Russ Never Sleeps 

Believe it or not, the Giants have just signed Russ Ortiz. Not David Ortiz. Not Manny Ortez. Russ Ortiz. The guy who's been historically bad for two years running. Not satisfied in bringing the washed-up former Giant to spring training as a non-roster invitee, the team has reportedly signed him to a one-year contract for the major league minimum of $380,000.

Before you go absolutely shit-ballistic, remember that amount of money these days is practically backwash. I just used more than half that sum to line the insides of a pair of shoes I found uncomfortably big but was too lazy to return. Piffle, I say!

Furthermore, he's not guaranteed to make the team. Brian Sabean isn't that crazy.

We hope.

Here's what Sabes told the Associated Press:

Sabean said Ortiz will compete with rookie left-hander Jonathan Sanchez for the fifth spot, while Kevin Correia and Brad Hennessey have found their niche in the bullpen and will likely be used primarily in relief this season.

In other words, two guys who really should stay in the bullpen, Correia and Hennessey, will do so -- good move. (What? You disagree? State your case!)

Plus, the Giants will have more competition for Sanchez, who might not be ready to be a starter. Based on his work in the rotation at the end of last year, I think it's apparent he needs more time to refine his secondary pitches. He can do that in the Giants bullpen and still be useful, like he was out of the bullpen last year. Or he can start the year in the Fresno rotation. If Ortiz stinks in spring training and Sanchez excels, put Sanchez in the rotation and send Russ on his way with $380,000 in his back pocket.

The only real downside for now is that someone must be removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Ortiz (if in fact he's been signed to a major-league contract -- the article wasn't specific about it, and sfgiants.com hasn't indicated a roster change as of this writing). But Scott Munter is an easy choice, and pretty soon the Giants will be able to place a few players on the 60-day DL. I'm not sure about the rules and timing, but perhaps with some fancy footwork, they may not have to drop anyone.

I'll admit there's another risk: that the Giants suck anyway, and Ortiz is just barely good enough to pitch most of the year, thus blocking the development of one of the Giants youngsters. The counterargument to that: Why waste the major-league pre-arbitration clock time of a young (read: cheap) player to get cuffed around in the bigs? Let Sanchez (or Lincecum, or Misch) bide his time in the minors.

OK, one more downside: Even if he's pretty good, we'll probably have to watch innings like this: Two strikes, then three straight balls high and outside, walk. Full-count, strike out. Full-count, single. Full-count, pop-up. Two quick strikes, three balls in the dirt, a couple foul balls, another walk. Etc. From 1999 to 2002, Northern California men suffered what was known as "Ortizian hair loss" whenever Russ pitched. Pulled it out by the fistfuls, I tell you.

You're going to hear a lot of bitching and moaning about this move in coming days. But I remain optimstic and, like Russ, put my faith in the Big Guy. (You know: Leo Mazzone.) If there's a tiny chance Russ can recapture his mojo -- and he claims he's finally figured out his mechanical problems with help from Mazzone and Puerto Rican food -- it's the bargain of the century. If he continues to be mojo-free, the Giants lose $380,000 and Scott Munter to waivers. Besides, if Sanchez really isn't ready, would you rather have Damian Moss or Sun-Woo Kim as the fifth starter?


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