PHOENIX -- The Giants' proving ground could become more fertile in the next few days. The four-game home series beginning Thursday against the Reds marks the Giants' first confrontation against a non-contending team since their trio of Labor Day weekend games at Washington. Freed from the obligation to play established veterans against contenders, manager Bruce Bochy plans to use rookies such as Rajai Davis, Daniel Ortmeier and Nate Schierholtz and near-rookie Kevin Frandsen more frequently against Cincinnati. "You'll see some more of the younger players consistently out there," Bochy said Wednesday. "They've been playing a lot, really."
Since Sept. 1, when the lineup's youngest position player was 32-year-old third baseman Pedro Feliz, Bochy indeed has focused increasingly on prospects. Feliz, shortstop Omar Vizquel and outfielder Randy Winn have continued to play regularly, while outfielder Dave Roberts has started more often than not. But in 16 games since Sept. 2, Frandsen has started 10 times at second base, compared to six for Ray Durham. Ortmeier also has 10 starts in that span, one more than Schierholtz, who entering Wednesday had appeared in every game since Sept. 3. Davis, with seven starts since Sept. 2, has seen his activity stagnate, as Bochy occasionally has platooned him with Roberts. Indicating a willingness to experiment further, Bochy started 35-year-old rookie Scott McClain at first base in Wednesday night's series finale against the Diamondbacks. It was McClain's first start in the Major Leagues since Sept. 10, 2005, with the Cubs against the Giants. Some skeptics believe a prospect's September performance can be illusory, since he's playing games than often lack meaning. Bochy understands that view, although he sees the value in giving younger players late-season action. "A lot of guys come up in September, and that's the best you saw of that player. It's like Spring Training," Bochy said. "But the more you see a player, the better indication you get of what you have. September allows you to see a player -- not just on a Major League field -- but play against contending teams, important games even though you may not be in it. You see how they handle it, see how they react. So it's very helpful in the evaluation process." Following the Cincinnati series, the Giants play San Diego, another contender that might prompt Bochy to reinstall a veteran or two. It also could be left fielder Barry Bonds' final series at AT&T Park, obliging Bochy to start the all-time home run king each night. Bonds update: Bochy said Bonds (sprained right big toe) might not need any intensive examinations when the Giants return home. "I talked to him today. He thinks he's going to be fine," Bochy said, adding that Bonds hopes to play at least once against the Reds to prime himself for the Padres series. If Bonds and Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. play simultaneously, they'll form the second-most prolific slugging duo to meet in a game. Their total of 1,355 homers (Bonds' 762, Griffey's 593) would be second only to the pairing of the New York Mets' Willie Mays and the Atlanta Braves' Hank Aaron on July 17, 1973. Aaron hit his 698th homer that night, bringing the combined total between he and Mays (658) to 1,356. Short hops: A sore right wrist has limited first baseman Ryan Klesko to a pair of pinch-hitting appearances on this trip. ... Bochy confirmed that left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who strained his left oblique muscle Tuesday, won't pitch again this season. The Giants have not named a starter for Sunday's game against the Reds, although left-hander Patrick Misch and right-hander Scott Atchison are candidates. ... Bochy expressed support for his Arizona counterpart, Bob Melvin, in the National League Manager of the Year balloting. "To me, he has to be one of the top guys," Bochy said. "Anybody who doesn't mention Melvin is crazy. This is a team that's overachieved, and that's not to take away from the talent they have." Coming up: The Giants open a four-game series against the Reds on Thursday at AT&T Park beginning at 7:15 p.m. PT. Matt Cain (7-15, 3.71 ERA) will oppose fellow right-hander Homer Bailey (2-2, 6.99), who'll make his first start for Cincinnati since July 7.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.