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8.02.2006

Go Forward. Move Ahead. 

Sorry, my bad. I got confused. Wednesday is Win Day. Right? Right?

In case it isn't, and in case there are few win days between now and October 1, I've started thinking of the final two months of the season as a proving ground. Setting the stage for 2007, if you will. There are several burning questions to ponder once it becomes obvious '06 is a lost year:

Closer Now, Closer Later?

The brass says Armando Benitez isn't necessarily the closer anymore. He didn't help his cause last night by making mocking gestures toward the jeering fans. No one's sorry to see him demoted, but here's a problem: Benitez is under contract next year and owed -- hold your breath -- $7.6 million. He's also owed $1.6 M in deferred money in '08 and the same in '09. With all that cash still due, the Giants will have trouble trading him without swallowing much of the salary. Think Livan Hernandez in 2003.

Thus, today's paradox: To banish him over the hills and far far away, the Giants may need to play him a lot. In other words, he has to recover his skills and confidence, if not his personal charm, to at least make him palatable to another team in the off-season. Otherwise, the Giants may be stuck with him on the roster, or his salary on their books.

Whither Hennessey?

Is Brad Hennessey a starter? Is he a reliever? Is he, with his 26/29 BB/K ratio, a fluke? He and Kevin Correia are having great years mainly out of the spotlight. Both are affordable and under contract for next year, although perhaps eligible for arbitration. Where do they fit in next year?

Waiver Trades?

The Giants jettisoned Michael Tucker, Deivi Cruz and Jason Christiansen last August. If the ship continues to sink -- Brian Sabean's metaphor, not mine -- which of the veterans squeeze through waivers in order to be traded? My first choice -- in fact, it was my first choice before the trading deadline -- is to dump Jamey Wright and see what Hennessey can do back in the rotation.

The Future of Sanchez?

Jonathan Sanchez was sent back to Fresno, presumably to get his arm stretched out and return to a starter's role. With a month before September call-ups, it's possible we'll see him as a starter this year, perhaps as a preview of next year. Unless...

Who Will Hit The Innings Ceiling?

With young pitchers and a team playing out the string, there's no reason to risk their health. Matt Cain in 2005 threw nearly 200 innings in AAA and the big leagues. At the rate he's going, he won't come close to that. But it's worth watching to see if the Giants shut him down at the slightest hint of fatigue. Same goes for Sanchez, who hasn't thrown a lot of innings but was quickly converted into a reliever and thrown into a high-pressure big-league situation.

More Felipe?

According to Cot's Contracts, Felipe Alou and the Giants hold a mutual contract option for 2007. Do the Giants wait til the off-season to address it? Do they extend it before October? If they wait, it's a strong sign that the team is ready for a fresh direction.

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