Tomlinson learning from vets fighting for utility job

Tomlinson learning from vets fighting for utility job

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The men who can hasten Kelby Tomlinson's big league career development are the same ones in position to block his progress.

Tomlinson, 26, would appear to be an ideal candidate for a utility infield role with the Giants. They know him, having kept him in the Majors for portions of the previous two seasons. He's handy, having gained experience at second base, shortstop and third base. He has appeared in each of those spots this spring while batting .300.

"I've done all that I can do," Tomlinson said before the Giants' 6-5 loss on Saturday to the Mariners at Peoria Stadium. "I've been playing hard, and I keep showing what my abilities are."

Moreover, Tomlinson has no shortage of models, if not mentors, performing alongside him in camp. Fellow infielders Aaron Hill, Gordon Beckham and Jimmy Rollins have combined to amass approximately 35 years of Major League service time.

Tomlinson's diving stop

However, those three non-roster players are preoccupied with their own attempt to make the Opening Day squad. Any guidance they give Tomlinson or any other young infielder is purely incidental or simply born of politeness or professionalism.

Fortunately for Tomlinson, merely watching the likes of Hill, Beckham and Rollins during drills and games has furthered his baseball education.

"It's a great opportunity to learn and improve your game," Tomlinson said. "You don't want to be out here necessarily showing off your skills. You want to learn new skills, try to improve your current skills and work on things."

Tomlinson said that he hasn't hesitated to ask questions of the veterans when he sees one of them perform a new trick.

Tomlinson's RBI double

"You can talk and get an understanding of the mindset that goes with it, to pick their brains," Tomlinson said.

This, Tomlinson said, helps a developing player such as himself determine whether he can incorporate what he observed.

"If it helps you," Tomlinson said. "It might not. At least you can try something that might improve your game as you go forward."

Tomlinson indeed plans to go forward, though circumstances might prevent this. He has a Minor League option remaining, which is attractive to the Giants. It enables them to drop him from the big league contingent without risk of losing him to another team through the waiver process.

Tomlinson turns two

Thus, Tomlinson isn't guaranteed a roster spot even if he outplays a veteran. The Giants very carefully guard what they like to call their "inventory" of players. The front office knows that even if Tomlinson doesn't make the team out of Spring Training, he'll probably play in San Francisco at some point this season.

"That's all stuff that I can't control," Tomlinson said. "Why should I go home and worry about what I can't do? When my job is to pick the rosters and that sort of stuff, that's when I'll start worrying about it. My job is to play the best I can whenever I get opportunities. That's what I'm focusing on each day. That's all I can worry about."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.