25 Men and a Seal 

Lance Niekro's in. Jason Ellison's off to Seattle. Sweeney is on the disabled list, postponing a decision on his fate.

A couple thoughts:

* Ellison was traded for minor-league pitcher Travis Blackley, who used to be a top prospect. As a 20-year-old he threw 162 innings in double-A, striking out 144, walking 62, and giving up 125 hits.

Then he blew out his shoulder and missed all of 2005. He returned last year and pitched 150 innings, mostly in AA. His numbers weren't nearly as dominant as before the injury, but he's only 24, and as we all know from our experience with Joe Nathan, sometimes it takes more than a year for a pitcher to return to previous form. I haven't seen Blackley pitch, but on its face this seems like an excellent move. Ellison is nearly 30 and will never be more than a backup outfielder. Blackley is a big, young left-handed starter who may still have recovery upside.

* Ellison goes home to play with his favorite team and to play alongside Willie Bloomquist, his best friend from high school. Story here.

* Niekro is insurance in case Aurilia re-sproings his groin, but otherwise he's a big lunky pinch-hitter against lefties as the roster is currently configured. How else might the Giants use him? Reports Hank Schulman of the Chron: Niekro forced the team's hand by hitting .340 this spring. Although he seems to be buried on the depth chart behind Rich Aurilia and Klesko, Sabean and Bochy said there might be games against left-handed pitchers in which Pedro Feliz plays left field, Aurilia moves to third and Niekro starts at first.

* Kevin Frandsen is actually being considered as an option in the outfield. He's becoming a veritable Joe McEwing. Let's hope his career batting line looks better than Little Mac.

* The bullpen: Three lefties! ¡Tremendo! Best-case scenario is Jack Taschner develops into a lefty killer and makes Steve Kline expendable by mid-year. Jonathan Sanchez in short relief is not surprising, but it must be confusing for the kid, who keeps hearing different stories from the Giants.

As long as his arm stays healthy, I like the idea of keeping him in the bullpen. He doesn't yet have the stuff to be a major-league starter. So the Giants basically had two choices: send him back to Fresno to refine his control and off-speed stuff while dominating AAA hitters, or keep him up and let him learn his craft in lower-pressure situations. Watch his outings carefully for signs of progress. He got by last year on his unfamiliarity, his funky delivery, and the movement on his fastball. The league will know more about him this time around.

* I'll be at the yard Tuesday and Wednesday wearing the Mays Field T-shirts. Come by the 1-3-8 (Row 3) and say hi.


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