Ortiz gets another shot in San Francisco

Giants give Ortiz another shot

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's been a long road back to where he began for former Giants ace Russ Ortiz.

Ortiz -- a double-digit winner for four seasons in San Francisco, whose stats and pitching velocity had tumbled dramatically over the past two seasons with other clubs -- has rejoined the Giants after signing a one-year contract.

"It's been humbling," said the 32-year-old Ortiz on Tuesday.

The veteran struggled in 2006 with an 0-8 record and a 8.14 ERA for Baltimore and Arizona, but he showed renewed power and accuracy during recent Winter League play in Puerto Rico.

"I know for a fact it made me a stronger person and allowed me to grow in every facet of life," said Ortiz, a Giants mainstay from 1999-2002 and a 21-game winner for Atlanta in 2003. "I can honestly say it's a good thing. It will help me the rest of my career."

The right-hander will vie for the fifth-starter spot in Spring Training, according to general manager Brian Sabean, who received excellent reports from scouts at winter ball.

"In his case, we felt he's due a chance to take advantage of an opportunity," said Sabean. "He pitched extremely well in Puerto Rico, and we decided [to sign him] on that basis."

Ortiz, who owns a career mark of 108-79 with a 4.39 ERA over nine campaigns, believes mechanical flaws hurt his performances the past three seasons, including a 5-11, 6.89 ERA mark with Arizona in 2005.

"The adjustment started at Baltimore after I was sent to the bullpen," he explained. "I was able to get it worked out and it made a major difference. It was unbelievable. There was velocity and life on the ball and I wanted to carry that into winter ball."

Ortiz was among the National League's premier pitchers during his Giants tenure, and his six-game winning streak helped push San Francisco into the playoffs in 2000. He later propelled the club to the 2002 World Series.

Game 6 of the World Series against the Angels would be a pivotal moment. Ortiz gave up only two hits over 6 1/3 innngs, and then-manager Dusty Baker symbolically handed Oritz the "game ball" when pulled in the seventh.

But San Francisco's 5-0 lead evaporated, and the Angels won that contest and captured Game 7 for the title.

"I still have that ball," said Ortiz.

Landing a rotation spot would be a boost for the hurler and the Giants, who have suffered the past few seasons with a lack of starting depth. For now, Ortiz wants to prove he's still viable.

"I thought this was the best opportunity for me to pitch," said Ortiz. "I love the city and the ballpark and everything about it. We [he and wife Stacy] won't hold our breath, but ultimately we hope it works out."

While he rediscovered his delivery in the bullpen, Ortiz still hopes to start again, although at this point in his career, landing a job anywhere is his No. 1 goal.

"[Starting] is what I've prepared myself to do, but it all comes down to opportunity," he said. "The way I feel now, getting my mechanics fixed, I have a lot to offer."

The veteran will vie for the fifth spot primarily against Brad Hennessey and Jonathan Sanchez.

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