I keep reading that the Giants need to upgrade from Kevin Frandsen at second base. Am I the only one who sees his potential to be another Craig Biggio? I'd hate to see him go before getting the chance to show whether he is or isn't our version of Biggio. So far, he has shown the right attitude. Surely he'll grow out of the grounding into double plays. Just give him the opportunity for a season or two.
-- Steve G., Sacramento, Calif.
Frandsen thrived at every Minor League classification in his four professional seasons and hit .370 for the Giants last September, so he certainly has deserved a chance to prove himself more fully. Your Biggio comparison is apt, particularly since Frandsen admires him. Others have likened Frandsen to Robby Thompson, another flattering parallel. Then there are the cynics who think Frandsen's nothing more than another Tom O'Malley or Greg Litton (remember them?). That's because none of Frandsen's "tools" is particularly startling. But, as Giants general manager Brian Sabean said appreciatively of Frandsen last month, "He's a baseball player." In other words, Frandsen's backers believe that his whole is greater than the sum of his parts. He should receive a fair chance to win the second-base job in Spring Training, but he'll still have to beat out Ray Durham. On that subject ...
What's your prediction for Durham this coming season? Personally, I'm expecting a big rebound year. A guy that has shown consistency as he has throughout his career can't just lose it all of a sudden, in my opinion. With a .218 average, he still knocked in 71 runs. Assuming he's still the starting second baseman, I'm expecting big things. What do you think?
-- Alex G., Cooper City, Fla.
I think nothing's guaranteed, particularly with a 36-year-old such as Durham, and that the Giants had better scrutinize him closely in Spring Training. In short, I'm extremely skeptical. Last mailbag, I wrote in regard to Omar Vizquel that it's possible for older players to bounce back statistically. But sometimes a player's decline is simply irreversible. I can't cite a definitive source for Durham's colossal '07 slump; even manager Bruce Bochy and the rest of the Giants' braintrust were stuck for answers. Some scouts thought that Durham didn't "see" pitches well, but he denied that was a problem. Whatever caused Durham's troubles, it doesn't take much for mediocrity (or worse) to corrode a hitter, since a nanosecond of bat speed is often the difference between a home run or a fly ball. Durham's in the final year of his contract, which, combined with competition from Frandsen, could motivate him to excel. But I won't be convinced of Durham's resurgence even if he hits well in Cactus League games, since Spring Training performance can be illusory.
The Giants need a slugger and a corner infielder. Paul Konerko of the White Sox would be a great fit. I recently heard that Chicago was thinking about trading him to the Angels for Ervin Santana and Howie Kendrick. Why can't the Giants make that trade? Trading a couple of outfielders and a starting pitcher for Konerko would work.
-- Musadiq B., Concord, Calif.
The Angels possess much more talent on their Major League roster and in the Minor League system than the Giants do. They're in far better position to make this kind of deal.
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How come the Giants don't sign Livan Hernandez and put him in the bullpen? He eats up innings, which is great, because we get into situations all the time where we need someone to come in and get us out of innings and pitch the next few.
-- Paulo D., Foster City, Calif.
Remember Game 7 of the 2002 World Series? Many Giants fans do, explaining why Hernandez is unlikely to wear a San Francisco uniform again. Besides, Hernandez probably would be overpriced as merely a long reliever.
How do you feel about the addition of Carney Lansford as hitting coach? Will the Giants' offense benefit? What's his coaching experience?
-- Rich K., Shingle Springs, Calif.
I believe that Lansford was an excellent addition and could help significantly. Colorado Rockies insiders said that he was a positive influence on their younger hitters last season as that organization's hitting coach with Triple-A Colorado Springs. This will be only Lansford's fifth full year as a Major League coach. Before 2007, he spent eight years away from the professional ranks, largely to focus on teaching his sons the game's finer points. But his excellent playing career and his work with Colorado's prospects indicate that he knows what he's doing.
Since we lack the big bats, why don't we use our speed? Start Eugenio Velez at second base and Rajai Davis in the outfield -- that's 100 stolen bases per season. Use Dave Roberts off the bench to pinch-run. Hit and run with Randy Winn and Vizquel all day. "Small ball" is the only way.
-- Andre B., Seattle
The 2008 Giants won't remind anybody of the St. Louis Cardinals' "Gashouse Gang" of 1934, but Sabean and Bochy have repeated that the club must redouble its efforts to manufacture runs. "Small ball" indeed will influence the Giants' approach, although I doubt that Velez will be the Opening Day second baseman and Davis will play full-time.
I'm sure you'll laugh at this idea, but what if the Giants required a healthy exercise such as yoga to keep their players in good health? Barry Zito does yoga and he has started at least 33 games every year starting in 2001. Kelvim Escobar of the Angels does yoga and he won 18 games in 2007.
-- Noah R., San Francisco
As a yoga devotee, I believe wholeheartedly in its benefits. As I'm balancing, stretching or twisting, I often consider how such activity would keep a player limber and prevent nagging aches and pains. It's no accident that Zito hasn't missed a start in his entire career. A handful of players besides Zito practice some form of yoga, but most opt for more traditional workouts. Imagine my surprise a couple of years ago when I asked a member of the Giants' medical staff why more players don't practice yoga. "Yoga's great. But it's too hard for them," he said. Offered the choice of a downward-facing dog or the barking of a personal trainer, most players feel more comfortable with the latter.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.