Notes: Bullpen facelift unlikely
With relief market soaring, Sabean content to stand pat
SAN FRANCISCO -- Although the Giants knew that improving their bullpen was imperative after last season, they've made no significant personnel changes in that area. And it's quite likely that they won't add any more relievers before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 13."We may have to be ready to go with what we've got because of the market going berserk," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said this week. Sabean was referring to some of the lucrative contracts free-agent relievers received this offseason. Scott Linebrink coaxed a four-year, $19 million deal from the White Sox, Octavio Dotel prompted two years and $11 million from the White Sox, Ron Mahay and Troy Percival each got two years and $8 million from Kansas City and Tampa Bay, respectively, and Masahide Kobayashi forged a two-year, $6.5 million pact with Cleveland. Sabean expressed hopes that the Giants can "strike a chord" with former big leaguer Keiichi Yabu, who was signed to a Minor League contract, and Rule 5 draftee Jose Capellan. Nobody needs to remind the Giants of their bullpen shortcomings in 2007. San Francisco relievers led the National League with 33 losses, and the club's 39-55 record in games decided by two runs or fewer could be attributed at least in part to the bullpen. Without citing names, Sabean indicated that the Giants had little or no interest in the remaining free-agent relievers, a group that includes Shawn Chacon, Trever Miller, Mike Myers and Akinori Otsuka. Sabean noted that trade possibilities could arise toward the end of the exhibition season, when teams with overcrowded rosters try to part with a player or two. Although Pedro Feliz's career-long tenure with the Giants appears to be over, Sabean said that he would remain receptive to a fresh proposal from the third baseman or his agents. Sabean broke off talks with Feliz after a two-year offer was "dismissed out of hand," but left the door ever so slightly ajar. "Our job is to listen and be open-minded," Sabean said. Frandsen's serious: To Kevin Frandsen, Ray Durham has long been a mentor. Now, he's a competitor. Frandsen has spoken often about the joys of being teammates with Durham, who has never hesitated to counsel and encourage the younger Giant. But with both approaching Spring Training as candidates to start at second base, Frandsen's looking to unseat Durham, not receive advice from him. "It's nothing against Ray," Frandsen said this week. "It's just that I want that job." Frandsen, who hit .269 overall last season, gave himself momentum by batting .370 last September while Durham played sparingly. "It's right there in front of me," Frandsen said of the opportunity to claim a regular's role. "That's the way I'm looking at it." But no ballclub wants a reserve earning $7.5 million, which is what Durham would be if Frandsen supplants him. "I hope Ray bounces back, too," Frandsen said of the 13-year veteran, who hit a career-low .218 last season. Although the Giants have emphasized their intent to field a younger lineup, Durham, 36, and Frandsen could be in the lineup together if the club doesn't find a viable replacement for Feliz at third base. Frandsen played extensively at third in college and started four games there last year. Rich Aurilia is another third-base option. First choice: Numerous free-agent first basemen remain available -- Sean Casey, Mike Sweeney, Doug Mientkiewicz and Tony Clark, among others -- but none is likely to sign with the Giants as a complement to Dan Ortmeier. Sabean said that the presence of Aurilia, who can play every infield position, minimizes the need for a veteran first baseman. Aurilia was last year's Opening Day first baseman and started 42 games there. The likelihood of obtaining additional help at first base, Sabean said, is "less and less with each day that passes. I don't know that we could marginally improve ourselves with anybody out there." The Giants' inactivity in this area also reflects their commitment to youth in general, and Ortmeier in particular. But Ortmeier, 26, isn't assuming anything. He insisted that he's still approaching Spring Training as if he has to win a starting job. "Does it boost your confidence? Sure," Ortmeier said. "But there are still a couple of weeks left before Spring Training. For me, I'm just trying to stay focused on coming in healthy and ready, and whatever happens outside of that is out of my control."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.