"The throw was impressive, but to me what was really impressive is the position he put himself in to be able to make the throw," said Niekro. "He's probably the best center fielder I've played with coming up through the Minors, college and everything.
"You don't expect those plays, but those are the ones he'll make," said the rookie first sacker, who recalled a play in Fresno last season when Ellison daringly ran smack into the center-field fence gate and dented it.
"The next day, we put a taped figurine of his body out there -- he hit it pretty hard," laughed Niekro. "He doesn't let the wall scare him."
Still, Alou explains Ellison has much to learn, hardly completely developed as a Major League player, although he equates his talent to that of former Philadelphia standout Doug Glanville.
When third base coach Gene Glynn signaled Ellison to run to third on an Omar Vizquel single to center field Wednesday night, Ellison caught a glimpse of outfielder Jason Michaels making a good pickup. Instead of challenging the fielder, Ellison hesitated and was nabbed off base.
"He's a tremendous athlete, but there are things you have to do when the manager asks you to," said Alou. "That kid is a smart kid and he's going to do that. He has to continue to get in the fold of being in the big leagues."
Alou says Ellison has been a bit tentative on bunts and sacrifice plays at the moment, but will learn the nuances and eventually be a star.
Which leaves Alou in a quandary for Friday in New York, when center fielder Marquis Grissom will be activated. Felipe says he would prefer keeping Ellison playing, however, if Moises Alou is given a day off or Edgardo Alfonzo is resting and Pedro Feliz plays there.
Spirits up: Alou has had several meetings with players recently, including a gathering of pitchers at his Citizens Bank Park office on Thursday to keep players from getting frustrated and down from recent results.
Alou told them despite the six-game losing streak not to believe, "It's the end of the world. I told them just in case. We'll talk to everybody, maybe with the position guys in New York or at home.
"No big deal," the manager added. "We still have to come to work. Don't look at it as an obligation to be here. It's a sport and we come to win the game. It's not to comply with the contract. There's more to it."
On deck: The Giants' starting pitcher for Friday night's opener of a three-game set at Shea Stadium against the Mets is lefty Noah Lowry, who's in a good groove, sporting a 1.93 ERA over his last two outings.
He's gone seven innings each time. The second-year starter's vaunted changeup had been up in the zone and hitters were keying on other pitches, but he's been sharper lately. He's 2-5, 5.37 overall.