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It took the weekend for Rich Aurilia to finally accept, but the man who debuted for the Giants all the way back in 1995 will be back with the team this season. Now, Aurilia officially signed a minor league deal, so he won't count against the 40-man roster during spring training, but unless he absolutely tanks, and others blossom, Rich will be back in the utility role for the Giants once again in 2009.I am not surprised by this move at all since it was well publicized that the Giants had a deal on the table for Richie. He can play first and third in a pinch and those are two places the Giants will likely be going young at in 2009 with Pablo Sandoval and Travis Ishikawa. Juan Uribe to back in late January and I don't think the Giants will end up having room for the both of them. Since Bruce Bochy is planning to carry a 5-man bench, that would likely lead to the team carrying 2 infielders, 2 outfielders and a catcher. Right now the Giants have about 5 guys vying for those two infield spots and not all of them are going to make the team. Both Aurilia and Uribe have their strengths and weaknesses. Aurilia is older than Uribe and not as good a defender or as mobile as the former White Sox second basemen. Uribe is also the closest thing to a back-up shortstop the Giants may have as Emmanuel Burriss will likely be the starting shortstop at Fresno. However, Aurilia is better at the plate than Uribe and offers a right-handed option at first base which is the only infield position Uribe doesn't play. With the Giants planning to roll with Ishikawa at first base, they will likely want the veteran right-hander backing him up and spelling him on days vs. tough left-handed pitching. In addition to the battle for second base, the final bullpen spots and the fifth spot in the rotation, the battle for the bench spots will be something to keep an eye on this spring. With the Aurilia now locked up, it would appear the Giants may now officially move past Joe Crede. They apparently still have their one-year offer on the table for him, but chances of him signing it at this point aren't very high. It's probably for Jon Bowker and Josh Phelps right behind him who aren't necessarily your top options, but Bowker is young and is hopefully improving on his 326 at-bat, .253 avg, 10 home run, 43 RBI rookie campaign. And Phelps is still looking for another opportunity at the big league level after a successful cameo with Pittsburgh in '07 followed by an all-star year at triple-A in '08. Not saying that the Giants back-up options are potential stars, but they do have some and they aren't desperate for a 75% healthy Joe Crede who hasn't made it past the All-Star break since 2006.
Trevor Cole The San Francisco Giants Blog