Giants still searching for Mr. Rightfield
By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News
PHOENIX — The Arizona sun illuminates many things, but the Giants cannot duplicate AT&T Park's tricky right field here.
There isn't a 25-foot brick wall at Scottsdale Stadium. There are no archways to let in breeze off the bay — or off the mesas, as the case may be.
Less than a week before the April 5 opener at Houston, the Giants still haven't settled on an everyday man in rightfield. And they might not be able to gain the intelligence they need until the final exhibition games at China Basin.
"I'm glad we're leaving here Wednesday and we get four games in a real stadium," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said.
The Giants are likely to use those games to decide whether John Bowker can handle the unexpected flight paths and pinball bounces. They also will test free agent Mark DeRosa, who would open up a spot in left field for Bowker if he moved to right.
They already know that Randy Winn's heir apparent, Nate Schierholtz, would excel in right field. But Schierholtz's inconsistent swing mechanics have prevented him from nailing down the job this spring.
The choice will be about more than simply Player A vs. Player B. It's also a referendum on whether the Giants are willing to sacrifice more defensive ability in the hopes of strengthening their lineup.
It is a dynamic discussion.
Sabean appears to be leaning a little harder toward Schierholtz, saying that "right field is important to us because of the standard (Winn) set. We know what we have to do. It's as important to us, and perhaps more so, as center field."
Bochy appears more willing to take a chance in right, especially with Bowker among the Cactus League leaders in home runs and RBI.
"The angles are a little different, but right field is right field," Bochy said. "It's the same. We do have a tough right field, and that takes some work. DeRosa has played right field, too."
Before the spring began, Sabean flatly ruled out the notion of Bowker in right field. Six weeks later . . .
"We're all open-minded now," Sabean said. "You have to be."
There is one other factor at play, though. Right field might be the only position on the diamond where the Giants could field a legitimately above average defensive player.
Team defense figures to be a season-long concern for a club that plans to win behind its formidable pitching staff.
They already made one concession to the team defense when they signed first baseman Aubrey Huff.
Schierholtz knows there is a simple way to resolve all these debates. He just needs to hit, and the results from the past three days leave him encouraged. One day after getting six at-bats in a minor league game, he doubled, tripled and walked in five plate appearances against the Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale.
A day after Sabean said Schierholtz was "battling demons" with his swing, the 26-year-old from Danville pronounced himself wholly exorcized.
"I made a couple adjustments and I'm not going to look back at what happened earlier this spring," Schierholtz said. "I've thrown it out and I started over."
One adjustment was to throw out the batting gloves he began using in Puerto Rico over the winter. Thanks to some advice from outfielder Andres Torres, he's back to bare hands on the bat.
"I don't know, I just wanted to stop thinking," Schierholtz said. "Just grab the bat and step to the plate."
If nothing else, Schierholtz will make the team because of his "run, field and throw skills," Sabean said.
"He's got a lot of things to offer," the GM said. "He's just gotta relax. Easier said than done."
For more on the Giants, see Andrew Baggarly's Extra Baggs blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/extrabaggs.