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Inbox: How will Williamson's return affect OF?

Fans ask about roster shuffle, Whiteside's role, Bumgarner
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

If Mac Williamson comes back and starts hitting great again, but Hunter Pence is also hitting well, what would the outfield look like? Would it be possible to put Andrew McCutchen in center field, shift Williamson to right field and keep Pence in left field?
-- Joaquin M., Clovis, Calif.

Trying to project how the composition of the outfield will develop is virtually impossible. So many "ifs" are involved, such as health and performance. This is an oversimplification, but it's the safest thing that can be said right now: Manager Bruce Bochy probably will employ the outfield that makes the most sense at that particular time. That is, I don't think Williamson will automatically regain a starting role, despite the promise he showed in the handful of games he played before being sidelined, and I doubt that Pence will automatically regain an everyday role just because of his veteran status.

If Mac Williamson comes back and starts hitting great again, but Hunter Pence is also hitting well, what would the outfield look like? Would it be possible to put Andrew McCutchen in center field, shift Williamson to right field and keep Pence in left field?
-- Joaquin M., Clovis, Calif.

Trying to project how the composition of the outfield will develop is virtually impossible. So many "ifs" are involved, such as health and performance. This is an oversimplification, but it's the safest thing that can be said right now: Manager Bruce Bochy probably will employ the outfield that makes the most sense at that particular time. That is, I don't think Williamson will automatically regain a starting role, despite the promise he showed in the handful of games he played before being sidelined, and I doubt that Pence will automatically regain an everyday role just because of his veteran status.

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When the time comes for Bochy to make a decision regarding the outfield, the solution probably will appear obvious. But right now there are so many players involved -- what will happen to Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez and Austin Jackson? -- that it's impossible to predict what might unfold.

What is Eli Whiteside's role with the Giants this year?
-- John R., Ottawa, Canada

Whiteside is not the bullpen catcher; that title belongs to Taira Uematsu. Whiteside does provide help during batting practice, when an extra coach might be needed to take throws or shag flies. And he still catches pitchers who need somebody to throw to or play catch with when Uematsu is unavailable or occupied. In short, Whiteside remains extremely handy to have around.

I've heard so many different timetables for Madison Bumgarner's return. I was wondering if he'll be back before the All-Star break.
-- Blaine F., Sacramento, Calif.

At this point, he more than likely will be back in the rotation before July. Here's the definitive word, which has been widely publicized lately: Bumgarner will pitch batting practice to Giants hitters in Houston on Tuesday. Assuming he feels good physically after doing that, he'll begin a Minor League rehab assignment and will start for Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday.

Video: CIN@SF: Bumgarner tosses a solid bullpen session

Bochy recently said that Bumgarner probably will make at least three starts in the Minors before rejoining the Giants. So he could be back in a San Francisco uniform by mid-June or earlier.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Madison Bumgarner, Mac Williamson