SAN FRANCISCO -- Maybe this is the year that the Giants' personnel shuffle in left field slows down.
Each season since 2007, Barry Bonds' final year, the Giants have employed a different Opening Day left fielder. During that span, the only two Giants to start at least 100 games in left were Fred Lewis (2008) and Melky Cabrera (2012), who were in the lineup 101 games apiece. Manager Bruce Bochy started at least seven different left fielders during this period in every season except for 2009, when five players manned the position.
Although the Giants will start their eighth different Opening Day left fielder in as many years in 2014, San Francisco's outlook at the position appears more defined than it has for quite a while. This is the rule rather than the exception for the Giants, who have established regulars at every other position.
Free-agent acquisition Michael Morse is expected to be the Giants' primary starter in left, with Gregor Blanco giving him an occasional rest or substituting in the late innings for defensive purposes. Bochy has said that Blanco's fourth-outfielder role likely will prompt the Giants to carry five outfielders on their Opening Day roster, since they'll need a backup once Blanco comes off the bench. Juan Perez, who provided moments of brilliance in both left and center, would seem to have the best chance to secure the last outfield spot.
|Year Player |
|2007 Barry Bonds |
|2008 Dave Roberts |
|2009 Fred Lewis |
|2010 Mark DeRosa |
|2011 Pat Burrell |
|2012 Aubrey Huff |
|2013 Andres Torres |
Morse's recent injury history underscores the Giants' need for quality depth in left. A fractured right pinkie, strained right quadriceps and a left wrist ailment that required arthroscopic surgery in October limited him to 88 games with Seattle and Baltimore last season.
Morse, who turns 32 on March 22, insisted that he feels rejuvenated.
"I'm 120 percent," he said recently. "I haven't felt this good in a long time."
Even if Morse proves to be correct, Bochy indicated that he'll use Blanco liberally to preserve Morse's health. Day games following night games, a frequent occurrence for the Giants, will give Bochy optimal opportunities to rest Morse and start Blanco.
"He's going to play a lot," Bochy said of Blanco. "It's a really workable situation."
Blanco, who started a team-high 50 games in left field last year, has been a consummate team player since he joined the Giants in 2012. He's agreeable to anything Bochy decides. Moreover, due to his speed and defensive prowess, Blanco rarely stays on the bench for long. He appeared in 141 games in each of his two seasons with San Francisco.
"I've always been a player that's willing to do whatever is needed to help my team," Blanco said. "Whatever our manager and general manager have in mind for me, I'll be ready to do anything to help us win games."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.