Sabean may open door to Velez
Infielder one topic among several in State of Team address
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants general manager Brian Sabean didn't rule out the chance that Eugenio Velez could emerge as the club's Opening Day second baseman, if Ray Durham's lack of game activity continues into the weekend.Sabean said on Tuesday that the Giants' consideration of Velez and outfielder Fred Lewis for everyday roles demonstrates that the club's established players shouldn't get too comfortable. "We've said from Day 1 that the veterans are going to be responsible for holding down their jobs, if they can," Sabean said. "These other kids are ready. Who knows? It might be as soon as Opening Day. We haven't made any hard and fast decisions. The best players are going to play no matter what contract they have." Sabean spoke before the Giants finished the Arizona portion of Spring Training with a 7-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs. San Francisco continues its exhibition schedule on Wednesday at Triple-A affiliate Fresno, followed by four Bay Area encounters, the final three against Oakland. Sabean indicated that Durham must play most or all of those games to prove he's ready for the March 31 opener at Los Angeles. Durham owns a .436 exhibition average, an encouraging figure given his tremendous slump in 2007. But he missed his sixth game in a row Tuesday with what Sabean described as a touch of flu. Previously, a tight left hamstring bothered Durham. "He'll still get enough time, but you have to stretch him out to see how he bounces back, between seven and nine innings," Sabean said. Velez, widely considered the most exciting player in camp, is batting .303. He also stole his Spring Training-high 14th base in the first inning, even though the Cubs pitched out on the play. Asked if he considered Durham and Velez in competition for the second base job, Sabean simply cited Durham's health. "The more Durham doesn't play, you're going to have to decide how he can start the season," Sabean said, echoing manager Bruce Bochy's recent suggestion that the 36-year-old switch-hitter could begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. Sabean suggested that the Giants are reluctant to use Velez, who has struggled to find a suitable position, at third base, a spot he has tried this spring. The presence of utilityman Jose Castillo, who's capable at third, eliminates the urgency for Velez to spend time at the hot corner.
"A ball off the bat and the speed of the game is much different at that position," Sabean said.Sabean addressed numerous other topics, including:
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.