Linden hopes winter work will pay off

Linden hopes work in winter ball will pay off

SAN FRANCISCO -- Outfielder Todd Linden played a month for Mazatlan of the Mexican Winter League for multiple reasons -- staying in condition, staying focused on breaking balls and staying positive.

His next mission is more difficult: Staying in the San Francisco system.

Only 25 and fresh off a powerful season at Triple-A Fresno, where he belted 30 homers and led all of the Minor Leagues with a .682 slugging percentage, Linden suddenly faces a crossroads in his quest to join the parent Giants.

He's now out of options, meaning he's been on the 40-man roster for three seasons, and now Linden must be kept on the 25-man list for 2006 or be forced to clear waivers.

"It went well," said Linden of his 23 games in Mexico, although he batted only .182 with one homer and 11 RBIs. "I wanted to go down there and get more at-bats and have a good time. I was taking things seriously, but wasn't worried over numbers.

"But being out of options, the bottom line is what do I do now?" Linden said. "I do feel I have a good resume to back me up, but if I'm not in the mix now, I may never be."

Linden and last year's rookie outfielder, Jason Ellison, have talked about both their situations this winter, as the duo will likely be vying for the fifth outfielder's spot. Ellison had a decent year, but now with veteran Steve Finley and reserve outfielder Mark Sweeney aboard, both he and Linden could be the odd men out.

Still, there's the health of oldsters Barry Bonds, Moises Alou and Finley to worry about -- how many games will they play?

"I'm trying to figure out where I fit in," said Linden. "Who knows? With the new guys ... that's no surprise. There might be a fifth outfield spot open, but we can only guess."

Linden, who started weightlifting, running and cage work two weeks ago, plans to be at Spring Training early -- pitchers and catchers report Feb. 15, regulars Feb. 20 -- to get some answers.

In Winter League action, Fresno outfielder Doug Clark is on a tear, hitting .324 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs for Caracas, Venezuela. He also had 14 doubles and a .564 slugging percentage.

Caracas teammate Mike Cervenak is batting .308 with six homers and 27 RBIs over 49 contests, while infielder Angel Chavez is batting .188 for Culiacan in Mexico. Chavez, who batted .263 in 10 games for the Giants last season, has agreed to play for his native Panama in the World Baseball Classic next March.

In Venezuelan play, Julio Cordido is hitting .268 for La Guaira and catcher Eliezer Alfonzo sports a .250 mark for Oriente.

Rich Draper is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.