SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If Russ Ortiz wins the No. 5 starter's spot in the Giants' rotation, he shouldn't have trouble motivating himself to face the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ortiz said Thursday that Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes informed him by telephone that he was being designated for assignment last June 13 -- rough news that any ballplayer would prefer to receive in person. "It was the worst news I've ever heard in the game," said Ortiz, recalling that he was on his way to a physical therapist for extra stretching when the fateful call came. "I did wish, I still do, that we would have done something face to face in the proper manner."
That was just part of a nightmarish year for Ortiz, who was 0-8 with an 8.14 ERA last season with Arizona and Baltimore. Now, however, Ortiz is a leading candidate to claim the final spot in the Giants' rotation, and the job could be his if he continues to throw as he did in live batting practice Thursday against Rich Aurilia, Barry Bonds, Dave Roberts and Randy Winn. A simple mechanical adjustment -- taking the ball from his glove and extending his arm behind the pitching rubber and into a reverse "C" instead of straight up -- has helped Ortiz, 32, regain his zip. "You ask any of the four guys who faced him today -- they'd tell you, where was that guy the last four years?" said Aurilia, who played behind Ortiz when the right-hander posted a 67-44 record for the Giants from 1998-2002. Manager Bruce Bochy also was suitably impressed. "He certainly looks like the Russ Ortiz we all know," Bochy said. Looking at Lincecum: Right-hander Tim Lincecum again attracted extra onlookers as he faced hitters for the first time. The elbow-to-elbow crowd behind the batting cage included veterans Bonds, Ray Durham, Ryan Klesko, Steve Kline and Noah Lowry, as well as fellow pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, Bochy and the usual gathering of coaches. Mark Sweeney, one of the hitters to face Lincecum, relayed a remark from Bonds: "Barry said, 'His ball's pretty straight.' Usually big-league hitters hit a fastball that's pretty straight." But, Sweeney added, "That's Barry talking, too. He probably feels good about pitchers that I don't feel comfortable with."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.