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What has been a relatively quiet spring training in Scottsdale so far is about to start picking up. The Giants have a scheduled intresquad scrimmage planned for Tuesday, followed by Wednesday's Cactus league opener against the Indians.
The only Giant who is leaving the team and heading off to the World Baseball Classic is Jonathan Sanchez. The Giants' 26 year-old lefty has been penciled in to start the Puerto Rican squad's third game of the tournament The interesting thing here is that Sanchez is also battling the recovering Noah Lowry for the fifth starters spot in the Giants' rotation. Now, Sanchez had a leg up on Lowry before pitchers and catchers reported and absolutely nothing has changed. Sanchez's delivery has apparently been toned down and smoothed out a little bit which is hopefully going to keep him in the strike zone more often and he's looked in control in his first 2 sessions throwing to hitters. Lowry on the other hand, is still trying to work his way back to the mound as he's been relegated to throwing off of only flat ground over the last couple of days. He's been reporting no serous set-backs, but it's still undetermined when exactly he will throw to live hitters or possibly make his Cactus league debut. I like Lowry and for numerous reasons, I'm hoping he'll get healthy this spring, but I'm not too optimistic that he will be ready for opening day.
With the Giants getting ready to close down spring workouts and start Cactus league games, live pitching/batting practice has kicked into another gear, and it's still the pitchers that are for the most part, dominating these match ups. Fred Lewis has been one of the more impressive hitters during the sessions though as he has displayed some intriguing power. Lewis has also mentioned that he expects to be more of a power threat this season as he has one full year under his belt and has familiarized himself with NL pitching. The Giants starting left fielder is still battling an ankle injury that pre-maturely ended his 2008 season and may not start the first couple games of the exhibition season.
Another young outfielder who's been hitting for noticeable pop duing batting practice has been Nate Schierholtz. I've seen pictures of Nate this spring and he looks like he added about 15 pounds of muscle this winter and that should translate to some more power. Schierholtz has displayed above average power numbers in the minor leagues, but has only hit one long ball in 187 big league at-bats, which for a corner outfielder, isn't quite what your looking for. Now nobody ever projected Schierholtz to be a big power guy at the major league level, but 15-20 home run a year potential is easily within his grasp if he gets the opportunity. Like I've said a few times already, this off-season, this is going to be a key year for Schierholtz. The Giants have Randy Winn's contract expiring after the season and would love for Schierholtz to force himself into that spot and allow them to let Winn walk.
Also, as I mentioned at the top of the post, the Giants will hold an intresquad scrimmage on Tuesday at Scottsdale Stadium. Surprisingly, Randy Johnson and Barry Zito will start for each team as both requested more work before they start their cactus league assignments. I wouldn't expect for either of them to go much more than an inning or two though and then we'll likely start seeing some of the younger arms like Kevin Pucetas and Henry Sosa. Expect the same thing for the position players, as they'll likely get an at-bat or two then yield to the younger guys. Still, it will be the first live action of spring and it should be interesting to see how things go. The Cactus league exhibition season begins on Wednesday and the Giants game will actually be on TV. For those with Direct TV, you can catch the game on D-TV channel 662 at noon. I haven't heard any confirmation but I believe Matt Cain will get the start. Cain has slimmed down this spring and looks lighter and determined to take that next step this year and I really can't wait to see how the weight-loss will improve his overall effectiveness on the mound.
Trevor Cole The San Francisco Giants Blog