Youngster Begg shines in Venezuela

Minor Leaguer Begg stars in winter ball

For Giants and would-be Giants, the Winter League season is over, with the focus now on Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic.

Dominating among pitching prospects was right-hander Chris Begg, with a 5-1 record and 2.43 ERA over 10 games at Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League.

The 26-year-old native of Ontario, Canada, had a solid season with Double-A Connecticut in 2005, logging an 8-7 mark and 3.07 ERA, fifth best in the Eastern League. He also pitched for Canada in the World Cup in Holland.

Other San Francisco organizational hurlers' final stats: Felix Diaz, 4-1, 3.46 ERA for Licey of the Dominican Republic; Pedro Liriano, 1-0, 4.09, Licey; Oscar Montero, 2-5, 4.65, Oriente, Venezuela; Jonathan Sanchez, 2-2, 2.91, Carolina, Puerto Rico; Michael Tejera, 1-1, 3.50, Obregon, Mexico; Jose Sanchez, 0-0 3.86, Escogido, Dominican Republic; Arnoldo Mercado, 0-0, 12.15 ERA, Mochis, Mexico; and Benigro Cepeda, 0-0, 2.08, Caguas, Puerto Rico.

Infielder Angel Chavez, destined for WBC play next March for his native Panama, finished with a .250 average over 41 games for Oriente, while infielder Mike Cervenak hit .308 in 49 games with Caracas in Venezuela.

Julio Ramirez batted .267 for Gigantes in the Dominican; Guilleromo Rodriguez hit .228 for Zulia, Venezuela; Jose Yens played nine games for Gigantes with a .269 average; Julio Cordido batted .268 for La Guaira in Venezuela; Carlos Valderrama, .213 for Zulia, Venezuela; Eugenio Velez, .373 over two games with Estrellas, Dominican Republic; and Yamid Haad hit .132 in 16 contests with Estrellas.

Linden options: Whew.

That could have been outfielder Todd Linden's reaction -- one of sheer relief -- when he learned he had not run out of options, meaning if he isn't kept on the Giants' 2006 roster the full season the 25-year-old would face waivers. Linden believed his three seasons of options had run their course, but that wasn't correct.

The Giants confirmed this week Linden has another grace year and can be promoted and demoted numerous times this coming season.

"I'm kind of disappointed," said Linden when he learned the news. "I was excited about the challenge, getting pumped up about it."

Linden indeed reponds to pressure. Last season he was sent to the Minor League camp during Spring Training, but rebounded with a sensational year at Triple-A Fresno, hammering 30 homers, 80 RBIs and an amazing .682 slugging percentage, highest in all of Minor League baseball.

Last week, Linden told he faced an uncertain future with San Francisco, especially considering the club acquired veteran outfielder Steve Finley as well as infielder-outfielder Mark Sweeney over the winter.

"I do feel I have a good resume to back me up," he said, "but if I'm not in the mix now, I may never be."

Linden's reprieve came from 2003, when he was put on the 40-man roster on Aug. 17 and was optioned to Fresno three days later but recalled on Aug. 21, when pitcher Jesse Foppert had arm problems. Thus, Linden never "burned" an option for that year.

Alfonso departs: Carlos Alfonso, 55, was the longest-tenured Giants coaching staffer, serving 19 seasons, but the Cuban-born former ballplayer is now with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as the club's first director of international operations.

Alfonso was administrative coach and video coordinator the past six years. Following his Minor League playing career in the Houston Astros organization, Alfonso was the Giants director of Minor League operations in 1986-87, became director of player development and later the manager of the Triple A Phoenix Firebirds.

He later was the Giants bullpen and first-base coach before becoming more of an administrator.

For Alfonso, the move to Tampa Bay takes him back to familiar territory. He attended the University of Florida and Florida International University.

Notes: When the Giants recently placed newly acquired infielder Jose Vizcaino on the 40-man roster, they designated left-handed pitcher Brian Burris for assignment. The Baltimore Orioles subsequently claimed him on waivers. ... Former Giants relief pitcher Wayne Franklin has signed a Minor League contract with Tampa Bay and has been invited to Spring Training, while ex-Giant outfielder Marquis Grissom, 38, has inked a Minor League deal with the Chicago Cubs. ... Ex-Fresno outfielder Doug Clark, who batted .316 for the Grizzlies in 2005 and played in eight games with the Giants, is with the A's and is a non-roster invitee to their Spring Training camp.

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