You know how when teams fire their head coach/manager midway through a season, and the guy who replaces him is labeled an “interim” coach/manager? The job then becomes a daily audition, hoping that the performance given is good enough to prevent the team from going after a more well-known, retread experienced candidate.
Besides Pablo Sandoval (due to tremendous talent), Edgar Renteria and Aaron Rowand (due to tremendous, unmovable contracts), every position player on the San Francisco Giants could be considered interim. Due to the increased pressure of contending for a playoff spot for the first time in years, and a pitching staff that by comparison makes the lineup look even more pathetic that it really is, everybody besides Sandoval, Renteria and Rowand are auditioning for their jobs. Plus, somebody will definitely be designated for assignment when Ryan Sadowski gets called up for tomorrow’s game, meaning someone on the active roster won’t be with the team tomorrow. Here’s a look at how the Giants’ respective tryouts are going, with emphasis on their respective performances in Pittsburgh:
Here to stay, unless they’re traded:
Randy Winn: With his remaining salary, defensive skills and overall classiness, Winn likely is not going anywhere. However, Winn’s looking more and more like a fourth outfielder or a platoon guy due to his performance as a right-handed hitter (.143/.153/.186 in 70 AB).
Against Pittsburgh: 3-for-14, 2 runs, 1 SB
Nate Schierholtz: Not the most patient or powerful hitter in the world, but he’s arguably the most complete outfielder on the team right now. Yesterday he had perhaps the at-bat of his career when he worked the count full after starting 0-2, then lacing a 2-run double. And that was after he collected his fifth assist of the year. Still, the Giants are crying out for right-handed power, and Schierholtz has boosted his trade value in the past month more than anyone on the team not named Jonathan Sanchez. Including a cheap, talented player like Schierholtz might be the only way the Giants can pull off a trade without giving up any of the top 2-4 prospects.
Against Pittsburgh: 4-for-10, 2 2B, 2 RBI’s
Bengie Molina: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants traded Molina or at least started the transition to Buster Posey earlier than most expected before the season — like by the end of August. If a contending team loses their catcher it’s possible Molina gets traded after the non-waiver deadline of July 31, but only if Posey dominates in Fresno. Otherwise, Molina will stay (and continue to hit cleanup unless the Giants make an move for a guy more powerful than Freddy Sanchez).
Against Pittsburgh: 4-for-12, 2 BB(!)
Juan Uribe: He might not be the optimal starting second baseman for a playoff team, but his place on the 2009 Giants is as secure as a 230-lb middle infielder could possibly hope for. It would definitely make everyone more comfortable to see him as the leading utility guy, which looks very possible if the Giants’ rumored pursuit of Sanchez is true.
Against Pittsburgh: 3-for-12
On shaky ground, but still have some value:
Travis Ishikawa: Hard to tell if Ishikawa’s job is safe and they’re letting some of the other guys audition right now, or if the team only thinks of him as a platoon guy to use against RHP’s. Probably a little of both, but it’s crazy that he only has 19 PA’s against lefties (with 5 singles) all season. Still, he’s their best defensive first baseman and his 7 homers ranks fourth on the team, only 2 HRs behind Rowand in over 100 fewer PA’s. By no means has he established himself as a legit starting first baseman, but he’s the best option the Giants have for now.
Against Pittsburgh: 0-for-7, 3 K
John Bowker: After killing the PCL both in terms of power and patience, Bowker’s gone 3-for-17 with 1 BB since getting called up a couple weeks ago, and it looks like his swing has the same hole it did last time he was in the Majors. He starts in a few minutes tonight against the Braves as I write this, hitting seventh. As Andrew Baggarly wrote, “Do you notice a trend for the Giants at first base? With a roster trim coming tomorrow, it would be a good day for Bowker to go 3-for-4.”
Against Pittsburgh: 1-for-7, 1 Sac. Fly
Kevin Frandsen: He’s been pretty darn unlucky over the past year-and-a-half, but that argument can only take a 27-year-old second baseman so far. He’s collected 3 hits in his last 6 ABs, a welcome respite after only 2 hits in his first 33 MLB at-bats this season. Still, no other bench player on the active roster besides Frandsen can play 2B or SS.
Against Pittsburgh: 2-for-6, 2B
Andres Torres: Torres has struck out 21 times in his last 60 AB’s. The Giants are finding out why he’s been a career minor leaguer to this point, but without Emmanuel Burriss and Eugenio Velez, the Giants are short on pinch runners. Not sure if that’s enough reason to keep a guy, but it’s worth mentioning.
Against Pittsburgh: 0-for-3
Eli Whiteside: Currently sticking needles into a voodoo doll of Posey as you’re reading this. At least he can say he caught a no-hitter.
Against Pittsburgh: 0-for-3
Here comes the reaper:
Fred Lewis: Fred’s penchant for strikeouts and dropped fly balls has led to 19 DNP-Manager’s Decisions since June 4. The Giants have invested a lot of hope and time into Lewis, but he’s definitely expendable given the Giants’ over-crowded outfield and Lewis’ dwindling confidence. His body language has gotten especially bad, particularly yesterday after he struck out on three pitches in his only at-bat.
Against Pittsburgh: 0-for-1, BB
Rich Aurilia: Putting sentimentality aside, there is really no logical argument to keep Aurilia — who turns 38 on September 2 — on the team. He can play 1B, but so can Bowker. He can play at third, but so can Frandsen (and Frandsen can play second and shortstop, something Aurilia can no longer do). Aurilia can still grind out a long AB or hit the occasional home run, but he hasn’t shown anything this season that says he deserves to be on this team instead of Bowker or Frandsen. He should be the one who’s let go, just as Dave Roberts was before the season started. Whether that happens may be influenced by how Bowker does tonight (and as I post this, Bowker’s 1-for-1 with a single and a run scored).
Against Pittsburgh: 0-for-5, 3 K