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5.03.2006

Why Wait Til June? 

Far too often I refer to the Billy Beane homily that April and May are for evaluating what you have, June and July are for upgrades, and boom, you're in the home stretch.

For a team making one last grasp for a Barry Barry Good To Me World Series, two months may be too long an evaluation period. Can the Giants wait until June to make sure Lance Niekro's hide-and-seek talent isn't going to come out and play on a daily basis? How early is too early to press the plunger and blow up the bullpen?

First, let's look at what changes the Giants are not likely to make:

- No matter how bad he hits, Mike Matheny will be starting catcher. Sure, he may sit a bit more as the days grow hotter, but no way no how he gets benched for Todd Greene. The only other scenario I see -- sorry kids, Matheny replicating his career-year 2005 offensive stats is not an option -- is a trade, but that would be so far out of left field, not even Randy Winn could catch it.

- Pedro Feliz will not be traded or DFA'ed. Yes, someone was willing to trade a live body for Tyler Walker, but who would take on north of $2 million in salary for a bad hitter having his career-worst year? His offensive production is last in the league at third base, better only than Adrian Beltre among major leaguers. And the Giants are way too stubborn to cut him loose. The Giants currently have four #8 hitters in their lineup, and two of them are from the traditional power spots.

- Matt Morris isn't likely to be traded. It's far too early to say he's a big problem, but he certainly hasn't been a big solution, either. The Giants will sail or sink with Morris on board.

The early bullpen maneuvers are a good sign, however. Moving quickly to dump Walker, demote Taschner and promote Brian Wilson, who we hope comes back healthy and soon, shows me Sabean will keep these guys on shorter leashes and be willing to dip into the minors. Don't rule out a trade: LaTroy Hawkins was acquired in May last year. But a more likely scenario for a while is a Fresno shuttle with Merkin, Wilson, Taschner, perhaps Jeff Miller, the newly acquired Carlos Hines, and even the AA-and-rising Jonathan Sanchez, who's been converted into a reliever for Norwich. I'm confident for now that the Giants have enough good arms to fill bullpen needs internally.

I could also see Sabean pulling the plug early on the Niekro experiment. There are enough cheap RH-hitting first basemen who could platoon with Sweeney as a stopgap measure. Or if a good third-base bat becomes available, Feliz could platoon at first. These holes will not be filled internally, I'm afraid. Sabes would have to pry a Hillenbrand, Eduardo Perez or Craig Wilson free. Perhaps the Orioles will be eager to trade Melvin Mora if they can't sign him to an extension.

Believe you me, I'd love to see Feliz thrown overboard, but I just don't see it happening.

For some reason, I have the feeling -- perhaps it's because I looked it up in my gut -- that Sabes will not sit idly if the Giants are heading for an iceberg. Who knows -- this could be the year Sabean wrinkles his brow, gets out his colored markers, and jumps into one of those kinky multiplayer swaps, a la the thing that went down between Boston, Chicago and others that sent Nomar packing a couple years ago.

Fun stat of the day:

32 AB / 4 H / 1 R / 1 BB / zero XBH

Guess who?

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