabean admitted to be shopping the two for a possible trade.  Even with the depth at second, the middle infield appears to be the Giants' weak spot as far as hitting goes, with Crawford and Burriss's bats still remaining unproven commodities.  Letting Jeff Keppinger walk is turning out to be the bad decision that we all thought it would be after all.
This is all without mentioning Brian Wilson's injury rehabilitation and Matt Cain's contract battles.  Buster Posey, the biggest injury concern for the Giants this offseason, is turning out to be the bright spot as he is coming along well, both at the plate and behind it.  Posey played his first back-to-back games at catcher on Monday and Tuesday and he seems to be near 100% at long last.  Hopefully more questions will be answered as we inch closer to Opening Day.

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